House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cbc.


Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, unlike my hon. friend, I do not watch a heck of a lot of TV, because I am busy doing work on behalf of my constituents.

The Parliament of Canada funds the CBC to the tune of $1 billion. That is more funding than any other crown corporation receives in this country. That says a whole lot. We have made a commitment to the CBC. It is a crown corporation. What the member has to understand is that directives do not come out of any particular office here on Parliament Hill. The member has to understand that the CBC needs to be run like a business, as the president and CEO has himself said, and he is having to make those strategic choices in terms of where the scarce resources of the CBC need to be allocated.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

I listened to the member for York Centre's comments about the CBC, and I do not think he understands the difference between private broadcasters and broadcasters owned by the government, which are crown corporations. When he was asked whether there was enough money, he did not respond with a yes or no. Instead he replied that the government gives the corporation a lot of money—about $1 billion.

The CBC has had its share of cuts in recent years. For example, in 1994, the Liberals cut $400 million from the CBC/Radio-Canada budget. The Liberals took $400 million from the CBC. When the Conservatives came to power, the cuts did not end. Last year's budget included $115 million in cuts over the following three years, in addition to the indexation of salaries and spending. This means that the CBC lost millions of dollars.

The CBC is a public crown corporation whose objective is to provide services to all Canadians. If not for the corporation, francophone minorities would have to do without a lot of things, including those from home. I am also thinking about Newfoundland and Labrador; Edmonton, Alberta; and Prince George, British Columbia. The CBC plays a big part in our culture, among other things, since it is a public television and radio broadcaster.

All other countries in the world think it is important to have a public broadcaster, and not just private channels whose owners can choose to align themselves with a particular political party. Public broadcasters are there to give us the news.

Let us look at who will be most affected by the 657 jobs eliminated at CBC/Radio-Canada. For example, seven jobs were eliminated in Moncton. RDI in Moncton had two reporters. If you cut one of those positions you are losing 50% of their reporting team. We lost the Espace musique music service altogether. It will not be found on CBC radio, since this was a Radio-Canada service.

In reality, the Conservatives do not care about the country's minorities, including francophones in the rest of the country. This was made clear when they voted against mandatory bilingualism for Supreme Court judges.

The Conservative Party does not believe in public television. It should be run like a business. I listened to the hon. member for York Centre, and I understood that the CBC should be run like a business. Oh yes. CN was sold to the private sector and now we have to fight to get money to keep the railway lines between Miramichi and Bathurst. CN is being run like a business. If we ran it like a business, we would put money in the bank. This is a public service for all Canadians across the country.

Canada is among the countries that do not pay much per capita for a public broadcaster, as compared to Europe. In fact, Canada is third from the bottom. Compared to various European countries, which pay up to $59 per person, Canada pays only $29, which is very low. Some countries pay over a dollar per person for their public television.

A good democracy is required to have public television. That is what I want Canadians to understand. If they were asked whether they would like cuts made to the CBC, I am certain they would say no.

If we were to ask Canadians if they want the government to cut the funding to CBC, I say they would say no.

We have a responsibility in Ottawa to support our public radio and television. A good democracy needs to have that. Other countries that do not have it are losing out on their democracy.

In Montreal, for example, the minority anglophones in Montreal and Quebec are happy to have CBC. They are happy to have CBC in Riviére-au-Renard en Gaspésie. They are happy to have CBC to bring the news into their homes. That is the responsibility of CBC.

However, the cuts made have not been done because Radio Canada is not running as a business. It is an arm's-length public corporation of the government. The arm is just as long as it is bent and one can touch it at the other end because we feel the cuts the government has made to CBC-Radio Canada today. People have been cut all across the country in stations where they could give the public the service it needs.

I have a little story about the French channel. One time, when the games were in Vancouver, I was in Prince George at that time listening to RDI. I know the president of CBC, Hubert Lacroix, is sick and tired of hearing this story, but I was watching the French channel and all of a sudden I decided to turn it to the CBC English channel. They were already on the boat going to Nanaimo with the flame. We were still on the tarmac waiting for the plane to open the door. People were missing. There was just a camera person there servicing Radio Canada.

That is why it is important to have this discussion today. We must take a look at our expectations of public broadcasting. Even the president of the CBC said so.

Under section 41 of part VII of the Official Languages Act, the government is responsible for promoting both official languages, communities and culture. Radio-Canada plays that role for our culture and our artists. However, with the cuts made by the government, Moncton has lost various shows, such as La Revue Acadienne, Luc et Luc and the Belle-Baie TV series.

All Canadians were able to get a glimpse of the Caraquet region of the Acadian peninsula in the Belle-Baie TV series. This series was in demand and was very good, but it was eliminated. We lost the local programming improvement fund, the LPIF, which used to support the corporation and its radio stations with money from cable companies. Which government was in power when we lost the fund? The Conservative government.

The Conservatives are the ones who made the cuts, and Canadians are suffering the consequences today. The people are the ones who are suffering.

We have to ask ourselves whether Canada wants a public broadcaster. Are we going to lose it just because the Conservatives do not like it?

We were in public, on TV, when the member for New Brunswick Southwest asked Hubert Lacroix, the president of the CBC, whether he felt the broadcaster was too liberal.

That was the real issue.

The question came from the Conservative member. His only question was whether the CBC was too liberal. Is that why we are going to lose our national public broadcaster?

He should instead ask Hubert Lacroix how the cuts are affecting the corporation, communities and specifically minority communities across the country. That is the job of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Its job is not to figure out whether the CBC is too liberal, new democratic or conservative. I, for one, would be tempted to say that the private television networks are all conservative. That is life.

The government is going after the CBC. Last year, it cut $115 million. It did away with indexation and, today, we are paying for it. It is not just us here paying the price. We are all paying the price. Each and every Canadian is paying the price.

We hope that the government will change its mind and support CBC/Radio-Canada.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate my friend's comments. I used to work at CBC and I was the union rep there for 20 years. Every year of those 20 years, whether it was a Liberal or a Conservative government, some kind of cut happened to the CBC. Those cuts are now continuing and it is but a shadow of what it should be.

The CBC has lost its role in the world because it is no longer the provider of Radio-Canada International on shortwave out of New Brunswick. That was a wonderful facility. It will no longer have Hockey Night in Canada, which is part of what Canadians from coast to coast to coast have enjoyed for many long years. These are as a result of governments and, in particular, the Conservative government, which really mix what is needed by Canadians with their need to get re-elected. Their need to get re-elected is not a function to praise or not praise the journalists. The journalists cover stories as they unfold. The journalists do not take partisan positions.

Could the member comment on the notion that journalists are just doing their job?

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, we are all entitled to our own opinion about television or radio. I think that is the wrong debate.

What we should be talking about is whether we want public television and radio in Canada. Do we want a broadcaster with a national presence? Do we want CBC to have a presence in Montreal, Rivière-au-Renard and Sherbrooke, where there are anglophones?

Is that what our country wants? Do we want a public broadcaster that ensures that the news is televised across the country, not one that is just a business? The hon. member for York Centre said that the CBC should be run like a businesses. We are not here to run a business; we are here to run a country.

We need to give something to our communities. This is the taxpayers' money, and taxpayers want a service. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are taking a service away from Canadians.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2014 / 12:40 p.m.


LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech was quite an interesting one.

One of the interesting things is that our government has funded CBC at over $1.1 billion. One of his colleagues talked about what CBC's reporting of news stories. My understanding is that Peter Mansbridge of CBC talked about the robocalls and CBC spreading the stories. It turned out that was not true, and Peter Mansbridge said, as I understand it, that they were feeding the frenzy. Therefore, the frenzy was not really a story and had no fact at all.

Could the member comment on that?

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the comment is about the same thing the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl said. The problem was because of the Liberal Party

Now the member is talking about Peter Mansbridge feeding things on television.

When he says that his government has paid $1.2 billion to CBC/Radio-Canada, his government has not paid a cent to CBC/Radio-Canada. The taxpayers have paid the money to CBC/Radio-Canada.

What his government has done is cut CBC by $115 million. It has cut the index to CBC on wages at the expense of CBC. That is what it has done. It is changing our public television and radio and taking it away from Canadians, and this is wrong.

In a good democracy, we need public television and radio that is paid by the taxpayers and reports to the taxpayers.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, CBC is an extremely important institution for all Canadians. As a public broadcaster, CBC has a unique role to play. I want to emphasize the word “unique” because it is a role that the private sector cannot play, and I have nothing against the private sector. The CBC's role is unique because it involves educating and informing Canadians, as well as promoting culture.

Unfortunately, we know that the Conservatives are not really willing to stand up and fight for information, education and culture. They do not really like to talk about those topics. That is likely why they have been making cuts to CBC for years now. This year alone, there have been nearly $130 million in cuts.

The cumulative effect that these cuts have had on both CBC and Radio-Canada has been absolutely devastating. A group of experienced French-language journalists at Radio-Canada said it better than I ever could. Before I read this quote, I would like to take a moment to commend everyone at Radio-Canada. Since being elected, I have gotten to know many of them and I am struck by how dedicated and professional they are.

This is what those journalists are saying:

As creators of French services, we are concerned about the erosion of the resources made available to us to provide a quality public service. With cuts after cuts, Radio-Canada is slowing dying. There is no denying it: in the past six years, close to 20% of the French news budget has been cut.

But we are reaching a breaking point. These cutbacks will of course affect our news programming. This is a direct attack on what makes us unique and sets us apart from the competition.

Coverage of international news, which was one of our strengths and a reflection of our openness to the world, is now in jeopardy.

Sports broadcasting is disappearing. The staff covering culture has been drastically cut.

A program like Enquête, without which the Charbonneau commission would not have happened, is one of the most striking examples of Radio-Canada's contribution to our country's democratic health. Without the resources we had, the revelations that saved tens of millions of dollars would have been impossible.

Clearly, Enquête, the program they mention here, is a good illustration of what is at stake. Obviously, there are costs associated with producing Enquête. However, the benefits far outweigh the costs, and we would not have those benefits if the journalists and researchers at Enquête were not given the resources they need to do their job.

The same is true for international news, as was mentioned earlier. We know that the private sector often does not have the resources to send correspondents abroad. However, the work that the public broadcaster's correspondents do abroad is essential to keep Canadians informed about what is going on in the world. This is increasingly important in the globalized world we live in, even though the Conservatives are trying to build walls around Canada and isolate us completely.

Other countries, and I think in particular of Great Britain where I lived for a few years, understand the importance of their public radio and television and give it the necessary means to do its job. Let me give a few examples: Great Britain, $97 per person per year; Norway, $180 per person per year; Germany, which is not this little weird country, generally knows how to manage things and does not throw money away, $124 per person per year.

The international average is $82 a year. The average for Canada is $29 a year. Here again we are at the bottom of the class.

When I asked a colleague a question earlier, I said it was 9¢ a day, but it is in fact 8¢ a day. Every Canadian gives 8¢ a day to our public broadcasting service, Radio-Canada/CBC. It is about one coffee a month, or something like that.

These countries understand that public radio and television play a role in creating a more healthy, a more vibrant, a better informed, and a better educated population. We all gain from this. That is why I do not consider paying for Radio-Canada/CBC a cost; I consider it an investment.

These countries understand that public radio and television are part of the public debate and are therefore an essential tool for democracy, but here again we are talking about culture, education, and information, which are not the Conservatives' strong suits. Unfortunately, democracy is not either, as we have seen the Conservative government trying to undermine our democracy again this week with the unfair elections act and repeatedly over the last few years.

It is not only under the Conservatives that the government has been eroding CBC/ Radio-Canada's capacity to fully play its role. It started well before. It started under the Liberals.

The gradual erosion of CBC and Radio-Canada's ability to fulfill their role, including the critical one of connecting with francophones across Canada and anglophone minorities in Quebec in particular, began under the Liberals. That role is integral to our national institutions.

We have to put an end to this erosion, this slow demise. We have to stop this death by a thousand cuts. We have to ensure that the CBC has the stable, adequate, multi-year funding it needs to function properly. It is not that complicated.

I would like to call on everyone and thank the thousands—not dozens or hundreds, but thousands—of people from Laurier—Sainte-Marie who have written to me about this. Together, let us save the CBC.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I look at the CBC and its various parts, I see the radio system is a good system. If they want to fiddle with it a bit, fine, but it is a good system. Newsworld is a good system. Even the French TV serves a good purpose, but I cannot see any purpose for English TV. If we check all the English TV programs, we see that most of them come from the United States. It is no different from CTV, Global, and all the other channels. I think CBC English TV should be considered for elimination.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

What can I say, Mr. Speaker? What he just said is astounding.

Thankfully, according to my colleague, all is not lost, and I have to admit that what he said took me by surprise:

Even the French TV could be saved. Oh, my God—“even”.

That is just amazing. As for CBC television? Well, I watch on occasion when I have time, and I think the Canadian news programs are exceptionally good.

I do not know if my colleague watches more of the entertainment programming—that would be hard—but that is not the point. What the government is doing is cutting funding and then saying that it does not like the product.

The federal government's role here is to provide adequate funding for the CBC. That is its job, not to say that it likes this particular show, but not that one because it is from the United States. No. Adequate funding. That is all.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague emphasized that it is important to support our public broadcaster.

Many of us believe that Radio-Canada is more than a public broadcaster; it helps create our identity. Thanks to Radio-Canada, we have access to talent from all over and from close to home. We can find out what is going on and share information, our experiences and our knowledge among regions and linguistic communities within the greater Francophonie, thereby building a stronger, more triumphant identity.

Can she comment further on that?

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Exactly, Mr. Speaker, and that is why it is such an extraordinary institution. It helps to build our identity.

Clearly, I come from Quebec. We recognize each other by generation; we say we are part of the Bobino generation or some other generation. It is part of who we are. It is also a window onto the country, from one end to another, from north to south, and onto other communities.

Going back to a previous question, I feel that is as true for anglophones with CBC as for francophones with Radio-Canada. It is also a window onto the international Francophonie, because of all the reports from journalists posted abroad and shows like Une heure sur terre, which I imagine must have disappeared because of the cuts.

All these things open us up to each other. The institution both creates identity and provides an extraordinary tool for openness.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to stand in the House and speak on this motion that has been brought forward by a colleague of mine from the NDP.

The relationship between the government and CBC/Radio-Canada is an arm's-length relationship, and that is for good reason. I would like to spend some time to clarify the nature of that particular relationship.

I will begin with a reminder of the origins of CBC. When the corporation was created back in 1936, Parliament provided for a great level of autonomy from the government to ensure the independence of the corporation's broadcasting and programming decisions and its freedom from any political interference.

Since then and over the years, the Broadcasting Act, the legislation governing the corporation, has been amended a number of times to adapt to the changing broadcasting landscape. These various amendments were made in full respect of the necessity for an arm's-length relationship between CBC and the government of the day. It is a relationship that is defined fundamentally by freedom of expression, a cornerstone of Canadian democracy.

The CBC's independence is explicitly underscored in three sections of the Broadcasting Act:

The Corporation shall, in the pursuit of its objects and in the exercise of its powers, enjoy freedom of expression and journalistic, creative and programming independence.

The corporation reports to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. It is governed by a board of directors consisting of 12 directors, including the chairperson and the president, who is appointed by the Governor in Council.

The board provides overall stewardship of the corporation. It is responsible for the fulfillment of the mandate and directing the business, activities, and affairs of the corporation. It holds its senior management accountable for its. It is also responsible for providing strategic guidance to the CBC. The public broadcaster's current five-year strategic plan is an example of the how the board interprets its public mandate and provides guidance to the CBC in developing media strategies, programming and other initiatives.

It is important to take a few moments to speak about how the board's strategic guidance impacts the CBC.

CBC's mandate states that:

...the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains;

...the programming provided by the Corporation should:

i. be predominantly and distinctively Canadian,

ii. reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions,

iii. actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,

iv. be in English and in French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, including the particular needs and circumstances of English and French linguistic minorities,

v. strive to be of equivalent quality in English and French,

vi. contribute to shared national consciousness and identity,

vii. be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose, and

viii. reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada.

In order to provide Canadians with a wide range of Canadian cultural programs, the public broadcaster must provide content on multiple media platforms. Canadians expect to have access to media content at the time and place of their choosing, be it on a mobile device or on their television set to video on demand. They also want to contribute content, to participate, and to be able to express their own opinions back to the corporation.

The CBC must strive to meet those needs by focusing on creating and delivering original and innovative high-quality Canadian content, by reflecting and bringing together Canadians in its regional and national programming, and by engaging with Canadian audiences through special events such as town halls. Most importantly, the CBC must strive to be cost-effective, transparent, and accountable.

The CBC must offer high-quality national programs that inform, enlighten, and entertain Canadians, just as its mandate requires it to do. The CBC carves out space, forums, or opportunities for Canadians to connect with one another and share stories, experiences, and opinions.

It must maintain and, where applicable, increase its presence in regions and must continue to do so in an innovation fashion, using all or some of the various services, depending on the specific circumstances. It must also seek to reach communities that do not have access to many channels or cultural services. It also offers news programming produced in the regions.

The CBC has recently expanded its reach to certain communities in our country, including Kelowna, Edmonton, Hamilton, and northern and southern suburbs of Montreal, as well as Newfoundland.

The CBC is also investing in the digital programming of its corporation. The CBC is already recognized as a leader in digital offering with its new websites and innovative applications, such as the CBC music web portal and others. The corporation now offers a broad suite of digital programming that can be accessed by Canadians when and how they want it. Digital programming can also mean an increased presence in the regions.

The corporation must continue to strive to be a presence in these regions in digital media and offering Canadian content at prime time, during the day. It must also continue to seek to diversify and to increase revenues.

The CBC should continue to form partnerships and pursue avenues to maximize its own resources. The corporation is responsible for establishing performance indicators to monitor how well, according to Canadians, its programming and services fill the main elements of its mandate.

Our government strongly supports the emphasis the corporation is placing on measuring its performance, as it is imperative that all corporations demonstrate the results they achieve using Canadian tax dollars.

In terms of meeting its mandate, according to a recent survey commissioned by the corporation, CBC's English and French language radio and television services scored an average of 8 out of 10 for being informative, enlightening, entertaining, and available on new platforms.

When asked how English and French services fare against the corporation's strategic priorities, it received an average, again, of about 8 out of 10 for being high-quality, distinctive, diverse, and reflective of Canada's regions.

Like all broadcasters, the corporation continues to measure audience share, revenues, subscribers, production costs, and adoption to new platforms. Noteworthy results include the performance of French television, its network radio services, and its process on digital platforms.

On the other hand, the CBC must find ways of attracting Canadians aged 25 to 54, which is a key demographic sought by television advertisers. It is in decline in viewership, and the decline of advertising revenue is causing a number of challenges for the corporation.

To conclude this example of governance, it is critical to underscore that the corporation is responsible for the day-to-day operations, including its strategic objectives. It is up to CBC to ensure its strategic plans are fulfilled and that they meet the needs of Canadians.

The president, as chief executive officer at the head of the senior executive team, is responsible for the overall management of the corporation. He is accountable to the board of directors for the efficient operation of the corporation in accordance with the plans and priorities established by the board.

The board of directors has a proper mix of skill and experience to manage the CBC and ensure it fulfills its mandate. Considering the legislative framework and regulations surrounding the broadcasting sector, it is also important that the board fulfill its roles and responsibilities. The board has the knowledge, skills, and experience required to do a proper job, including in the areas of media, legal, accounting, community, and business sectors.

I would like to get back now to the nature of the arm's-length relationship with government that the corporation has, and the terms of accountability that Parliament has in ensuring the accountability for the Canadian public.

As we know, the Financial Administration Act governs the administration of public funds, and part X of the act provides a broad accountability framework through which most crown corporations normally engage with the government. However, CBC is exempt from certain sections of part X of the Financial Administration Act. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation shares this exemption with a very few select crown corporations, and this exemption is put into place to ensure that some cultural activities and decisions are completely free of any political involvement. While this exemption from the portion of the Financial Administration Act gives the corporation a high level of autonomy from government, it still has to comply with key reporting requirements that apply to all federal crown corporations as well as under its own legislation, the Broadcasting Act, or under other legislation such as the Access to Information Act, the Privacy Act, and labour laws, among others.

Every year, the corporation informs government what it intends to do by submitting to the responsible minister, for information only, a corporate plan and a five-year outlook. A summary of the plan and the annual operating and capital budgets are tabled each year before Parliament.

Like every other broadcaster in Canada, the CBC has to comply with regulations set out by the CRTC. In addition, the CRTC established specific licensing conditions for the CBC and Radio-Canada television and radio services to encourage the national public broadcaster to deliver on key elements of its mandate and contribute to a strong Canadian broadcasting system.

To give even more strength to the crown corporation's accountability to Canadians, our government, in 2007, expanded the scope of the Access to Information Act so that more federal organizations, including the CBC, are required to respond to information requests. It also brought the corporation under a proactive disclosure requirement, which means that the travel and hospitality expenses of its executives and the members of its board of directors must be published online on a quarterly basis. We expect that the CBC will fully comply, and that it does fully comply, with the requirements under both of these acts.

We went even further to encourage an exchange between Canadians and the board of any crown corporation. To encourage the CBC to engage directly with Canadians, we provided Canadians with an opportunity to speak directly to the boards, including the board of CBC. In 2009, our government added the requirement in the Financial Administration Act that crown corporations hold annual public meetings. The purpose of the annual public meeting is to give the public an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns that they might have over the programming directions, the fiscal management, or the overall stewardship of CBC. As principal stewards of the corporation, the board must hold meetings attended by the chair and the president and chief executive officer, as well as the chief financial officer. They are expected to speak about the plans and the spending of the corporation over the previous year, and about its future direction.

There are also mechanisms for Canadians to pursue complaints about CBC or Radio-Canada news or public affairs coverage. They may contact the corporation directly through any of its stations or here at the head office in Ottawa. Where the complainant feels that the concern has not been resolved by the corporation, the complainant has the recourse of an ombudsman. There are two independent ombudsmen, one for the CBC's English side and one for the Radio-Canada French service. The ombudsmen act as an appeal authority for the complainants who are dissatisfied with the responses from the corporation's program staff or management. The ombudsmen review complaints regarding journalistic and current affairs material. The ombudsmen determine whether the journalistic process or the radio, television, or Internet content involved in the complaint does in fact violate the corporation's journalistic policies, and may subsequently recommend corrective action such as an on-air apology or some other type of follow-up.

The ombudsmen are independent of the corporation's program staff and management. After investigating complaints, the ombudsmen report their findings directly to the president and CEO of the CBC and, through him, to the board of directors. Hence, Canadians can expect that when the corporation's journalistic and public affairs policies are not respected, they have a recourse and an unbiased resolution method.

Our Conservative government believes it is important for Canadians to have direct avenues to hold CBC to account. The CBC receives a significant amount of funding from taxpayers. The more than $1.1 billion that the CBC receives in direct and indirect funding is sufficient to fulfill its public mandate to reach Canadians as prescribed under the Broadcasting Act.

As the House knows, Canadian audiences now have a number of high-tech electronic devices and hundreds of television and radio services that allow them greater freedom to choose and access the content they want. The CBC must continue to invest in the programs and platforms in which Canadians want to invest their time watching. It has the independence to decide how best to invest the funds received from Parliament in programming to achieve its mandate.

The corporation has always operated and will continue to operate at arm's length from any government. The corporation's reporting obligations are necessary to ensure that CBC remains accountable to all Canadians and delivers high-quality programming that Canadians want to enjoy.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish everyone a happy Yukon Francophone Day today.

I listened to the hon. member and it is as if he is telling us that he supports CBC/Radio-Canada.

My question for him is whether he agrees with his party colleague from Carleton—Mississippi Mills, who asked if we should not get rid of CBC/Radio-Canada's English television. That is what he said in the House.

I would like to know what he feels about that. Is that what the government thinks, or does he disagree with his colleague from his party?

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, CBC does have a mandate to provide television services and access for Canadians across the country to reflect communities and regions to other regions in this country. That is number one.

Number two is to have content that is in fact Canadian. There have been concerns expressed about CBC's retraction from communities like mine, which is a rural community that is underserved. There are great concerns about CBC's retraction from communities that are underserved into media markets that are, in some cases, already saturated. Obviously, CBC has to carry out its mandate. We expect it to do that. We expect it to include Canadian content in that.

The mandate is clear. CBC has the resources to do that. It has demonstrated that it has been innovative in doing that in some cases. We would encourage it to continue to do that.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question on a similar point, because I also heard the remark from the Conservative member for Carleton—Mississippi Mills that, because there were not enough Canadian shows, the English CBC television should be eliminated.

Maybe he should not have been taken literally. I hate it when politicians feign indignation. Maybe he was just exaggerating a bit. However, his reason for saying that was that there were not enough Canadian TV shows.

I would like to ask my colleague who has just spoken across the way which one is his favourite show out of Rick Mercer Report, The Nature of Things, Dragons' Den, the fifth estate, The National, and a lot of others. Which one of these is his favourite Canadian show?

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I actually do not spend a lot of time watching television. I spend a lot of time working.

What I find concerning is that when we approached the CBC, having been the host city for the Arctic Winter Games, we felt that it was important that CBC reflect what is an important event in communities across northern Canada. We expressed concern that it had chosen not to cover the Arctic Winter Games to the extent Canadians in the north would expect. The CBC basically said that it was a decision for CBC North, but because Grande Prairie does not fit within that jurisdiction, it was a tug-of-war between CBC North and CBC in Alberta. It became quite evident that the CBC did not have a national plan as to how we could reflect a very important national event in my constituency to the rest of Canadians.

It is important that all Canadians see events that are important in one part of our country reflected in the rest of the country. I would encourage the CBC to continue to invest in underserved locations, such as rural communities across this country.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned a billion dollars. It sounds like a big number, but it comes down to pennies a day per Canadian. Do the math.

I believe that the really important part of the CBC, especially for rural locations like northwestern Ontario, the high Arctic, the Prairies, and many places, is CBC Radio. It is cost-effective. It is a small percentage of the overall CBC budget. I am hopeful that at some point, the CBC will split its finances and its organization into radio and television.

I wonder if the hon. member might agree with me that splitting it into radio and television would allow Radio-Canada to compete effectively for the scarce funds.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, in theory, maybe the hon. member's suggestion has some merit, but I would actually go in the other direction. I would suggest that the better the CBC works together and finds partners throughout Canada, the better it will be able to serve Canadians from coast to coast.

I would suggest that when resources can be shared between Radio-Canada and CBC and between both French and English radio and television, that is when synergies will happen and when the most cost-effective service can be provided for all Canadians. I do not think it is helpful to separate and build silos even more so than what is already evident within the corporation today.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it strikes me that the member for Peace River is a little like a person who puts one foot on each side of a picket fence and then tries to walk. He is a member of a government that has cut back severely on the CBC, and in his speech he said that the CBC should rely more on its own resources. Ultimately, this forces the CBC toward market solutions, which actually take away from what he was saying in the other part of his speech, which is that there is a mandate to serve the regions.

I come from Vancouver Island. It took us 20 years to get a CBC radio station on Vancouver Island. It is now the most listened to station there, and it feeds the national network.

I have sympathy with the member as a regional representative, but his government is doing exactly the opposite of the things he would like to accomplish in his own riding. I would like to know whether his position is comfortable or not.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member points out exactly what the CBC should be doing. It should go into underserved communities where there is not an oversaturated market already. We have seen cable stations start up in rural communities. We have seen CTV place television people in rural communities and serve them, because the CBC does not. Who are people in rural Canada going to watch? They are going to watch the people who reflect things that are happening within their own communities.

What we find in my area is that viewers have consistently drifted away from CBC and have gone to CTV and the independent cable station to get local news. Of course, the advertisers have followed. They have said that they are going to move to what people are watching.

My argument is the one the member inadvertently made, which is that the CBC should be investing in communities that are underserved, such as his own community, that are now major commercial successes. I believe that money will follow success, and advertisers will go to where the viewers are. If the CBC provides a quality product in communities that are underserved, the advertisers will go to those same places, and of course the CBC would be funded better if it could attract advertisers.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am having a bit of difficulty understanding the difference between the Liberal and Conservative approaches to the CBC. Both have made massive multimillion dollar cuts to the CBC at a time when it has to innovate. Now that I have listened to the member's remarks, it sounds remarkably like what MP Clifford Lincoln developed with the Liberals under the Liberal government. They did a two-year study, from 2001 to 2003, only to have it scuttled when Paul Martin became prime minister. The minister of heritage at the time, Liza Frulla, sort of threw out all the recommendations.

Why, after 11 years and a two-year Liberal study, is he making the same recommendations the Liberals made while simultaneously cutting multimillion dollar sums from the CBC?

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, currently, under our government, the CBC receives record-breaking amounts of funding, over $1.1 billion. Even during times of fiscal restraint, the CBC has continued to receive the highest level of funding in Canadian history.

The NDP suggests that there should be unmitigated funds available for the CBC. Of course, if there was a money tree here in Ottawa, we would all love to give unlimited funds to all the places on which government spends. Unfortunately, during times of fiscal restraint, we have to look to the taxpayer to fund the services that are provided, and taxpayers right now want to be assured that there are not going to be increases in taxes for expenditures, especially going to corporations that are managed well.

I guess the questions I have for the NDP are these: how much would it like to raise taxes, and who does it expect to pay those taxes?

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, from the time many in this House can remember, there has been CBC/Radio-Canada. It has meant the national news at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Hockey Night in Canada, the Wayne and Shuster Comedy Hour, Mr. Dressup, Anne of Green Gables, great dramatic series, and stars such as Eric Peterson, Gordon Pinsent, Mary Walsh, Tommy Hunter, and Cynthia Dale. We were and are able to be engaged by the news, to be enthralled by the drama, and to laugh at ourselves with the likes of Rick Mercer.

Today we have an important motion before this House, a motion that speaks to the survival of CBC/Radio-Canada. Our national broadcaster does indeed play a key role in informing, entertaining, and uniting Canadians. However, over the past 20 years, our precious CBC has been the victim of many rounds of cuts, whether it was the $400 million cut in 1995 by the Liberal finance minister or the $160 million in budget 2012, the CBC is now clearly wounded and staggering under the impact of these cuts. It has meant lost programming and lost jobs. In the last week, we have seen an additional loss of programming and jobs. Canadian productions such as Arctic Air are no more, and over 600 people have lost their jobs at the CBC. These are creative people who told our stories and added so much to our sense of community and culture.

There were always questions in regard to why there were such punitive cuts by this government and the previous one. I have an answer. It could be that the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada to inform Canadians upset government.

It is true that on this side of the House, the official opposition has felt the sting of exposing Conservative and Liberal corruption, and so too has the CBC. Whether it was the in-and-out scandal, illegal election fundraising, robocalls, the Senate scandal involving both Liberal and Conservative senators, temporary foreign workers, maligning a Supreme Court justice, or creating an unfair elections act, the government has been determined to undermine the CBC and its reporting mechanisms with witch hunts and budget cuts.

Today I want to speak on behalf of our national broadcaster and the immeasurable value that comes with providing sustained and stable funding for the CBC to fulfill its mandate, legislated by this House when that was a value we all held in common. That was before ideology trumped democracy, transparency, and giving every Canadian a voice.

The mandate of the CBC, and I quote from the Broadcasting Act of 1991, is to:

...provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains; (m) the programming provided by the corporation should (i) be predominantly and distinctively Canadian, (ii) reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions, (iii) actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression, (iv) be in English and in French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, including the particular needs and circumstances of English and French linguistic minorities, (v) strive to be of equivalent quality in English and in French, (iv) contribute to shared national consciousness and identity, (vii) be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose, and (viii) reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada;

Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for Chambly—Borduas.

The Conservatives like to claim that the CBC operates at arm's length from the government as a crown corporation but at the same time have no problem hauling departmental officials from the CBC into committee to appear on behalf of the CBC. This happened at ethics committee and status of women, just to name a couple.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages has stood in this House to claim that the cuts to programming and staff at the CBC are a result of decisions the CBC made on its own, not the government, and that it is basically up to the CBC to keep up with the market and provide programming Canadians want to watch, as if the death by a thousand cuts that began with the Liberals has nothing to do with the government underfunding. It is a little like claiming that someone who walked away from the food store died from starvation because they refused to eat. It is technically true, but it misses the bigger picture by a country mile.

Over the past weeks and months I sat in the heritage committee and listened to Canadian musical artists, creators, performers, producers, and distributors speak on the issues faced by the Canadian music industry today. They all speak to the same sentiment that Lawren Harris acknowledged a century ago, in 1921, that the arts represent a fundamental building block in the identity of a country. He said, “The greatness of a country depends on three things: Its Words, its Deeds and its Art”.

We consistently hear arguments against public funding of the arts that go along the lines of, “Let the market decide”, “These are austere times”, “We need to focus on the fragile economy”, and “We don't want tax increases”. I have heard members of the Conservative Party at committee say things like, “I would love to be paid to play the violin” or “I'd love to be paid to play hockey”. However, we know that only a small percentage of people are paid to play hockey.

While I agree that it is the government's mandate to promote heritage, it is also the government's mandate to make sure that people make a living promoting that heritage. If it is not profitable, then why do music creators create?

What I have heard from the witnesses at committee is that these arguments leave out the very real and measurable benefits of creating a healthy, sustainable economy based on exploiting the gifts of every citizen, including those who create the art that defines us as Canadians and those who work to make it accessible worldwide. We consistently heard from expert witnesses in the study that the arts have value, not only for the pleasure they provide but for the real and substantial contribution they make to economic development in Canadian communities and right across the globe.

Refusing to recognize this fact is narrow-minded. Conservatives who hold to the idea that we cannot afford to invest in the arts or Liberals who cut funding in order to pad corporate tax breaks are being penny-wise and dollar foolish.

Mark Monahan of Bluesfest, in his April 29, testimony to the heritage committee, stated that the one thing missing from the federal funding picture right now is the focus on economic development with existing funding for the arts. Those funds are not really focusing on the deliverables like economic development and tourism.

On May 6, Tracy Jenkins of Lula Lounge stated:

...we need to simultaneously foster a culture of professional music journalism. With changes to the publishing industry and cutbacks to the CBC, many of the writers and broadcasters who used to celebrate and critique Canadian musical arts are no longer active.... Finally, going back to the importance of supporting a diversity of musical cultures, we would like to point out that CBC Radio has been crucial in helping us to develop audiences for our programming and the artists we present. We have really felt the impact of the loss of the initiative to do live recording for a future broadcast as this was an effective vehicle for reaching new listeners across the country and affirming the importance of artistic contributions being made by culturally diverse Canadian artists.

It seems to me that if the Conservatives understood that they would not be slashing funding to the CBC; rather, they would be making our national broadcaster part of their economic action plan. We hear about that action plan all the time. What about culture? What about art? What about the CBC?

The problem as I see it is not that Canadians do not appreciate the contribution of the arts to a healthy society or of the CBC as Canada's national broadcaster in uniting us in identity. The problem is that we have not done a very good job in making the connection between the thriving arts community and a thriving economy, between stable, secure funding for a national broadcaster as a fundamental building block to a Canadian society that we can all enjoy, prosper from, and share in. Why do the Conservatives not get that?

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, part of this motion speaks to providing secure and stable funding to the CBC. I am wondering if the member opposite could define what exactly “secure and stable funding” is. If I want to support a motion that would spend taxpayer dollars, I would like to understand exactly what the amount is of those taxpayer dollars.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, secure and stable funding is the kind of funding that would ensure that the CBC can deliver on its mandate and that the programming that reflects us as Canadians is safe and secure.

The Conservatives talk about jobs all the time. We lost nearly 700 good jobs in the cultural industries when CBC reduced its workforce because of budget cuts.

It is interesting that the Conservatives talk about the billion dollars they give to CBC and how great that is. Unfortunately, the government never talks about the fact that it also gives a billion dollars in kind to private broadcasters. By that I mean, private broadcasters are allowed to carry programming that is not allowed on the CBC. Therefore, those private broadcasters are able to garner an audience that is not available to the CBC.

If we are going to balance things out we have to ask, what does the CBC mean in terms of our economy? It is significant. It is just as significant as any claptrap about action and jobs and the kinds of budgets we have seen from the government.