Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-11 and I am going to address most of my comments to the issue that we were finishing with my colleague from Western Arctic around the flaws in the bill regarding compensation for the creative people in this country.
It is appropriate that we set the bill in historical context. There is absolutely no question, and it has support from every member in the House, that we need to bring copyright and laws on copyright into the 21st century. We are clearly not there now as a country. In fact, it is fair to say that in the developed world we are near the bottom of the list in terms of modernizing our legislation and our rules regarding copyright.
There is no issue around supporting the bill at second reading. The basic underlying philosophy of the bill, which is what we are supporting, is that we do have to modernize. However, we want to be quite clear, as the official opposition, that there are significant amendments that are required to make the bill palatable to ourselves as a political party, but more importantly, palatable to the Canadian public as a whole and in particular to the creative classes if I can designate them that way.
The other point I would like to make at the outset is that historically there have been various times when societies have made major leaps forward in the creative fields. Probably the most recent one from my perspective in terms of major leaps was the Renaissance period in the 1500 early 1600s. If we study other parts of the world there have been similar types of advances. There is a huge leap forward.
If we look at those periods of time and ask, why did it happen, did somehow magically people become more creative? The reality and the answer is no, that is not what happened. What happened is that society as a whole, both governments of the day and the wealthy members of society, came forward in a more extensive way than we see during other periods of time and supported their artists and creative classes.
We saw a major leap forward in Italy in particular during the Renaissance, certainly in England during the Shakespearian period in particular. When we ask how did that happen, it was a period of time when the wealthy and the governments or ruling classes of the day were much more prepared to ensure that those people within their society who had those creative juices were given the opportunity to expand their skills, talents and creativity.
When we are looking at a bill like this one, I believe we have to take that into account. Perhaps the greatest concern we have with the bill is that it will not enhance the financial viability of our creative people, but have just the opposite impact. There is a balance at all times between the owners of new technology, new developments in the arts, that has to be clearly balanced off against the actual creators of that new technology or new developments in the arts. It is our position that the bill is way too heavily weighted on the owner of content side than it is on the producers, developers and creative artists on their side.
I want to quote some numbers as to the current situation in Canada. The most recent figures we have, and this comes from the Canada cultural and arts industries, from ACTRA, the union that has great impact in that industry, indicate that the arts and culture industries contribute $85 billion a year. To put that in context of the total economy, it is 7.4% of all revenue generated in Canada. It is a huge part of the market. It supports approximately 1.1 million jobs, which is about 6% of Canada's labour force.
It is quite clear that some of those numbers, and we argue some significant part of those numbers, both in terms of the revenue generated and the jobs created, would be jeopardized by the legislation.
It is quite clear that there are other steps that could be taken, in terms of investment in this industry. I always have a hard time thinking of artists, sculptors, and writers as being part of an industry but, in fact, they see themselves that way. They certainly are, as these numbers show, a significant part of our economy, and they have historically been, in a number of societies.
It is true today when we see some of the advances that we are making, not just on the technology side but in any number of areas. For me it is one of the areas of art that I follow most closely in terms of the arts. Writers in Canada have demonstrated to not only create great writings for the domestic market but to have gone on to the international stage.
I was in Ireland recently. I remember talking to a member of its parliament who commented about how much, and I say this from an Irish background, the Irish of course have been producing for the world great writers for a long period of time, Canada now fits into that. In fact, the parliamentarian was claiming in part that it was because of the genes that came from the Irish ancestry that had settled in Canada.
However, we have dominated, in many respects, at the international level for a good number of years, going back certainly into the 1960s, when our writers moved on to the international stage, created a market for their writings and enhanced literature in the world as a result of the work they did here in Canada, and then took it internationally.
However, think of all the other writers who did not get that chance because we did not create enough opportunities for them. I am going to quote another figure here from the 2009-10 fiscal period. The median earning of an artist in Canada that year was $12,900. I do not even think that takes them to the minimum wage, the legal minimum wage in most provinces in this country. We have to do better in that regard.
Again, coming back to the bill. Because of this shift in balance favouring the content owners, we are at some risk that the $12,900 figure in subsequent years is going to go down. The estimate is that millions of dollars are going to be taken out of the hands and control of the creative classes and shifted over to the content owners.
If that is in fact the result, we know we have to move significant amendments. We have had pressure internationally from both multinational corporations and some governments to use the U.S. model in this regard. In terms of protecting both our sovereignty of not wanting that kind of interference when we legislate but also in terms of protecting those artists we absolutely must have amendments to the bill in this regard.