Mr. Speaker, the world we live in is hypermediatized, globalized, dominated by market logic; it is a world exposed to cultural darwinism, a world where film and other audiovisual media appear to be extremely powerful and popular means of communication.
For years, in keeping with the approach of intruding into others' realms of responsibility, Telefilm Canada has imposed itself upon Quebec as a federal cultural body mandated with the development and promotion of the film and television industries.
Bills C-18, on which there is a motion for reference to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, is intended to integrate into the mandate of Telefilm Canada the entire audiovisual industry, that is film, television and the new media. Among other things, it also provides thecorporation with the authority to act in the sound recording industry underagreements made with the Department of Canadian Heritage.
In fact, all Bill C-18 does is to update and render official the increased responsibilities Telefilm Canada already has. The current legislation is not, in fact, reflective of the actual mandate of Telefilm Canada and needs to be updated. So Bill C-18 makes official the new Telefilm mission that has in fact been in place for years.
In its 1997-98 annual report Telefilm Canada presented its mission, including in it development and promotion of the Canadian film and television industry and new media products. In its March 2002 survey on client satisfaction and needs, 21% of respondents reported that they worked in the new media sector among others.
The main purpose of this bill being to act with respect to the audiovisual industry, that is mainly film, television and new media, and to provide thecorporation with the authority to act in the sound recording industry underagreements made with the Department of Canadian Heritage, that objective does not present any problem for the Bloc Québécois.
We must remind hon. members, however, that essentially the bill replaces the expressions “pecuniary interest in film activity” and “feature film production” with “any pecuniary interest in the audiovisual industry”. Let us also recall that it provides Telefilm with the authority to act in the sound recording industry underagreements made with the Department of Canadian Heritage, and provides it with the powers of a natural person. As well, everything done before thecoming into force of this enactment is deemed to be valid to the same extent asit would have been were it done after this enactment comes into force. It also adds a dubious point at 10(9), reading as follows:
The corporation shall, to the greatest possible extent consistent with the performance of its duties under this Act,
(a) carry out its mandate in the broader context of the policies of the Government of Canada with respect to culture;—
The Bloc Québécois is wondering about the addition to subsection 10(9) of a paragraph referring to federal policies with respect to culture.
At present, no such policy exists formally, although the Minister of Canadian Heritage stated, on August 21, that she was considering it and would be consulting on the matter. The Bloc Québécois would like to know what this reference to cultural policies is all about.
As far as the Bloc Québécois is concerned, there is a Quebecois culture, which is one of the essential elements of Quebec's difference. It is recognized both in Quebec and abroad for its vitality and originality. Quebecers are fond of cultural productions made in Quebec, be it on radio or television, in film, theatre or dance, and very open to foreign cultural productions.
The federal government, however, refuses to recognize the unique reality of the Québécois culture. As far as it is concerned, it is nothing more than a regional component of Canadian culture. In addition, the cultural policies of the federal government often have the utilitarian purpose of promoting Canadian identity, pride and unity.
That is why, for former heritage minister Hélène Sherrer, the federal government's focus was no longer on cultural events or activities, but rather on using any and all cultural, multicultural or culturally diverse activities to make every citizen feel like they were fully Canadian. It is in that sense that there will be investments into culture, she said.
The Bloc Québécois' position on government support to culture is that it should be free of any political objective. It should allow those in the cultural sector to express themselves on any issue concerning humanity, rather than fund productions that simply glorify whatever is Canadian.
The Bloc Québécois will continue working for the defence and promotion of the Québécois culture, supporting Quebec's artists and craftsmen and working toward the recognition of the principle of Quebec's cultural diversity, both nationally and internationally.
Furthermore, the Bloc Québécois will continue to expose any attempt by the federal government to use cultural programs for political purposes and to recognize Quebec as the sole authority in the area of arts and culture within its territory.
Stakeholders from cultural and film organizations—Association des producteurs de films et de télévision du Québec, Association des réalisateurs et réalisatrices du Québec, Mouvement pour les Arts et les Lettres, and the Union des artistes—that we have contacted see nothing wrong with Bill C-18. However, they are worried about the possible 5% budget cuts by the federal government in its departments and agencies, including Canadian Heritage, Telefilm Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Film Board.
In a press release on November 3, 2004, the APFTQ said:
—in a context where federal budgets for the film and television sector have not increased in a few years, and inflation has never been taken into account, such a cut would further reduce our ability to produce and to create jobs and would make artists, artisans and production companies even more vulnerable.
The public here benefits daily from access to national productions that are broadcast on the small and big screens. Canada can be proud of the international presence of its artists and television and film productions. Renewal of the government's support remains indispensable to continued success.
On November 4, 2004, Michel Coudé-Lord of the Journal de Montréal described these budget cuts to culture as another crisis for the Minister of Canadian Heritage and said in conclusion:
It remains to be seen whether the former Radio-Canada host turned Minister of Canadian Heritage will remember the demands of television and grasp the importance of the message. This is certainly a story to follow.
At the Bloc Québécois, we know that artists often have a very modest income. According to the department of culture and communications in Quebec, in 2001, three artist groups, artisans—$18,751—dancers—$20,215—and visual artists—$27,741—earned far less than the average taxpayer in Quebec.
Given the fact that the bill does not get into defining a possible federal policy on culture or issues related to funding for Telefilm Canada, and is limited to adjusting the mandate of the crown corporation in order to bring it in line with its current mission, the Bloc Québécois feels it must support Bill C-18.
That said, I want to remind hon. members that Quebec, through the Bloc Québécois, will insist in its demand for control over matters of communication, culture and telecommunication.