House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cbc.


Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, two things became clear to me as my colleague was speaking. The first one is that Parks Canada has ecological integrity standards in all its other parks and so that should be entrenched in its procedures. With that said, it makes me wonder why we are spending days talking about the Rouge park when there are hundreds of thousands of people out of work, we are trying to react to a Trump presidency, and we have significant immigration issues. It just speaks to the weak legislative agenda of the current Liberal government. I wonder if my colleague would agree.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate all the work my friend from Sarnia—Lambton does on her file. She is a great leader within caucus and our team.

She is exactly right. A number of businesses around my area are wondering what the future brings. We are looking at possibly a very mixed business atmosphere, especially if the Trump administration holds true with its decision to lower the corporate tax rates to 15%, which matches ours but the difference is where the state or provincial tax rates are substantially skewed. That would cause severe distortion, as well as the fact that we will now have a national carbon tax where the United States does not and CPP tax, where it creates a very un-level playing field. If businesses are looking to set up in Ontario, they are also facing some of the highest energy prices in North America.

Therefore, it is a severe disadvantage when we are talking about luring businesses and well-paying jobs to this area if we are not actually continuing to put ourselves on a level playing field in allowing businesses to start up and thrive.

Having the benefit of the Trent-Severn Waterway and Parks Canada does help my area with tourism.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The member will have three and a half minutes remaining for questions and comments when the bill is next before the House.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

moved that Bill C-308, An Act to provide for the incorporation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to introduce my bill, the concept of which has been talked about for a long time by various members, predominantly on this side of the House. I want to make special note of the late former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, who I approached on this subject a few times in the past. He spoke to me about how it was one of his wishes to privatize the CBC. Jim and I discussed it.

Prime Minister Harper had certain feelings on this, even though he never acted on it. Many Conservatives have talked about this for a long time and it is one of my motivations for getting the debate going on this. This is a large institution in our country's history, an expensive institution, so it is important we discuss this and begin to decide what the future holds. That is the background.

I rise to speak in favour of Bill C-308, an act to privatize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Perhaps the best place to start my remarks today is to emphasize what this legislation does not propose. This bill does not propose to do away with the CBC. It does not propose to dismantle it, reform it, replace it, or tinker with it in other ways.

What the bill actually proposes to do is very simple. It proposes to privatize the CBC, thereby relieving taxpayers of the burden of subsidizing it, freeing it from the amateur influence of meddling politicians and government bureaucrats, and giving average Canadians the opportunity to freely choose whether to participate in its ownership by purchasing shares and exercising the rights and privileges that come with ownership. However, the bill does more than that. It lays out a responsible plan, a road map, so to speak, on how this can be done.

The CBC was first established in the early 1930s, by a Conservative government under R.B. Bennett, as a way of bringing Canadians together when broadcasting was still in its infancy. At the time, the sheer size of Canada, the relative sparseness of its population, and the remoteness of many of its communities made direct participation of the government in the project a necessity. Those days have long since passed.

For decades, privately owned and operated radio and television broadcasters have been providing precisely the same services that the CBC was created to provide. Today there are three networks, with very professional broadcast news services, plus a host of excellent regional English and French news operations. On top of the news provided by each of these networks, there are three full-time cable news channels. These entities have demonstrated that state ownership and taxpayer support of a national broadcaster is largely unnecessary. With the emergence and growing availability of the Internet and satellite communications, that need has been reduced to absolutely zero.

Let me be clear. The bill is not a reflection of the quality of the CBC's products. Everyone in the House will have an opinion about that. Some will be very supportive, while others very critical. None of this matters, though, because the focus of Bill C-308 is neither the character of the CBC nor the quality of its products and services. The focus of the bill is the CBC's status as a state-owned entity and its consequent cost to taxpayers. Let us take a few minutes to discuss those costs.

Each year, taxpayers provide the CBC with more than $1 billion in subsidies. That is in addition to the approximately $600 million a year in revenue it receives from subscribers through cable companies and advertisers, including, among other advertisers, the Government of Canada and other governments.

Last November, the CBC delivered a position paper to the government, proposing that its television operations become ad free and that $500 million be added to its current annual appropriation to make up for the anticipated shortfall in revenue. That would make the CBC's annual cost to taxpayers more than $1.5 billion. Imagine what $1.5 billion dollars a year could do. Instead, we are using that money to ensure that the CBC continues to provide allegedly vital services to Canadians.

However, here is my challenge to those who make that claim. Name one service, vital or otherwise, that the CBC provides that is not provided by other broadcasters or through other media, such as the internet or satellite. The answer is, none.

Even the Minister of Canadian Heritage's own briefing book admits that the CBC/Radio-Canada's indigenous language broadcasts, which are in eight aboriginal languages, would be better produced and managed by first nation peoples themselves. Page 133 of the minister's brief book admits that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission prefers that aboriginal language initiatives, that is, the production and broadcast of radio content in indigenous languages, “are best managed by Aboriginal people and communities”.

Some people may say, but what about developing Canadian talent? The truth is that contrary to popular belief, the CBC does very little, virtually nothing, to develop Canadian talent. Consider, for example, the popular series Murdoch Mysteries. It is wonderful entertainment, I am told, though to be truthful, and perhaps I should apologize for this, I have never seen the program.

The CBC has made a great deal in the past of how it made this the highest-rated Canadian-produced show in the country. This may be, but conveniently forgotten in that narrative is that Murdoch Mysteries was developed and produced by Shaftesbury films, a private production house. It was not picked up by the CBC until 2013, its sixth season. The show was aired on City TV during its first five full seasons. Prior to it becoming a television series, Murdoch Mysteries was a made-for-TV movie under the name Murder C19, broadcast by the American television network Bravo.

This is worth repeating, not because it is the exception, but rather because it is becoming quite typical of Canadian production these days. Murdoch Mysteries was originally developed by a private Canadian production company for an American television network, and when it became a television series, it was broadcast by a private Canadian network for five seasons before the CBC became involved.

The success of this and so many other Canadian productions is due to the quality of the product, the talent of the Canadian producers and actors, not to unique support of the CBC. Yes, many of these productions have received help through special tax credits and artistic grants, but none of that assistance is tied to the CBC. Privatizing the CBC, or even eliminating it, would in no way impact the availability of that assistance.

So, why privatize the CBC? Why not dismantle it altogether, as some of my colleagues on this side of the House have suggested? I do not think that is a fair solution. Whatever one thinks of the character or quality of the services that the CBC provides, the fact is that it does provide those services to a real audience. Simply shutting down the corporation would deprive many Canadians of a product they have come to know and, in some cases, love. I see no reason to do this. Moreover, the CBC employs, directly and indirectly, thousands of workers. I do not believe that these workers should be arbitrarily kicked to the curb.

Privatization will preserve most, if not all, of these jobs, and ensure that the products and services that the CBC currently provides remain available to consumers who want them, so long as those products and services can be delivered in a cost-effective manner consistent with free market principles. Who will determine the cost effectiveness? Who will be the final arbitrators? They will not be faceless bureaucrats, but average consumers.

I have often heard complaints raised in this House, and elsewhere, about the high cost to taxpayers and the manifest unfairness of corporate welfare schemes. A case in point this recent week was an announcement by the government that it plans on providing Bombardier with a cash infusion loan of a little over $370 million. This news provoked a great deal of criticism among hon. members, particularly on this side of the House.

It seems to me that the case of the CBC is the most blatant example of corporate welfare the government engages in. How can members oppose a one-time subsidy of $370 million, which I am not defending, yet turn a blind eye to an ongoing corporate subsidy of more than $1 billion annually? This makes little sense to me.

It also makes little sense to taxpayers who support the idea of privatizing the CBC. Their support is strong and non-partisan. A January 2014 poll by Abacus Data found that 45% of those surveyed supported or strongly supported selling the CBC, compared to 34% who were opposed to the move, while 21% were undecided. The same poll found that 45% of self-identified Liberals supported privatization versus 39% who were opposed. Self-identified New Democrats were split, with 44% supporting privatization and 45% opposed. For Conservative supporters, it is worth noting that 63% of self-identified Conservatives in the same poll supported privatizing the CBC.

This sentiment was hardly unique. A poll conducted at the time of the last budget revealed that most Canadians, by a wide margin, either outright opposed restoring funding cuts the previous government had made to the CBC or at best were ambivalent. That poll said that only 27% of respondents supported increasing funding.

Another reason privatization makes such good sense is that it would give taxpayers the opportunity to derive some financial benefit. Taxpayers would gain at least a modest return through the sale of assets, and those who chose to would be able to invest in the corporation, either directly or perhaps indirectly through mutual funds, as would other institutional investors, such as pension funds, the largest of which, ironically, belongs to public servants.

This would not be the first time Canadians moved large corporations out of the hands of government and into the private sector. During the 1980s, the government privatized both Petro-Canada and Air Canada. At the time, opponents of these privatizations said there would be great calamities. None of these dire predictions came to pass. Today these companies employ thousands of Canadians while delivering vital products and services, all while making money for millions of average Canadians. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that many elderly Canadians today who vehemently protested the decision at the time are now benefiting from the benefits of privatization in the 1980s through their pensions.

Mr. Speaker, the CBC is not a national institution, as it is so often described, but a television and radio broadcast company, no more and no less. At one time, it provided Canadians with a new and vital service that might not have been available without the direct assistance of the government. Those days are long since gone. The CBC is like adult children who live in the basement of their parents' home, trying to discover themselves at their parents' expense. Mom and Dad love them, but that does not change the fact that it is time for them to move out and make their own way in the world.

I have pointed out many reasons why I support this bill I have presented. I would ask all members of this House to give it thorough and thoughtful commentary and support it. It is time for a change. It is time we had a CBC that was private and in the hands of Canadians, not in the hands of the government.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I represent Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Compass, the local CBC news show, is on at six o'clock every evening, and 80% of the televisions that are turned on in Prince Edward Island at six o'clock are tuned in to that program. The CBC is extremely important to places like Charlottetown. The CBC is extremely important to communities that are in a minority situation with respect to official languages. The CBC is extremely important to northern, remote, and indigenous communities. Why does it have to be all about the dollar and not the character of our country?

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree it is about the character of the country, but the question is who actually should provide the voice, the people of Canada or the Government of Canada? Remember, any local news station that gets an 80% market share is not going to vanish, it is going to continue to grow. As I noted in my speech, aboriginal and northern Canadians, even by the government's own briefing books, would be better served by a different system than we have now.

This is about the character. The dollars and cents belong to Canadians. They need the right to decide what to do, but CBC is not a voice for all Canadians. It is a voice for some Canadians and therefore, all Canadians should not pay for it. Other Canadians choose other means and other methods to speak to the country. We do not need the CBC to do it.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's speech, especially the part about the fact that Murdoch Mysteries would still exist even without the CBC, which is reassuring.

CBC/Radio-Canada plays a unique and specific role in the areas of education, information, and the promotion of Canadian culture. This crown corporation has been underfunded for years, especially compared to how the Germans and British fund their independent public broadcasters, for example. Indeed, contrary to what my colleague is saying, it is not the government or bureaucrats who decide what happens at CBC/Radio-Canada. It is a model for others to follow.

However, the Conservatives slashed its budget, and now they are complaining that it has become too commercial, so we might as well fully commercialize it.

Is my colleague aware of the special role that CBC/Radio-Canada plays for francophones across the country?

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Madam Speaker, I respect my colleague and I understand her perspective. I listen to these things and I begin to wonder if people have not realized that the world has changed. People no longer put up the rabbit ears on the TV and get two stations, they get thousands. They get stations from Europe, there is programming all over the world. There are community radio stations, community broadcasts that are easy to produce. People produce them in their basements. We get unique and different voices.

Technology has changed how the world is. Whatever arguments are being made for CBC applied better in the thirties, forties, and fifties. They do not apply in the million-channel universe where we can get programming from everywhere and where individuals are empowered to do their own broadcasting.

I appreciate the hon. member's comments, but this is about looking to the future. A lot of the arguments I am hearing against this are about looking to the past. Our culture is always changing. Our institutions need to change with it.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-308, which provides for the privatization of CBC/Radio-Canada and the amendment of several acts. In studying the bill, it quickly becomes clear that it involves numerous risks for the Canadian broadcasting system, Canadian media corporations, and Canadians in general.

I would first like to point out that the bill seeks to privatize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation by allowing for its public offering. However, there has been no assessment of the market value of the corporation or of any interest in the market for the share offering. There is no guarantee that selling it would even generate any profit. The corporation as we know it could become unrecognizable.

Let me remind my colleagues that the corporation was created in 1936 to counter the American influence on our radio waves. Today, its mandate is inscribed in the 1991 Broadcasting Act. This act states that CBC/Radio-Canada must offer radio and television services including a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens, and entertains; that is predominantly and distinctively Canadian; that reflects Canada as a whole and serves the needs of the regions and official language minority communities; and that it must be made available throughout the country.

In short, CBC/Radio-Canada represents Canadians and unites them. Bill C-308 would repeal the corporation's mandate as established in the act. Since no other private corporation has to meet the same objectives, the privatization of CBC/Radio-Canada would deprive Canadians of a unique service within the Canadian broadcasting system.

Furthermore, the other laws that govern the corporation, such as the Access to Information Act and the Financial Administration Act, ensure that CBC/Radio-Canada remains accountable. In addition, all of those laws also stipulate that the corporation must remain at arm's length from the government when it comes to its own day-to-day management. The legislation also guarantees its journalistic, creative, and programming independence.

The bill would repeal and modify all of those provisions, to the effect that, as a private corporation, CBC/Radio-Canada would be accountable only to its shareholders. Canadians would no longer be able to get information about its operations or take part in any meaningful way.

The possible economic impacts of privatizing CBC/Radio-Canada are also cause for concern. The corporation currently offers numerous radio and television services in English and French, including national networks and local stations, which includes our vital CBC bureau in Charlottetown.

CBC/Radio-Canada also offers many digital services and is considered a pillar of Canadian content broadcasting in the digital environment. In order to offer those services, the corporation uses a hybrid funding model that combines public funds and self-generated revenues, including advertising revenue.

We do not know how much revenue CBC/Radio-Canada would bring in if it were privatized and was no longer accountable to Parliament. However, we do know that cultural industries are currently transitioning to the digital environment. Some platforms, including traditional television, must overcome major obstacles such as a decrease in advertising revenue.

A privatized CBC/Radio-Canada would generate most of its revenue from advertising. This means its total revenue could be heavily reduced. It is quite probable that it would choose to reduce its offering to ensure profitability. It is also possible that it would first choose to cut its regional services, which serve official language minority communities and indigenous communities, among others. This would be a loss not only for those communities but also for the diversity of voices in the Canadian broadcasting system. We could also see a reduction in the quality and quantity of programming offered to Canadians. For example, let us take the local news. It is of vital importance for Canadian citizens.

The current government believes in a strong Canadian broadcasting system. Its approach involves supporting creative industries, investing in CBC/Radio-Canada , and renewing ties with the corporation. The government is investing $675 million in CBC/Radio-Canada over five years. The corporation has indicated that it will use that money to create new, more distinctly Canadian content, continue its transition to the digital environment, and increase its resources in the region in order to be more local.

This money will be used to recruit the next generation of Canadian talent. It will allow the corporation to continue to support indigenous programming and the services it offers to official language minority communities. Finally, CBC/Radio-Canada has committed to being accountable to Canadians on the use of this new funding. In my opinion, those commitments offer real benefits to Canadians. In contrast, the bill does not contain any meaningful measures as specific as those.

To sum up, the government believes in the importance of our national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada, for expressing Canadian culture and providing Canadian content. The bill would eliminate everything that defines the national public broadcaster and ensures its proper functioning. Privatization would fundamentally transform CBC/Radio-Canada, without guaranteeing that the result would be beneficial for the Canadian broadcasting system, Canadian media corporations, and Canadians. For all of these reasons, the government is opposed to this bill.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives are once again proposing an attack on CBC/Radio-Canada. Today, the member for Saskatoon—University is trying to resuscitate old, outdated debates that are as tired as they are tiresome. I cannot believe that we have to waste precious time in the House discussing how to undermine our public broadcaster for the umpteenth time when there are so many other urgent matters that require our attention, especially since we already know that the vast majority of Quebeckers and Canadians support the CBC. It seems to me that this matter should have been put to rest since the last election. Those watching at home must be thinking that this nonsense was supposed to be over and done with, because they already voted to put an end to it.

There comes a time when people grow tired of hearing the Conservatives' greatest hits. However, the Conservatives insist on taking us for a stroll yet again, and it seems we are not out of the woods yet. We have before us a very detailed, technical bill put together by the Conservatives. If it were to be deemed in order and passed, it would incorporate CBC/Radio-Canada and require the government to ensure that all shares were sold like those of any other publicly traded company.

In other words, what is currently a public broadcaster, as well as an important cultural symbol for countless people and especially for French-speaking people in this country, would become a private enterprise, a private broadcaster like any other that would no longer belong to Canadians. It would cease to be a public asset. This private broadcaster would no longer have to fulfil all the obligations imposed by Canadians as owners and shareholders of the CBC. At present, all Canadians have a stake in the CBC/Radio-Canada.

Make no mistake about it, this bill would take away a basic tool for expressing our culture and setting rigorous broadcasting standards, especially with respect to the news, which impact the entire broadcasting system. A public broadcaster is a tool and its role is to better inform us, and to tell us more about who we are.

Honestly, I cannot believe that we are still talking about this. Just two years ago we had an election where the vast majority of Canadians voted to support the CBC, or at least voted for parties that defended the CBC's role and also promised to increase its funding.

When I say that we are wasting time on this fringe proposal, I mean that there is no time to waste on this type of issue.

I have often said that my two main goals in politics, and here in Ottawa, are climate urgency and defending our distinct culture. I am my party's critic for culture. I spent 25 years in the music industry in Quebec, including at Audiogram, Sony Music, Cirque du soleil, and at various television stations. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which I am honoured to co-chair, and I can attest to the fact that we have our work cut out for us. We just spent the past few months speaking with many representatives of a sector that has been completely turned upside down, a sector that is tyring to figure out how to come up with new revenue streams, considering all the new platforms.

As everyone knows, our cultural industries are facing a real disaster.

We are very proud of what Quebec has built. We are proud of Bill 101, which strengthens our language rather than letting it fade away. We are very proud of what has been built here in Ottawa: the CBC, the NFB, Telefilm Canada, Canadian content rules, this entire television and cultural ecosystem, the creative works of a generation of builders who were trying to do more than just make it to the end of the week.

We are proud of this framework, this whole sophisticated infrastructure, this work, and these investments that are paying off today all around the world, whether we are talking about Denis Villeneuve, Degrassi, The Weeknd, or Robert Lepage.

Today, all of that is in jeopardy. Unbeknownst to us, the cultural and linguistic treasures that our parents and grandparents fought to defend have all but vanished.

What do our children watch? At the time, it was Passe-Partout, Cornemuse. Today, fewer and fewer programs are produced here at home with voices that will perpetuate our accents and our world view. Netflix Kids is the flavour of the day.

With this upheaval that is at our doorstep and on our screens, we are starting at square one, and we know that everything we do and decide in the coming year, in the coming months, will have to be as good as what was done by the greats, such as Pierre Juneau.

That is why I feel compelled to say that we have no time to lose. We are out of time. We have no time to waste dealing with ideologically-motivated legislation like the one that was dropped on our lap today. We have no time for it because, even though the Conservatives may not realize it, we have serious work to do to defend our culture and defend what they seem to take for granted or worse, what they seem simply to know nothing about.

However, if we must spend time on this, then let us do it. I note that the hon. member for Saskatoon—University made a preposterous statement when he introduced this bill in September. He told the House that privatizing CBC would make the corporation a true public broadcaster instead of a state broadcaster, which will allow Canadians to participate in it and be owners of it.

Mr. Speaker, I will spare you my comments on that.

The bill would result in a fire sale of CBC/Radio-Canada. It would be controlled by a limited number of investors. The bill would dissolve the board of directors and remove all references to CBC/Radio-Canada in the Broadcasting Act and other acts that ensure transparency and accountability.

Today, CBC/Radio-Canada is 100% owned by Canadians. It is an independent broadcaster that operates at arm's length from the state. Most industrialized countries have similar broadcasters. It is not a state broadcaster. It is kind of absurd to suggest that privatizing our public broadcaster would make it more participatory or more democratic. On the contrary, it would become a private broadcaster like any other.

I have to say that I do not really understand why this bill was introduced now that we have left behind a decade of rule by the most right-wing government in our history. We were governed by the right-wing Conservative Party, which spent years getting all worked up about CBC/Radio-Canada and taking aim at it at every opportunity. It was actually kind of undignified.

For years, the Conservatives have been threatening CBC/Radio-Canada and making cuts to the public broadcaster. However, they still took the opportunity to shamelessly appoint to the corporation's board of directors their best friends; their best contributors; Conservative Party lawyers, accountants, and campaign managers; and former Conservative Party MPs.

We understand what is happening here. The member for Saskatoon—University is introducing this bill today because he is now a candidate in the Conservative Party leadership race, the embarrassing spectacle that we have been witnessing over the past few months. It is a race to the bottom where each candidate tries to outdo the other with increasingly right-wing proposals and they all try to stand out by making the most ludicrous suggestions.

The reality is that, despite their relentless efforts and all the breath they wasted in the leadership debates, the Conservatives would never be able to afford to privatize CBC/Radio-Canada because, in one fell swoop, they would lose one of their best sources of funding. In fact, every time they attacked CBC/Radio-Canada by cutting its budget, the next day they would bombard their supporters with outraged emails begging them for another $5.

I have here an email dated November 23, 2016, from the leadership campaign of the member for Saskatoon—University. He signed this letter and sent it to his supporters shortly after introducing the bill that we are discussing today. It reads:

Leaders act while followers talk. That's why I introduced legislation this year to sell the CBC. Bill C-308 is more than just a tool to raise funds for my campaign -- it's an actual plan.

He sent that letter to his political supporters. Just to be sure members understand, I repeat:

“This bill is more than just a tool to raise funds for my campaign”.

What gall. Some people have no shame.

What we should understand is that here, in Parliament, we have better things to do than talk about ideas that are being floated in order to finance a leadership campaign. Is that not what is happening right now? It is inexcusable to waste Parliament's time like this.

I feel like telling my colleague from Saskatoon—University that instead of going to Quebec once every four years to participate in a leadership debate, he should visit us more often to understand our culture and our cultural industries. That is what differentiates us and makes us proud. It is also what has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in our music, recording, film, and dubbing industries, not to mention in theatre and the video game industry.

My colleague should visit francophone communities across Canada and Acadian communities, which trust Radio-Canada to open a window onto the future of their community, to provide cultural ideas for new generations, and to create new enticing projects, both big and small. We could say the same about Quebec anglophones in the Eastern Townships and communities all across the country, including cities.

There was a reason why there were tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets of Montreal in November 2014 in support of CBC/Radio-Canada at the height of the Conservative cuts. We know how much people care about CBC/Radio-Canada. They are proud of it.

As we leave our safe harbour for deeper and unknown waters, I believe it is this pride and sense of belonging that will, more than ever, make CBC/Radio-Canada the flagship of Canadian culture.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure this afternoon in the House to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-308.

As an almost 40-year veteran of CTV, it may seem a little peculiar, I am sure, that I would rise today to plead the merits of keeping the CBC as a crown corporation, but I am here to do it.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as we know, has functioned as Canada's public broadcaster for over eight decades. Private broadcasters, and I have worked for them all my broadcasting career, need competition. CBC gives a different perspective and certainly gives private broadcasters that much needed competition. When we have competition, I believe we have innovation. I believe we have diversity. That has elevated, I feel, the quality of journalism in this country and added to our freedom of speech.

As we have heard this week in the heritage committee from the Competition Bureau, there are concerns about not enough competition in this industry. The big private telcos have dominated the private radio and television sector.

Now, being a traditionalist, I respect the fact that the CBC is the oldest existing broadcasting network in this country, with certainly a unique mandate. The mission statement of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as set out in their annual report from the year 2007, is to present programs “designed to inform, enlighten and entertain.... that reflect Canadians and Canada's regions” in both official languages.

Independent polls conducted by Forum Research back in 2011, and again in 2013, revealed that really, the majority of Canadians, 53% in 2011 and 51% in 2013, support the public funding of CBC. Back then, only 25% believed in its privatization.

Privatization of the CBC, as we all know, could save the federal government well over $1 billion, $1.2 billion and more. However, let us ask this question before we talk about the money: what would we lose? We would most certainly lose local broadcast news in many remote regions of this country, plus in minority language communities. Believe me, the private industry has no appetite, zero, to serve these regions in our country. I know, because I have worked for them.

The CBC, with its distinct programming, excels in the educational component of helping Canadians learn about this country, showcasing Canadian culture, showcasing our art, our literature, our history, and probably most important, our geography.

For example, let us just take last summer. Over 11 million people, on a Saturday night, tuned in to CBC to watch the concert by the Tragically Hip. They performed with lead singer Gord Downie. The almost three-hour performance was carried live on CBC TV and CBC Radio and streamed online on its website. It was an opportunity for many to say goodbye, their final farewell to Gord Downie, who had bravely announced earlier in the year that he had terminal brain cancer. No surprise, Gord gave his first interview after the tour to CBC.

To me, this was a prime example of Canadian culture at its best. Private broadcasters had absolutely zero interest in producing this distinct Canadian historic moment. May I say this? Eleven million tuned in. That is nearly a third of the population in this country.

As technology, consumer preferences, and market conditions have changed, the CBC has had to adapt to maintain its role as a leading creator and distributor of Canadian content in this country. There is no doubt that in today's ever-evolving news market, with Canadians increasingly consuming non-traditional media and utilizing non-traditional news sources and social media sites, the appetite for both news and information in this country, believe it or not, has never been higher. Canadians want to consume a variety of sources of information.

The CBC has also nurtured significant talent in this country in the journalism and the entertainment industries: people like Barbara Frum, Lorne Greene, John Candy, Don Cherry, Pierre Burton, Tommy Hunter, Wayne and Shuster, and I could go on and on. Let us not forget the three women who went on to become Canada's governors general: Jeanne Sauvé, Adrienne Clarkson, and Michaëlle Jean are all CBC alumni. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to the award-winning author, journalist, producer, and professor, Stuart McLean, who just passed away on Wednesday. Who will ever forget his humorous stories from Vinyl Cafe?

It should be also noted that the CBC has been and continues to be a source for Canadian expats just to keep up to date with news from home. Back in 1978, I know that seems like a long time ago, CBC became the first broadcaster in the world to use an orbiting satellite for television service. It linked Canada from east to west and, maybe more important, to the north.

Let me quote Hubert Lacroix, president and CEO of CBC, who, in the corporate plan summary from 2016-17 to 2020-21, stated:

The evolution of our regional services also reflects the changing pattern of audience consumption, with mobile and digital services telling stories in new ways and engaging with our audiences. By leveraging web and digital platforms, and adjusting the length of TV supper-hour news shows, we were able to find resources to provide audiences with news updates at different times throughout the day, segments from local morning radio shows simultaneously broadcast on TV, and more news coverage on regional sites and social media. As important as web and digital platforms have become, TV continues to be the place where the majority of Canadians watch content, especially in the evening. In Strategy 2020, we promised that we would not leave TV and radio behind as we transform ourselves into a modern, more relevant public broadcaster.

Lacroix goes on to say CBC/Radio-Canada currently has local programming from its 21 television stations; 88 radio stations; one digital station; two main television networks, one in English, one in French; five specialty TV channels; and four Canada-wide radio networks, two in each official language.

Advertising is CBC/Radio-Canada's second largest source of revenue. In the fiscal year 2015-16, it generated over $250 million. It was only 16% of total revenue and sources of funds. CBC is witnessing some profound shifts in the advertising market that are negatively affecting the outlook of traditional media companies like CBC/Radio-Canada. CBC, though, is not unlike the private broadcasters, which are all experiencing a downturn in advertising revenues. This is an industry-wide problem. We have heard that for the last year in our Canadian heritage committee.

TV is still the king of media. Time spent with it surpasses time spent with any other media. However, some viewers are now watching TV on the Internet, which is becoming particularly evident in the English market. Over time, the CBC expects, and I think we all do, that the Internet and online TV will continue to grow. According to Lacroix, as well as being Canada's largest cultural institution CBC/Radio-Canada is one of the most influential brands in Canada across all industries. Believe it or not, it is the highest-ranked media. Recent tracking shows 57% of Canadians consider one or more of CBC/Radio-Canada's services to be personally important to them, and 73% of Canadians strongly agree there is a clear need and a role for CBC/Radio-Canada in the future.

The media landscape is changing and we all know that what the future holds for any public or even private broadcaster is uncertain. I will say this. We know Canada is a big country; it needs to be serviced with unique Canadian programming. Canadians have enriching stories, and they need to be told so the future generations have a better understanding of how greatly this country has evolved. All of these important points should be taken into consideration when we are looking at Bill C-308.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I am astonished at the speech by my good friend, the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood. What an amazing defence of our Canadian broadcaster. I thank him.

I want to share some observations and experiences that I have had with the CBC. I heard about the CBC before I even came to Canada. I was probably seven or eight years old. I was living in Dublin, Ireland. There were four channels there. There were two Irish channels, BBC One and BBC Two. CBC had pictures of Expo 67 and the Olympics from Montreal. On occasion, it had pictures of the north and small vignettes of Canada. That was my vision of this country when I came here as a 10-year-old. This service defined to me what Canada was, a vast, beautiful, gorgeous, diverse country, with so many different peoples, languages, and cultures. That was my initial snippet of the country.

When I came here, I think I was 11 or 12. I was an avid reader of the news, and I tuned in to The National virtually every day. I would fight with my mother, who would tell me it was too late and I had to go to bed, but I wanted to see The National, with Knowlton Nash. He would have the world's best journalists from around the world giving us the news. There was Schlesinger. Members know the names. They would give us a good sense of what the world was. I grew up on that. I remember the day when Knowlton Nash appeared on television and said that Canadian broadcasting is so important to him that he was not going to let Peter Mansbridge go. He was going to step aside so we could have another Canadian broadcaster take over as CBC national anchor. Those are the types of value that this broadcaster has given us.

I grew up watching that over the years. There were very few days in my life that I missed the newscast. Last November, I was trying to look at what was happening in the U.S. election and I was turning the channels. I went to the virtually million channels that my friend, the member for Saskatoon—University, was talking about, trying to figure out what was going on. I kept switching, and finally I came back to the CBC, which had exceptional coverage. It also had exceptional coverage on Brexit. When any major event around the world takes place, we end up going back to the CBC.

Every time that I have travelled across the world, and I travel quite a bit, there are very few days where I do not try to get an Internet version of The National to look at what is going on, not just in our country, but around the world. It is something that only CBC can do.

Therefore, I am quite astonished, in fact, shocked that on Canada's 150th birthday, we have a bill here that is effectively trying to destroy the very core of our Canadian identity. It is offensive. I am beyond words to describe why on earth we would have a such a frivolous debate in this House in this year, such an important milestone year for us.

It is shameful that we are even having this debate. Nevertheless, we are having it, and I want to add my voice to those eloquent voices who have spoken in defence of this national institution. I want to take this opportunity to present to my colleagues the reasons that I am opposing Bill C-308, which would privatize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and amend several acts, including the Broadcasting Act.

In September, when he presented the bill, the member for Saskatoon—University described the CBC/Radio-Canada as a state broadcaster. According to him, privatizing the corporation would make it a public broadcaster that truly belonged to Canadians. We disagree. CBC/Radio-Canada is our national public broadcaster, and, as such, it already belongs to Canadians. This crown corporation was created in 1936 in response to the increasing American influence on Canadian radio. It was then and remains today essential to Canadian democracy and our cultural sovereignty.

As the national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada must fulfill its mandate as described in the 1991 Broadcasting Act. This duty is not to be taken lightly. The act stipulates that the corporation should provide radio and television services, incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens, and entertains Canadians.

That programming should be predominantly and distinctively Canadian, be in English and in French, and strive to be of equivalent quality. It should reflect Canada and serve the special needs of its regions. It should represent both official language communities, including official language minority communities. It should also reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada. It should do all of this in an effort to contribute to shared national identity and cultural expression.

In short, programming should be relevant to Canadians, and it should reflect who they are.

In addition, the legislative framework that currently governs the corporation gives it great autonomy from the government as far as its daily activities are concerned. It also guarantees that it is independent in terms of journalism, creativity, and programming. What is more, since CBC/Radio-Canada receives public funding, the legislative framework requires it to be accountable to Parliament, and consequently to all Canadians.

Bill C-308 would repeal the legislative framework that makes CBC/Radio-Canada a unique entity in the Canadian broadcasting space. As a private company, CBC/Radio-Canada would be accountable only to its shareholders. The risk is that it would become unrecognizable to us, and that we would no longer recognize ourselves in it.

To fulfill its mandate, CBC/Radio-Canada currently provides numerous services. CBC/Radio-Canada's television services include two national television networks, 27 conventional television stations, and the five specialty services: ICI RDI, CBC News Network, Documentary Channel, EXPLORA and ARTV. Meanwhile, CBC/Radio-Canada's radio services includes four national radio networks, including 50 English language radio stations via CBC Radio One and CBC Radio 2, more than 30 French language radio stations via ICI Premiere and ICI Musique, and a radio service in northern Canada. I would like to see the private broadcasters be able to emulate this even 10% of the way.

Moreover, CBC/Radio-Canada offers programming in eight indigenous languages through CBC North, broadcasts an advertisement-free online international radio service in five languages, and participates in the TV5MONDE international consortium.

It should also be mentioned that CBC/Radio-Canada provides numerous digital services to keep pace with the evolution of broadcasting in Canada and the content consumption habits of Canadians, and to ensure that its programming is offered everywhere in our country. In addition to,, and, CBC/Radio-Canada operates, a site that allows teachers and students to stream Radio-Canada's and CBC's educational content.

It also produced a documentary in virtual reality to investigate the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. In doing so, CBC/Radio-Canada plays an essential role in presenting Canadian content in the digital universe of today, and I would argue tomorrow.

This bill is very problematic. We as Canadians need to celebrate our identity. There are very few ways we do that. We are not like other countries where we wear our identity on our sleeve. We are a relatively young country at 150 that is trying to grapple with its past, and trying to explain the current realities for many Canadians. However, one of the few outlets we have to do that is the CBC.

I want to ask my colleagues to support the CBC unconditionally. It is not a perfect organization and it does need improvement. However, it is ours, and it is a true reflection of our identity, one that is still being developed, and one in which we can all take pride. For our 150th anniversary, let us reaffirm our support for the CBC and our national institutions.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to stand today to speak about the CBC.

I am not sure if members have ever left a telephone message or sent an email, immediately regretted it, and wanted to take it back. Such a thing happens to Dave in one of the Dave and Morley stories on the Vinyl Cafe, one of the shows that I much appreciate listening to on Sunday afternoon. He goes through a number of things to try to erase his message on his neighbour's answering machine, which involves going to a local auto wrecker, getting a very large magnet, climbing up a ladder, plugging the extension cord into this very large electromagnet, falling down, getting hurt, the whole nine yards, and still the message is not erased. I think eventually he switches the tape and it is the wrong tape. It is a disaster. People who listen to it end up having to pull onto the side of the road if they are driving or, if they are home, lie on the floor laughing. It is hilarious. I love it.

The CBC has been a large part of my life living in northern Alberta, the radio, in particular. I do not have a television, but I listen to the radio a lot. The hockey game was on 630 CHED, so I definitely switched over for that all the time. When it came to the storytelling on CBC, for me, it was one of the great things about the radio.

The other one is a tradition. I believe it happens on Christmas Eve. It is called The Shepherd. It is on at 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. It is a Second World War story that is on every year. The first time I heard it, I was on the way to pick up my now wife, then girlfriend, from the airport. I was late picking her up because I sat in the car to wait for the story to finish before finding her in the airport. I am sure it will be on again this year and I would recommend that everybody tune into CBC radio at 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

For those who have family gatherings, believe me, this will calm the room. People will be able to hear a pin drop as everybody holds on to their seats and, with bated breath, waits for what is going to happen. It is about a fighter pilot arriving home in England. Everyone else has gone home for Christmas dinner and he is all alone in the sky with inclement weather. People will want to hear the rest of the story.

The radio in northern and remote communities such as mine is the link to the rest of the world, there is no doubt about that. Satellite radio is now coming from around the world, which has a similar effect, no doubt, but it comes with a cost. Where I am, it is $8 a month for satellite radio. The regular digital radio is still preferred by folks in my neck of the woods.

That said, I have some criticisms of the CBC and I think there are some reforms that could be made. I think there is a mandate to go forward as a public broadcaster, specifically in radio.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

2:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The member will have six and a half minutes remaining in his speech when this matter is next before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

It being 2:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, February 21, 2017, at 11 a.m. pursuant to order made on Tuesday, February 14, 2017.

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)