House of Commons Hansard #163 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cbc.


The House resumed from February 17 consideration of the motion 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.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Peace River—Westlock has six and a half minutes remaining.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Peace River—Westlock.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, due to the fact that my debate was cut into two pieces, I will reiterate a bit of what I was saying before. I was talking about the fact that there are definitely a lot of aspects of the CBC that I do enjoy and use from time to time. I was talking about the Vinyl Cafe and The Shepherd. This Hour Has 22 Minutes is another CBC program that I watch from time to time, and I find it very hilarious most of the time. The content of the CBC is not what my argument is about today.

I think there is a role for a public broadcaster, which is for there to be a method by which, in the case of emergency, the Government of Canada can communicate with all Canadians in a hurry. In that respect, I think there is a role for a public broadcaster in this country. I do not think there is necessarily a role for a public broadcaster to produce content. Content production could be done from a number of other sources. I know that, especially now with the modern Internet, there is lots of content being produced all over the world and all over Canada from various areas. If we had an ability to put that content on the platform, that would be great.

The platform may have to be subsidized, particularly CBC Radio, to keep the infrastructure there. I know that CBC Radio is one constant as one drives across the country and in northern Canada. Given that we have satellite radio and things like that, maybe it is not as necessary as it once was, but I think an argument could be made for that.

I also took in a speech by a Mr. Dwayne Winseck from the Carleton school of journalism, who pointed out that in countries that spend more on public broadcasting, the citizens tend to spend more on media. He said that we should therefore spend more on public broadcasting or public media so that there is a bigger market share for those who are not in the public sphere, because then people spend more. To me, however, he is making the correlation is causation argument, and there is not necessarily that case to be made. I would say the opposite is probably more true.

The very fact that the government is producing media means that it costs more to get an alternative perspective, or it costs more for other groups to even meet the threshold to be noticed or to be heard. I would argue that we should not be funding content or media because it causes the consumer, the everyday Canadian, to have to spend more money to get an alternative perspective.

He showed that Switzerland spends $150 per person on public media via the government, and then the people of Switzerland tend to spend about $100 of their own money to get media as well, so there is a media space of $250. He said that this is a great thing because there is more money for journalists like him to be producing, since money is being spent in both streams.

I would argue that because the government is funding one particular media stream, in order for any other media streams to compete with that, they have to break that threshold of $150 per person. We want to have broad discussions in this country, and we are now creating a threshold which has to be crossed. In Canada, by the way, we spend only $33 per Canadian on the public broadcaster. It may be up to $35 now; my numbers are a little old. There is a $35 threshold that we have to break, and that needs to be looked at.

As we go through this discussion today, I do not think this particular bill is going to pass, but I will be supporting it because I think that we have to look at the whole marketplace of media in this country and consider how the CBC is affecting it, not necessarily the content of the CBC, but how subsidizing one particular group has an effect. It basically places a $33 threshold per person on media that every other media group then has to break through in order to be heard.

The United States subsidizes its public media by $3, so there is a three-dollar threshold that has to be broken. That makes it make much easier for alternative media organizations to get off the ground.

With that, I conclude my comments.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, what a privilege it is to be able to rise on this very important, significant day. As members can see, I am wearing something a bit different, a turban. Today is turban day on the Hill. If I may, I would provide a very brief comment and then show how it is actually relevant to what we are talking about today.

The Prime Minister, and many others, would ultimately argue that Canada's greatest strength is our diversity. We should be very proud of the diversity Canada has. I really do believe that the CBC, whether it is radio or television, is one of the ways in which we can talk about that diversity.

I started by talking about today being turban day. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to get a great appreciation of Sikhism and, in particular, members from the Punjabi community and our Indo-Canadian community as a whole. We get a better appreciation once we attend the many different events, whether it is at the gurdwaras or at special occasions. That allows us to have a better appreciation of Canada's heritage and that very rich diversity we have. Over the years, I have seen first-hand the CBC, for example, getting engaged in issues surrounding the ethnic and religious makeup of our country, promoting tolerance and diversity, and raising issues surrounding that.

I must thank Baltej Singh Gill, who is in the parliamentary precinct today providing the opportunity for members of Parliament to put on a turban. The turban is very important to Sikhism. It is part of the five Ks, which were established hundreds of years ago. It helps identify and gives strength to Sikhism as a faith.

I can appreciate that the debate today is about the CBC. I want to provide my comments in regard to why I do not support what the Conservative Party has put forward. We can see a significant difference between political parties on this issue. There is a certain element within the Conservative Party that genuinely believes that the CBC should virtually not exist, or at least not exist in terms of receiving public finances.

I disagree with that. I believe the majority of individuals inside this House recognize the true value of the CBC, not only in the past and in the present, but also into the future. I have had the opportunity, over the years, to provide comments and to get engaged with the CBC, both radio and television. I believe I have a fairly good understanding and appreciation of the role that our public broadcaster, both in radio and TV, plays in society. I would not want to see us minimize that. In fact, I would suggest that we should be looking at ways in which we can continue to see the CBC playing a strong role going into the future. For example, I look at what has taken place with the Internet over the last decade-plus, and I see that there is a very robust attitude from all forms of media that look at the Internet as a way in which they can communicate with Canadians in Canada and beyond.

When I think of the CBC, I do think of the preservation and promotion of issues such as our heritage. When I was in the military, I would often hear of individuals from around the globe who listened to CBC Radio, for example, and saw CBC Radio as one of the ways to keep in touch with what was taking place here in Canada. I suspect that if members had the opportunity to talk to the many Canadians who, for a wide variety of reasons, are not living in Canada today, they would see that these individuals in fact go to the CBC in order to keep in touch with what is happening here in Canada. I think that this is a very important contribution in itself.

We have seen numerous documentaries. We will find that public broadcasting documentaries continue to grow and they have a great future. Canada is not alone. There are other countries. In fact, the U.K. has the BBC, and the BBC is fairly well known around the world. The CBC has a very strong, positive recognition. It has demonstrated leadership on the issue of public relations and broadcasting, and it has played that leading role for decades.

Millions of Canadians tune in to CBC Radio and TV, because they understand the benefits, not only of news broadcasting but other programming. The member across the way made reference to other programs that the CBC has had over the years. Not necessarily to highlight any specific programs, but there have been very successful programs that the CBC has made, a part of who we are in identifying parts of Canada's history. Different regions of our country have played an important role in CBC's development. For one, Manitoba is a better and healthier province because of the local attention that is given through the CBC.

Most important, when Stephen Harper was prime minister, he was sending a message to Canadians, if not directly then indirectly, by the cutbacks that he was putting in place and the unwillingness to have members of the Conservative government stand in their place and recognize the valuable role that the CBC has played in our society here in Canada. That is why I was very pleased when this government, in addressing its budget, committed to more than $500 million over the next five years in terms of investment into CBC broadcasts, both in radio and in television.

I believe that we have a government today that recognizes the valuable role the CBC plays, and we want to be able to support that. I have had the opportunity in the past to have discussions with Conservative members regarding the CBC, and I do not know whether it is unanimous on the other side of the chamber within the Conservative Party; I suspect we might find a couple of individuals who would recognize it.

I have heard commentaries from other broadcast associations, from individuals who are involved in media outlets that many would suggest are in competition with the CBC, compliment and provide assurances that the CBC is in fact a very important aspect of the broadcast industry as a whole. I would not want to diminish in any way CBC's role in the broadcast industry, and it concerns me that more and more Conservatives are feeling bolder on the issue of the demise of this public broadcasting station, predicting or wanting to see its demise.

Most Canadians recognize the intrinsic value of the CBC. Most Canadians would acknowledge that, whether in radio or TV broadcast, or, more and more, in its stronger presence on the Internet, the CBC has a very important role to play and there is an obligation to support the CBC. We do that with budgetary measures. With that, I believe the government is back on the right track in dealing with our public broadcaster.

I look forward to having for many years into the future a broadcaster that takes into consideration and supports the industry as a whole, showing just how important our culture and heritage are and ensuring that we have good-quality programming. It complements the broadcasting industry as a whole by having a strong and healthy public broadcasting system.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I am disappointed that we are speaking about privatization of the CBC today, I am very happy to take this opportunity to strongly oppose this bill and support the continued existence of a stronger publicly owned and publicly funded CBC.

I have a strong history with the CBC. I have done regular spots on CBC Radio for many years and have come to know many of the fine people who work there, so I feel a strong connection with the CBC, particularly with CBC Radio. My comments today will mainly concern CBC Radio and the critical role it plays in both providing a trusted source of news and commentary for Canadians and being a common cultural thread across our country.

I represent the riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay. It is a relatively large riding, about 500 kilometres across. It comprises a series of isolated valleys and intervening mountain ranges. When I drive across my riding, it is CBC that keeps me informed and entertained over five hours and five mountain passes. Because of the terrain, I have to regularly change stations to keep in touch. My car radio is set up so that it starts with Penticton, and switches frequencies at Oliver, Osoyoos, again at Rock Creek, Grand Forks, again at Christina Lake, and finally at Castlegar, Trail, and then fades up the Slocan Valley until I have to switch to 900 AM in Nakusp and Arrow Lakes. Just as these stations on my car radio link my trips across South Okanagan—West Kootenay, the CBC links Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Like many Canadians, I have friends in all parts of the country, and they all listen to CBC Radio. My friends on the Cape Shore of Newfoundland listen to CBC Placentia at 94.1. My friends in northern Baffin Island listen to Pond Inlet 105.1, which coincidentally is the same frequency that my Yukon colleagues at the Arctic Institute on Kluane Lake tune into using the Destruction Bay repeater. My friend Peter Hamel in Masset on Haida Gwaii, or greater Masset, as he likes to call it, listens to CBC at 103.9. My Bird Studies Canada colleagues in Long Point on Lake Erie tune in to Tillsonburg 88.7, although the signal is a bit sketchy out there on the lake and it is easier to listen to stations from Erie, Pennsylvania.

These are not money-making stations or repeater services. They would not survive privatization and we would lose that unifying voice that the CBC provides, but they give my friends and me a common thread to this country.

We used to talk of Peter Gzowski's interviews and, in recent years, the wonderful stories of Stuart McLean. I was deeply moved by the heartfelt tributes in this place when Stuart passed away earlier this year. All of us here and all Canadians lost an important friend who knew what it was to be Canadian, who worked throughout his career to bring us together through his stories and the stories of listeners that he would read on air.

During the election campaign in 2015, the CBC came up in every all-candidates forum I attended. People were concerned about cuts to the CBC budget. When I replied to those concerns that the NDP would restore the CBC's budget, I was greeted with loud applause. It was clearly something the audience fully supported. The Liberal candidate would stand and repeat that pledge, as the Liberals did with everything the NDP said in that campaign, and get the same strong response from the audience.

Canadians overwhelmingly and unequivocally support the CBC. I would like to repeat here some of the poll results in recent years regarding the CBC.

In 2014, a Nanos Research poll found that 72% of Canadians had high trust and confidence in the CBC. Eighty-seven per cent of Canadians said they were in favour of increasing or maintaining funding. Only 10% said they wanted to see the broadcaster's funding cut.

A 2013 Nanos Research poll found that 80% of Canadians believe the CBC plays an important role in strengthening Canadian culture and identity. This poll also found that 80% of Canadians supported increasing CBC funding or maintaining it at its current levels. Only 16% said they would decrease it. Moreover, 57% of Conservative Party supporters said they would increase or maintain CBC funding, while only 37% would decrease it.

A 2009 Pollara survey, according to the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said that 78% of Canadians tune into some form of CBC programming. Seventy-six per cent rate the CBC's performance in fulfilling its mandate as good to excellent. Eighty-three per cent believe the CBC is important in protecting Canadian identity and culture. Seventy-four per cent would like to see the CBC strengthened. Sixty-three per cent believe that the CBC provides value for taxpayers' money. Eighty per cent believe the CBC is best suited to provide Canadian programming on television. Seventy-four per cent believe that annual funding to the CBC should be increased. Fifty-four per cent support the Commons' heritage committee recommendation that CBC funding should increase to $40 per Canadian, and 20% believe that $40 per Canadian is too low. Finally, 70% of Canadians believe the CBC should be most responsible for ensuring that Canadian programming continues to be an integral part of the Canadian economy and culture, and only 18% favoured private broadcasters.

Last, when asked, “Assume for a moment that your federal MP asked for your advice on an upcoming vote in the House of Commons on what to do about CBC funding”, as we are doing now, 9% of Canadians said they would advise their MP to decrease funding, only 9%. Thirty per cent said they would advise to maintain funding at current levels, and 47% said they would advise their MP to increase CBC funding.

The member for Saskatoon—University actually said, perhaps in jest, that privatizing the CBC would ensure that Canadians can actually participate and own it. Canadians already own the CBC and they participate in it every day by the millions.

The CBC is one of the iconic institutions and policies that define Canada, just like universal health care. It celebrates our common culture and gives full voice to our diversity.

I think that the member for Saskatoon—University has introduced this bill to play to a very narrow base of support in his Conservative leadership campaign, and I do not think that this chamber is the right forum for this kind of messaging. Our time would likely be better spent discussing more relevant issues that are of concern to a broad spectrum of Canadians. However, I am very happy that this debate gave me the opportunity to speak strongly and unequivocally in favour of a publicly owned CBC. Our country would be infinitely poorer without it.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today as the official opposition critic for Canadian heritage and national historic sites. In that capacity, I of course have responsibility for such files as the Canadian public broadcaster, the CBC. Therefore, let me state clearly from the outset what the Conservative Party's position is, as endorsed by our delegates at party conventions: “The “CBC-SRC is an important part of the broadcasting system in Canada. It must be a true public service broadcaster, relevant to Canadians. We will focus the CBC-SRC services on its mandates as public broadcasting services.” That is our party policy. That is our official position as a party.

There are times when the CBC strays very far from those objectives. We are very fortunate, however, that the CBC is capable of being there. We need only look at this past weekend to see the CBC playing that role properly with the good coverage we saw around the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge. It was very positive, and the proper role, I think, of a public broadcaster. I think of the drama we are seeing this year, Anne, which is another re-creation introducing what is a Canadian classic, and indeed one that has stood the test of time very well, to a whole new generation of young Canadians, and older Canadians, too, I have to confess. Again, I think it is fine, excellent work, and something we can all be proud of, which is the sort of thing we would like to see from a public broadcaster. I am particularly encouraged to see Canada: The Story of Us, which is a focus on history.

Those are the kinds of things a public broadcaster should be doing, telling Canadians their stories about Canadian history, our literature, and the important historical events that have made us what we are today. Sadly, it is all too rare.

One hears criticism, for example, in the newspapers these days of this project, Canada: The Story of Us, from a bunch of different perspectives. However, if I can put it in a nutshell, what all of those critics are saying is one thing, “I don't hear my story there” or “I don't see my story there”. Does that mean there is something wrong with the programming being shown? I do not think so. I think it is very high quality, and I commend the CBC for doing it. Do I agree with every view expressed? Of course not. History would not be history if we all agreed on it. Of course, we all have different views and perspectives. That is as it should be, and it is great that this debate be stimulated.

However, when people are saying that they do not see their story there, they are acknowledging what has been a failure of the CBC as a public broadcaster, which is to play exactly that role. The fact is that series like Canada: The Story of Us are too few and far between, and when one occasionally comes along, people necessarily are going to be left out. Stories are going to be left out from what is a magnificent array of Canadian history. What that shows us is that it has not been doing its job properly. That is an important consideration: Is the CBC doing the right things that a public broadcaster should do? That is what our party position is. That is what I would like to see happening. That is certainly what we are seeing some good examples of right now, but we have seen too few in the past.

Does it make sense for a broadcaster in a public role to be trying cheap reality TV shows, imitations of American programming? I do not think so. That is not its proper function. At the same time, we have to ask ourselves if the CBC produces value for the tremendous volume of tax dollars that Canadians give it, which is well in excess of $1 billion a year. Are Canadians consuming that? The fact is, the numbers show that the eyeballs are dropping. The relevance is declining. The CBC is not playing that role properly. I put it to members that if that money was focused, if it spent it more sensibly on what would be the true public broadcaster role, I think we would find it would be far more heartening, and it would do a much better job of that.

I look at those stories in Canada: The Story of Us, and I have to confess that even I, a bit of a Canadian history buff, am learning things I did not know before. We can all debate the perspectives, but that is what the CBC should be doing. I know there were journalists who contacted me in the effort of getting that kind of cheap shot they wanted, because the Prime Minister did an introduction at the outset of the series. I declined to do that. They wanted me to say it was not appropriate. I know my seven-year-old thought it was not appropriate. However, I said I was heartened to see it.

I commended the CBC for taking the initiative to focus on Canada's history. I was heartened to see the Prime Minister actually encouraging it, because in his other policies, he has been doing exactly the opposite. He has been turning his back on Canadian history, adding to the vacuum in the understanding of who we are. We see that most notably with the decisions on the themes for the 150th anniversary of Confederation, which were changed by the government to include four themes, all of them merit-worthy but excluding history and the story of Confederation itself as permissible themes. That was absurd. Fortunately, the public broadcaster, in its wisdom, was wiser than the Prime Minister and is talking about exactly such things, in a dramatic fashion. For this, it is to be commended.

However, there are other things we have to trouble ourselves with that we have legitimate concerns about in terms of the role of the public broadcaster. I do not want to be a TV critic, but is another stale comedy that has been on the air for decades, that folks are kind of tired of, the right way to go? I do not know.

Certainly, the most difficult fit for any public broadcaster is that of public affairs and news broadcasting. When a state broadcaster is engaged in the news, we look at it, in most countries around the world, with a lot of skepticism. A state broadcaster in Russia or in a place like Syria, which I suppose has a state broadcaster, I do not know, we immediately conclude is propaganda. If we look at RT, which is the state broadcaster projecting abroad for Russia, it is clearly propaganda.

There is always a discomfort when taxpayers' money is used to cover the news. This controversy goes back some time. The CBC was actually created as the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission by the Conservative government of R.B. Bennett. However, it was not too long before its news and public affairs role began to land it in trouble. Once Mackenzie King was in government, lo and behold, it changed the name to the CBC and took decisions, for example, not to cover the Conservative leadership convention. This, of course, attracted a lot of attention. Why is that? It was because it looked to everyone like a deliberate effort by a state-run broadcaster to diminish attention on the opposition Conservative Party. That goes back in time. These kinds of apprehensions and perceptions of bias have been there for a long time.

It is not crazy. If we look at any academic study done of journalists over the past 50 or 60 years, we will see that not too many of them vote Conservative. I do not know why. It seems to be something about who gets drawn into what professions, but that is the case. I will bet that is the case today. In those circumstances, we can understand why people are quick to perceive bias and concern.

Then, of course, there is the fundamental question, with the CBC, of value for money. A tremendous amount of money is being spent, and there are real questions based on how Canadians are voting, and voting with their feet.

At the heritage committee, we have been hearing criticism about how the public broadcaster is using those massive subsidies of billions of dollars. As the world is changing and we are seeing more and more people going online, the criticism we are hearing from the print journals, the newspapers that are in trouble, and other radio and television outlets is that the CBC is using its dominant position and taxpayer subsidies to squeeze everyone else out in the online news universe. It is attracting the advertising there, using the public subsidy to have an advantage in that news gathering. In the process, it is harming and putting those newspapers out of business. When the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission was established, when the CBC was established, no one contemplated a role in an online world. Is that an appropriate one for the CBC? That is an important question.

There are some real questions we as Conservatives have, but let me make it clear and understood by everyone that the party policy position is that we support a public broadcaster. We would just like the CBC to play the role of a genuine public broadcaster, bringing forward the literature, theatre, and music of Canada.

I point to what was seen in the past year as one of the rare successes of the CBC, and that was the final broadcast of the Tragically Hip concert from Kingston, which ignited the imaginations of a lot of people. These are the kinds of things that get Canadians excited and supportive of a public broadcaster, because it is being a public broadcaster.

If the CBC is to avoid facing an ongoing tide of the kind of initiative we are debating here to privatize the CBC, to abolish the CBC, it should look seriously at how it can better play the role of being a genuine public broadcaster and put on the air fine programming like Canada: The Story of Us , like the Anne miniseries, and like the coverage we saw of Vimy this weekend. It was CBC at its best. It is capable of doing it. Sadly, it is all too rare.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to this legislation this morning.

Like my colleague, when I was asked to speak to the bill, I decided I needed to go to our policy and see whether this is something I can support, and I actually came to the opposite conclusion of that of my colleague.

I will read again the part he read, that we believe that the “CBC-SRC is an important part of the broadcasting system in Canada”. That is true. It plays a major role in Canada across the country. It says that “[i]t must be a true public service broadcaster”. When I read that, I wondered what this is specifically talking about. The bill says “public service broadcaster”. It does not say publicly owned broadcaster. We heard some comment earlier about what this would imply. Does it mean the CBC should be covering emergency services? Should it be covering cultural events, as my colleague just spoke about? Is it about public information? I do not know that it says that the CBC has to be a publicly owned, taxpayer-funded regular broadcaster. That is not how I read that.

It says that the CBC needs to be “relevant to Canadians”. As we have heard in the debate in the House, both from the Liberal side and our side, there is some concern about whether the CBC is relevant to Canadians and how relevant it really is.

What could show public support for a broadcaster more than having private shares issued and having the public decide if it wants to support it? Those Canadians who want to step forward could then put their money where they want it to be. It would be a test of whether the CBC has the support of the public if the bill successfully passes.

I am here to speak to Bill C-308, a bill brought forward by my colleague from Saskatoon—University. I was going to discuss the CBC and its potential future, but I want to talk a bit about the history of the CBC as well, which has been covered a bit here.

During the 1920s in Canada, a number of private media outlets were being set up, particularly radio stations across Canada. It is my understanding that the Canadian National Railways was one of those companies that was establishing media outlets across Canada. It had stations in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Moncton, and Vancouver and covered things like concerts and comic opera, school broadcasts, and historical drama, the kinds of things my colleague just talked about. At that time, no full national program had been developed, but it was coming along.

A Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting, under the chairmanship of John Aird, was appointed by Mackenzie King in 1928. The concern was that some of the private Canadian stations were falling into U.S. hands. The BBC was also being held up as an example. There were those who felt that private broadcasting in Canada could not provide an adequate Canadian alternative to the United States. It is interesting to note that almost 100 years later, we are still hearing some of those same arguments.

The private CNR radio stations and other private broadcasting stations were seen to be not enough to stop the idea that public ownership of the media was important. There was a feeling among some that the taxpayer needed to contribute to this media as well.

The moving force within the Aird commission was Charles Bowman, who was the editor of The Ottawa Citizen at the time. He argued that public ownership of broadcasting was necessary to protect Canadians against American penetration. It would be interesting to understand a bit more about the politics that would have been revolving around those decisions at that time as well.

In 1929, just before the stock market crash, the Aird commission presented its report. It recommended the creation of a national broadcasting company. The commission saw it being set up as a public utility but funded by the taxpayer. It would have a responsibility for “fostering a national spirit and interpreting national citizenship”.

Specifically, the report called for the elimination of private media stations. The commission did not want any private stations at all. It thought they should be compensated but removed from the networks. Obviously, when the stock market crashed, that changed a number of things.

It took a while for CBC/Radio-Canada to be set up, but it was established as a crown corporation in 1936. While it may have had a mandate to foster national spirit right from the start, it has always been controversial. My colleague just talked about some of the early controversy even about that.

The question Canadians asked then and are asking now is whether Canadians need a taxpayer-funded broadcaster. For many years it was argued that the CBC was necessary because Canadians did not have direct media service. I come from probably one of the least populated areas of the country, but I think that argument only holds true as new technology is introduced and as it takes time to spread across the country.

I would like to use a couple of examples. There was radio service across Canada in the twenties, thirties, and forties. As TV developed, obviously it took a while longer for TV to get into the rural areas. Would it not have been a better argument at the time to actually spend taxpayers' money to provide the hard infrastructure, the things like the towers, so that people in rural communities actually had the infrastructure to carry those signals, rather than having control of the content, which is what the argument was about the CBC?

Our first TV station was the CBC, in the early 1960s. CTV followed a few years later, and, it was interesting, so did stations from Montana. We were served by five national broadcasters in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan in what many would have considered the back of beyond.

I remember CBC in those days. Hockey Night in Canada was one of the first programs I remember watching on a black and white TV. We had to get fairly close to it. We could not see the puck. We could just see these grainy figures moving around. In those days, I was actually a Montreal Canadiens fan. Over the years there was a whole pile of other teams and it kind of got diluted, but obviously, the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins were what we watched on Hockey Night in Canada.

There were other things like Bonanza and Red Skelton that came up from the States, and we thought they were great entertainment. Front Page Challenge was another one people watched. I think it was Sunday night when people sat in front of the TV and watched Front Page Challenge.

However, times changed, and other networks were developing with private money. The CBC lost its uniqueness long before Front Page Challenge went off the air, I would argue, as other commercial alternatives developed. Even in our remote part of the world, as I mentioned, we had three U.S. networks, CBC, and CTV, and certainly there was nothing we saw that was unique about CBC. It was mostly the same types of shows, the same types of news, just maybe at different times. Hockey Night in Canada stood out as one thing that was unique, as I mentioned, but even a new CTV without the subsidy was able to develop and go head to head with CBC with its taxpayer assistance.

From my Conservative viewpoint, I think what a shame it was that a company, trying to develop, would have to compete directly with taxpayers' money, and on the flip side of it, that taxpayers were stuck paying for the development of a structure that was being duplicated commercially. It was just, from my perspective, a lot of wasted money. The opportunity for change came and went without adaptation, guaranteeing that CBC would become more and more irrelevant.

CBC and its supporters have always tried to convince Canadians that it is some sort of national institution, but practically, it never has been. The only thing that has made it national is that taxpayers across this country have been stuck paying the bill. The notion that it provides some sort of unbiased Canadian content has not been proven, even as recently as last week, when two provinces were already taking great exception to the latest history project that is going on.

A second example of this failure, I would think, was evident yesterday. I went on the online website, and among dozens of headlines on there, I could not find one, not one, that was critical in any way of the present government. That seems to be quite a change from a couple of years ago. There was not a single critical headline on its website, in spite of the fact that we have a government that is mired in corruption, following a budget that has been universally panned, and in the midst of an attempt to unilaterally change the rules of the national legislature . I do not know where all of their investigative reporters went to. Perhaps they have left, but I doubt it. I think it is just that they actually cannot find anything to criticize.

A constituent called me a couple of weeks ago disgusted by some of the content he saw on TV early in the evening. It was 8 o'clock at night, and his seven-year-old son was with him, and he said it was completely inappropriate content for young people. He contacted the CBC. They told him that he did not actually watch it and that it was not shown at that time of night, so what he thought he saw, he did not see. That was their way of dealing with his complaint about content. I do not think the CBC is actually listening to Canadians at all.

The establishment of the CBC meant that right from the beginning, the taxpayers were paying the bill. Right from the beginning, I would argue, the cost was just too high to be justified. It still is in this day of media expansion.

Let us talk about the taxpayers. We sit here with 100 or 200 TV channels on most of our televisions. We have 1,000 or 2,000 internet channels. We have instant news from all over the world. We have movies and videos from dozens of sources. We have cable TV that has the capacity to charge for what people use but that is burdened with having to carry unpopular subsidized channels, and we have private companies delivering professional production and news services that are paying their own way.

In the middle of all this, there is a $1-billion-plus annual bill to the taxpayer for a provider that no longer provides anything that is unique, and a provider that many Canadians believe fails to provide a balanced and comprehensive view of the issues.

If we look at the mandate, it is not successfully addressing that. It is unnecessary that the CBC be supported by governmental intervention in order for it to continue to exist. It should have been done decades ago. Taxpayers have borne the burden for many years longer than they should have. It is time to make this a commercial entity and let it compete directly with its competitors.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all my gracious colleagues, both the ones who will vote in favour of the bill and those who will not be, for providing their insights, their viewpoints, and for being of assistance in this debate.

Let me very quickly go through a few of the major points I have made and then close with an appeal, particularly for my fellow Conservative MPs.

The bill does not propose to do away with the CBC. We need to understand that the CBC will exist. It will just not exist as a government subsidized corporation. The CBC can exist. Other broadcasters exist as do other radio networks. This would privatize it and would relieve the taxpayers of the burden of subsidizing it.

The bill does not seek to deprive Canadians of necessary services. In fact, as my hon. colleague has pointed out, most of these necessary services can be provided in other ways. As one of my colleagues pointed out earlier, the development of Canadian content can be done in a myriad of different ways. The bill would not eliminate the development of Canadian content. Many of the things, the most beloved program in CBC history, Hockey Night in Canada, are done through other ways.

What the bill would do, however, is change the CBC from an entity that is supported by the taxpayers and not responsible to the taxpayers to one of many diverse Canadian voices. I have taken measures in the legislation to provide protection to ensure this would still be a Canadian corporation. Future governments, future parliamentarians may wish to change that, but I have done that to try to calm and assuage some of the concerns.

In summary, I would point out a few reasons why I have done this.

I am very much aware that the legislation is unlikely to pass through the House for a variety of reasons. When the original debate kicked off on the Wheat Board, it was not passed through with one government. Conservative MPs, philosophically free enterprise members of Parliament, became involved and began to talk about it. The Mulroney administration philosophically should have done it, just as the previous Harper administration philosophically should have been prepared to privatize the CBC. However, someone needed to take the first steps to get things going. Someone needed to take the first steps to open the debate, to break the taboo around discussing this subject. That is one of reasons I am trying to do this.

People talk about how CBC brings up together, how it does various things across the country. That may be, but I do not share this view. However, for those who argue this, that was back in the two or three channel universe with one national radio program. That has completely changed. It has moved on and it is gone. We need as members of the House of Commons is discuss what the essential and useful function of government is. If we are to argue as Conservative MPs for tax cuts and for limited government, we cannot spend $1 billion on things like this.

I understand there may be issues, particular things, small things that people may want for the CBC, but that should not prevent members from actually voting for this at second reading. If members believe the radio portion of CBC should continue, move amendments at committee to sever the two. That can be done. Today I am asking members to endorse the bill, to have a vote so we can discuss the principle of restructuring the CBC and make it private. My preference is private across the board, but if we do not move and support it on this in principle, we will not be able to go forth.

Again, I do not see the CBC as representative of all Canadians. I do not see it as good for the taxpayers. That is why I call on members of Parliament to support my the bill to open the debate, to move forward, and to move into the modern era. I thank all members for their support and I appreciate their votes and input in the future.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members



Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to an order made on Monday April 3, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 3, immediately before private members' business.

Suspension of SittingCanadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In that we are not quite at the top of the hour, the House stands suspended until 12 noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:56 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12:00 noon)

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2017 / noon

Toronto—St. Paul's Ontario


Carolyn Bennett LiberalMinister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

moved that Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today, acknowledging we are gathered on traditional Algonquin territory, as we begin the second reading debate on Bill C-17, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, or YESAA.

I would like to begin by highlighting the tireless efforts of my colleague, the hon. member for Yukon. Without all of his hard work with and on behalf of his constituents, we would not be where we are today on this critical legislation for Yukon.

The government believes that a sustainably developed resource sector is essential to the success of the Canadian economy and, if we get this right, will serve as an important foundation for future economic and job growth. However, unlocking this economic potential must be contingent on environmental sustainability and on impacted indigenous communities being engaged as equal partners. This is not only an indigenous issue, but one about which all Yukoners are extremely concerned.

Our government is absolutely committed to renewing the relationship between the crown and indigenous peoples in Canada on a foundation of recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.

This not just a moral obligation, but a legal one, particularly in regions like Yukon, which are subject to comprehensive land claim agreements and self-government agreements.

Yukon is an inspiration to the rest of Canada, with so many self-governing nations and with our needing more and more first nations to get out from under the Indian Act and become self-governing. It is very important that the work we do together in partnership is well-communicated to all Canadians as an example of how things can be when we get it right.

The YESAA, as members may know, was passed in 2003 and stems from the umbrella final agreement between Canada, Yukon first nations, and the Government of Yukon. As required under the umbrella final agreement, a five-year review of the YESAA was launched under the previous government, resulting in 76 recommendations, 72 of which were agreed to by all parties. Unfortunately, despite spending years working with Yukon first nations on a comprehensive review of YESAA, the previous government added four further controversial changes at the end and pushed them through, absent meaningful consultation.

That ill-advised approach led to pointless litigation between a number of self-governing first nations and the federal government with respect to the previous bill and compromised the potential development of resources by undermining legal certainty.

By contrast, after months of discussions, Canada, Yukon governments, and Yukon first nations signed an MOU last April that outlined mutually agreed upon steps toward addressing the first nations concerns with respect to the changes to YESAA made in previous Bill S-6.

Bill C-17 is an example of what can be achieved when government works in partnership with indigenous communities at the very beginning of proposed changes. Yukon first nations were consulted from the very beginning, including on the draft legislative proposal. As a direct result of this bill's collaborative origin, Yukon first nations pursuing related legal action have adjourned their hearing dates while this bill proceeds. This bill would re-establish trust with Yukon first nations and restore legal certainty for responsible resource development, paving the way for increased investment, development and jobs.

The bill introduced in the House of Commons on June 8, 2016, would repeal the four provisions of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act that have caused the most concern.

Legislated time limits on the review process; exempting a project from reassessment when an authorization is renewed or amended unless there has been a significant change to the project; ability for the federal minister to provide binding policy direction to the board; and ability to delegate the federal minister’s powers, duties, or functions under the act to the territorial government.

With respect to the legislated time limits on the review process, the government believes that the more appropriate and consistent approach is to adhere to the timelines in the board's current rules that have historically matched or exceeded the limits under the Bill S-6 amendments.

The government of Canada believes that resource industry project proponents, indigenous communities, and other governments should work hard to reach consensus.

Canada, Yukon, self-governing Yukon first nations, and industry have agreed to continue to work in collaboration through the regulatory process to establish practical timelines.

In terms of reassessments, the need to evaluate projects requesting renewals or amendments is best determined on a case-by-case basis as informed by the clear policy guidelines created by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. The board is best positioned to work in partnership with industry, first nations, and Yukoners to develop new policies, where required, to address project changes.

Yukon first nations are also strongly opposed to the idea that the minister could give binding policy direction to the board, as they feel this is inconsistent with the umbrella final agreement and jeopardizes the independence of the board. We agree.

Moreover, the current wording of the provision allowing me, as minister, to delegate any or all of my powers, duties, or functions under YESAA to the territorial minister may also be inconsistent with the umbrella final agreement. We do not support the pursuit of a unilateral or bilateral delegating authority, as it is not in accordance with our commitment to building respectful nation-to-nation relationships with first nations based on partnership, collaboration, and trust.

When I was in the Yukon last month and had the opportunity to listen to Yukon first nations and the representatives of the territorial government, I came to understand that this bill truly represents a consensus. I also recently received a joint letter from the Council of Yukon First Nations, Government of Yukon, and the Yukon Chamber of Mines confirming their support for Bill C-17 in its current form.

In that March 13, 2017 joint letter, they state clearly:

The Government of Yukon, self-governing...First Nations, Council of Yukon First Nations and the Yukon Chamber of Mines look forward to seeing Bill C-17 passed, without change, as soon as possible.

It goes on to say:

Your support for the passage of Bill C-17 assures us that the Government of Canada is genuinely committed to reset the relationship between Canada, Yukon and Yukon First Nations.

Once ancestral rights and titles are recognized, once lands and waters are protected, and once genuine partnerships exist between local and indigenous communities, responsible resource development projects will proceed, and they will do so faster and with greater legal certainty.

I urge all members to support this bill.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order, and I am asking for your patience here.

This is regarding what transpired on Friday. I stayed here this weekend, and what transpired on Friday really caught my attention. I am a relatively new member of Parliament. I have been been here for almost three years, but still one learns something every day. I had the opportunity to see some things on Friday that concerned me as a relative newcomer. I spent the weekend going through some of the things that I thought we needed to address.

I am asking for the patience of the House and my hon. members' patience. I would like to go over some things that I think are worthwhile, additional submissions to the question of privilege that were brought up by the hon. member for Perth—Wellington.

I want to go back—

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. I thank the hon. member for his comments on the matter. It is apparent to me, in looking at the circumstances that unfolded on Friday, that the hon. assistant deputy speaker made a decision at that time that was very clear, in the sense that sufficient commentary had been provided.

There were many constructive comments on the topic that was before the House and that had been raised by hon. members. However, at the conclusion of debate that day, the assistant deputy speaker made a decision that sufficient information had been heard, which would allow the Speaker to render his decision on the question. At this point, we are not going to take further commentary on the matter. The Speaker is seized with the question and will be deliberating it in the short time ahead. He will get back to the House in due course.

We will continue with questions and comments.

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Cold Lake.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


David Yurdiga Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Mr. Speaker, once the Yukon government, the federal government, and the first nations have concluded their agreement on a new process for reassessment and timelines, how will it integrate into the new YESAA? Does it require amendments to the act? What is the process for such, and how long will it take?

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, we believe that the bill would reverse the irritants that were present in the previous bill, and that it will be able to be implemented right away, as Yukoners have asked.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her speech.

It is always better to work in partnership with first nations, and this bill is a perfect example. My question for the minister is simple.

Would the minister consider working with other parties in this chamber to get this legislation passed sooner rather than later?

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. That is exactly what Yukoners want. They want this done as quickly as possible. I think there is unbelievable consensus. This is what can happen when we start at the beginning, co-developing legislation, and then having the buy-in, as we have now, even with the chamber of mines. There is no reason to hold this back. I would entertain any collaboration that we could have, from all parties, to move this through as quickly as possible with the consensus of the House.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was honoured to be part of the government that put through Bill S-6. It is disappointing to see this new government repealing a lot of those decision that we felt were beneficial to the economical development of Yukon. One of the biggest issues we were able to address was the timelines in terms of approvals, which was stymying economic development, and getting these infrastructure projects moving forward.

It is my understanding that sections of the act relating to timelines and reassessment have been used about 90 times since coming into force in 2015. Would the minister please provide me with a list of decisions and who those proponents were?