Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to defend our public broadcaster because I believe that we should be talking about this institution. I would have preferred to be talking about it in different circumstances. This time, we are talking about it because there has been another wave of Conservative cuts.
I will reread the motion moved in the House by my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher:
That, in the opinion of the House, CBC/Radio-Canada plays a key role in informing, entertaining and uniting Canadians and is today weakened because of the many rounds of cuts over the past 20 years, and calls on the government to: (a) reverse the $45 million in cuts for 2014-2015 in Budget 2012; and (b) provide adequate, stable, multi-year funding to the public broadcaster so that it can fulfill its mandate.
I would like to start by talking about CBC's mandate. The Conservatives have been telling us all day that advertising revenues are down, and my colleague just asked if a public broadcaster should have advertising. That is not what today's debate is about, but I want to discuss the mandate. We have a law governing public broadcasters in Canada. If the law requires CBC/Radio-Canada to fulfill a mandate, it must be given the means to do so. It is not about whether the advertising brings in enough money. The government is not giving the broadcaster the means to fulfill the mandate conferred on it by law. That is the saddest part of all this.
These $130 million in cuts will have a direct impact. For example, these cuts mean that funding for the CBC will be $29 per Canadian in 2014-15. This means that $29 of my taxes will go to CBC/Radio-Canada.
A very interesting table by Nordicity compared countries and found that the average contribution to public broadcasters per inhabitant is $82. In Norway it is $180; in Switzerland it is $164; in Germany it is $124; and in Denmark it is $116. Some countries contribute a bit less than that: France and Belgium contribute $68. The only two countries who contribute less than us to their public broadcaster are New Zealand and the United States. I find that unbelievable. I want to congratulate CBC/Radio-Canada, because with funding of just $29 per inhabitant, it still manages to provide high-quality news and content in French and English.
We are giving the CBC less and less money. In 2012, $82.4 million was cut from English services, $42.3 million was cut from French services and $4.7 million was cut from corporate services. That resulted in the elimination of 657 full-time jobs: 573 immediate losses and others to come in the future, including 35 positions at the news service.
As my colleagues have said, the information we get from the CBC is very important. It teaches us about current events and politics, and it tells us what is going on around the world and at home. I do not want to criticize other broadcasters, but the CBC has a standard. If there are not enough producers, investigators and researchers to find all of this information, we will end up in a black hole where the information is lower quality and is increasingly less relevant and insightful.
I want to talk about the cuts that could have a tangible effect on my constituents. The CBC has cancelled two cooking shows and one original series. It has made a 50% cut to regional live music productions.
At Radio-Canada, a cut targets two journalists and one producer of the program Enquête. As we know, this program in Quebec was the first to shed light on the whole saga of public financing in the construction industry. Without Enquête, there would have been no Charbonneau commission. That commission is currently shedding light on many disturbing facts in our province. However, it is the quality and thoroughness of Enquête that made this possible.
There will be fewer episodes of the show Quelle histoire!, which is produced in Ottawa-Gatineau, fewer musical programs on Radio-Canada, and fewer original episodes for flagship shows. Moreover, nostalgia series, presented between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., will be replaced by an American show. This is called americanization.
Radio-Canada reflects our identity. It talks about us, about our uniqueness, about the Quebec reality, about the French fact. Now, we will find ourselves with yet another American show. This means fewer jobs for Canadian actors and producers.
The government wants to keep the economy going. After reducing Radio-Canada's budget, it goes without saying that jobs had to be cut. They must have figured that it would be cheaper to broadcast an American show. We are losing yet another part of our identity here.
The end of the sport news in the evening is tragic. On the radio, the show Par 4 chemins is being eliminated, as are La tête ailleurs and Culture physique. We will no longer have a public broadcaster that talks about amateur sport. We will no longer have that.
All these cuts are in addition to others included in budget 2012: massive cuts to the service provided by Radio Canada International, an expansion plan for regional stations put on hold, and the shelving of the development of a website, Kids' CBC. This is very sad. We are heading into a situation where CBC/Radio Canada will no longer control its content. This is what is happening.
Earlier, my colleague told us about the show Les belles histoires des pays d'en haut. I met a woman from my riding who works at CBC/Radio-Canada. Unfortunately, I cannot name her for obvious reasons. She told me that they were showing Les belles histoires des pays d'en haut because it is cheaper than current original content or production. Those are the facts. CBC/Radio-Canada has less money. Consequently, it shows programs that cost less.
Why do we always see the same people on CBC? There are some popular actors and some not-so-popular ones, but we always see the same people because they cannot take the risk of trying to find something new. Last fall, I watched Série noire on TOU.TV. It was an incredible series, new and different. I told my friends about it, and some of them liked it while others did not.
The woman I mentioned earlier told me that Radio-Canada was not sure if it was going to go ahead with the series because it had to consider the ratings and advertising; otherwise, it could not afford to do the series. The number of stations is increasing. There is more demand for advertising. We know what advertising is like these days. I see it on the Internet. Of course I fast forward through the ads. I do not watch them.
The Conservatives are saying that there is less advertising so they need to make cuts. Clearly, it will not work if they are relying solely on advertising. There is no doubt about that. CBC/Radio-Canada has original content. It is defined by the fact that it does not carry all of the same type of shows that private broadcasters do.
Of course, that may mean that it reaches smaller pockets of the population, meaning lower ratings, but is that a reason not to fund it? The government seems to want to move to a free market, and there are many things that have already been lost because of that. For example, there is less culture in our country and fewer shows for young people. We are moving toward mass Americanization, and no one seems to care what will happen.
I would like to talk about a letter that a Montreal resident, Guylaine Bombardier, wrote to my colleague who moved this motion. I just love what she wrote. She said that, as a francophone citizen of Quebec, she truly believed that, without CBC, the health of our democracy and our culture would not be the same. She added that, despite the many constraints associated with competition, which should not be a factor for a public service, CBC is doing a better job than any other broadcaster of helping her understand the society she lives in. She also said that the unreasonable cuts to CBC worry—