Mr. Speaker, although we often say that we are pleased to speak on an issue, we are not pleased, in fact, because we do not like the fact that we have reached such a point, as so often happens. However, I am very pleased to speak to the motion moved by my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher about the $45 million in cuts in the Conservative budget this year. I am not counting the $130 million or so that has been cut since 2008-09, if I recall the dates correctly.
This is an important issue to me because, in just the past few months, I have received hundreds of letters and emails from people in my constituency of Chambly—Borduas, not to mention the several thousand pieces of correspondence I have received since I was elected in 2011, when the Conservatives won their majority. There is no getting around the fact that the biggest cuts have coincided with that Conservative majority. Because of that majority, they are finally able to fulfill the objective they have had for so long. They make no secret of it: Conservative members have spoken publicly about abolishing the public broadcaster. It is also no secret that, at a Conservative convention, resolutions have been passed calling for the public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada, to be privatized.
The people back home are worried about this for a number of reasons. Clearly, we cannot ignore the French fact. I believe it is one of the unique characteristics of Radio-Canada, especially in Quebec, where there is a large population of francophones, but also in francophone communities outside Quebec. There is a certain solidarity in the francophonie. Although we are fortunate in Quebec to have a francophone majority and to be able to defend the French fact, that is not so much the case outside Quebec. There has been a certain solidarity in that regard. We see it in the way groups representing francophone areas outside Quebec—communities where there is a linguistic minority—are denouncing the cuts because those cuts are jeopardizing a service that is vital to the validation of their identity. That is the role of the public broadcaster. With its truly unique mandate, it validates several elements of our identity.
That brings me to my next point. Some of us had the opportunity to watch the episode of Tout le monde en parle that aired a few weeks ago, which featured some well-known and very respected journalists. Among them was Alain Gravel of the program Enquête. They talked about the impact that these cuts will have on Radio-Canada's news service. There have already been some unfortunate and rather draconian changes to the Enquête team because of these cuts. When we consider the important role that this program has played in Quebec's legal and political landscape, with the various revelations made by its excellent team, we see that this is not just about identity. It is also about getting the information out and making sure that we have a healthy democracy.
We heard the minister say that, although the government is making budget cuts, the public broadcaster is an independent crown corporation and it is not the government's fault if the corporation decided to cut back in that way. It is hard to swallow the fact that the government does not seem prepared to recognize, at least not publicly, that these decisions are being made as a result of the budget cuts. It is all well and good for the government to say that it was not involved in Radio-Canada's decision to cut one producer and two journalists from the program Enquête, but the fact remains that this happened because of these budget cuts.
I heard some Conservative members say that CBC/Radio-Canada will have to adapt and look for private sector advertising revenue.
However, if a private company decides to buy ad space, it is more likely to do so during the broadcast of an American film at 7 p.m. than during the broadcast of a half-hour show or an hour-long show like Enquête. That is why it is important to have a public broadcaster, because at the end of the day, the taxpayers are paying for this. They do not have to negotiate with private companies that are looking to pay the best price for the best ad space. I am not saying that there is no room for that at Radio-Canada, but it is important to realize that this cannot be the only solution or the public broadcaster will become a channel like all the others. I mean no disrespect to the other channels. However, we must recognize Radio-Canada's unique mandate.
The impact on news services has not just affected shows like Enquête. There is always something interesting to read on the Influence Communication website, which looks at media trends in Quebec in particular. When we look at how different issues are handled in Quebec media, we unfortunately see that international news seems to be lacking. That is one thing that both Radio-Canada and the CBC do rather well. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do so because they are lacking resources as a result of the budget cuts. Obviously, when a public broadcaster that relies on taxpayers' money is suddenly left to cope with a smaller budget, the first thing to go is the services abroad that send information back here. That is rather important.
Once again, getting the information out is part of a healthy democracy, but it also important to properly equip the broadcaster so that people are able to access that information.
Most of us have different plans with cable companies. Channels are becoming increasingly specialized. For example, there are sports channels and news channels. There is another debate right now over the unbundling of cable packages.
At the end of the day, regardless of how much we pay and what package we take, we can be sure to still have the CBC/Radio-Canada news channels and regular channels that are not all-news channels. We were sure to have those two channels without having to pay an additional fee. Now, as a result of these cuts, in the future CBC/Radio-Canada could unfortunately be forced to follow that trend. I find that very worrisome.
The government often talks about reducing the deficit. It does not seem very smart to be reducing the deficit at the expense of CBC/Radio-Canada.
Here is a good example. Look at the people who are going to lose their jobs. This shows the Conservative government's mismanagement. One of the groups that was hardest hit by the employment insurance reform—I mention this because there is a relevant connection here—was the set technicians. They are affected by the changes to the employment insurance regulations because of the nature and duration of their work. Sometimes they do contract work. These same technicians will be the first to pay the price of the cuts to CBC. In addition to losing their jobs, they are also going to be adversely affected by another file that has been mismanaged by the Conservative government and that is the employment insurance reform.
It is interesting because when we make all these connections, we see that the Conservative government does not actually care about the real impact that these cuts will have on our identity and on CBC/Radio-Canada's unique mandate as a news and culture broadcaster in our communities.
However, that is not all. These cuts will also affect the people who have jobs and who will now lose them. That is shameful. That is why I am rising today to support my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, who does excellent work. We will continue to stand up and support our public broadcaster.