Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the importance of culture and diversity in our country and to highlight some of the investments our government is making to ensure that we protect, preserve, and promote our country's cultural institutions and multicultural society.
Our culture, our ideas, songs, and stories give meaning to who we are as Canadians. Our culture and cultural products are the instruments that help us communicate with others and share different views, entertaining and informing us, all the while weaving together a shared sense of identity.
Culture is at the heart of every community across our country and around the world, and Canada is a testament to the ability to include and respect all cultures in one society. Perhaps we are uniquely poised to be welcoming and accepting due to the way our country was founded as distinct societies coming together to found one country. People from other parts of the world quickly joined, adding their cultures and traditions to the fabric of our country, weaving the ever-changing tapestry that is Canada.
Our government has a solemn duty to act as a steward of Canada's cultural institutions and an obligation to promote and foster the institutions, activities, and people that help our culture flourish, grow, and adapt to changing times and circumstances.
Our cultural mediums help us to exchange diverse ideas and experiences, and the conversations they invoke are the greatest celebrations of the diversity that is at the heart of Canadian culture. They also make a significant contribution to our economy.
Over the years, the number of companies and individuals involved in producing cultural products has grown dramatically. One of the companies that has always been at the heart of Canadian content is the CBC. There are some on the opposition benches who would like to see the CBC eliminated. Strikingly, they are some of the same members who seem most out of touch with what true Canadian values are. The CBC not only ensures that all Canadians have access to Canadian content, but that every Canadian can also access local content.
The reality is that in a country as vast as Canada, there will be areas where it does not make financial sense for profit-driven entities to produce local content. Every Canadian deserves to know what is going on in their area of the country, and to partake in the shared experience of cultural exchanges that build communities.
To that end, I am proud to say that our government has invested $675 million in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio Canada to disseminate and support world-class Canadian content and to provide Canadians with better access to programs and services in the digital era.
Since I know this question will be coming from my Conservative colleagues, I will address it now. Yes, I am aware that CBC/Radio Canada has asked for an additional $400 million from the government. The opposition has made great fanfare of this request, decrying it as just a cash grab. What they fail to mention, however, is that this request comes because CBC/Radio Canada wants to eliminate all ads.
I would like to ask those watching to think about what this means for our national broadcaster. Much like the BBC, our national broadcaster can give strong, stable, well-funded public broadcasts with the primary goal of serving the interests of domestic audiences and diverse communities in helping to promote Canadian content. Agree or disagree, this is an idea worth seriously considering, and I am happy the government is doing just that.
Although our cultural industries are a key part of the Canadian economy, our government also recognizes that culture and cultural products are more than just goods that can be bought and sold. Our stories, our songs, our symbols, and our sacred spaces can sometimes generate profits, but they are also precious because of their significance or the sense of belonging and understanding they induce.
Understanding the intrinsic value of our cultural spaces is very important to me. I am therefore very proud that our government has decided to invest in the spaces and institutions that serve as guardians of our cultural objects, including our national museums, our national historic sites, and our parks. Canada's national museums are important cultural institutions that play a vital role in preserving Canada's heritage and educating Canadians.
I am pleased to say that in budget 2016, our government provides up to $105.9 million over five years to our national museums, and up to $280.9 million over five years to support the infrastructure needs of three important Canadian cultural institutions: the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the National Arts Centre, and the National Gallery of Canada.
What is more, we are committed to allocating $168.2 million over two years to the Canada cultural spaces fund, as part of our investments in social infrastructure. Through initiatives like this one, budget 2016 will ensure that the community spaces that preserve, protect, present, and promote our culture, while entertaining and informing us, will be there for us and for our children in the future.
This process is critical not only to ensure that cultural artifacts from our past are protected but also to ensure that the innovators and artists of tomorrow have welcoming, well-funded spaces to help inspire them.
Artists are our country's storytellers. Regardless of the medium they use, our artists capture moments and ideas and weave them into the fabric of our individual and collective identities.
The weaving of this fabric of identity is especially important in a quickly changing and globalized world, as we work within the context of our ever-changing and diverse society to create a sense of what it means to be Canadian.
Fostering the development of the arts here at home is an important part of ensuring that those who have stories to tell are given the opportunity to weave their own contribution into this national fabric.
Encouraging this freedom of expression is fundamental to our understanding of ourselves and to ensuring that all voices have the opportunity to be heard in our democracy. However, if art is to flourish, artists need to be able to work in an environment in which their voices can be heard, regardless of how popular the sentiment they express is, and regardless of their viewpoint or background.
Ensuring equal access to the artistic world is why it is so fundamental that our government works to foster the development of the arts in Canada through grants, services, and awards to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations, as well as through scholarly awards.
In budget 2016, our government has committed to ensuring that avenues to expression are open to all Canadians through its investment of $550 million in the Canada Council for the Arts. Furthermore, our government has made commitments to the industries that support these artists, including a $22-million commitment to Telefilm Canada and a $13.5-million commitment to the National Film Board of Canada, as they work to ensure the cultural, commercial, and industrial success of Canada's audiovisual industry.
This funding will work in tandem with our commitment to work with other countries to realize new and creative artistic projects, a commitment demonstrated when the Minister of Canadian Heritage signed an audiovisual co-production treaty with the Republic of Ireland earlier this year.
Working through partnerships like this allows us to tell new stories and achieve new levels of creativity as we support each other in telling our country's stories.
In 2004, the British culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, commissioned a paper on the arts, which argued that the primary purpose of the arts is to communicate perceptions about the human condition that can't be communicated in any other way.
The arts are unique. They are able to help people interact with the world around them by helping them understand, work, and play in that world to enrich their experience by bringing feeling, beauty, and passion to their lives, and to provide a safe place where they can work to build their confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem.
Other efforts can only do some of these things. The arts do all three. That is why we must continue to support them.