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 ici.radio-canada.ca, cbc.ca, and icimusique.ca, CBC/Radio-Canada operates curio.ca, 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.