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.