Yes, certainly, Mr. Speaker. I withdraw the comment about the House. However, participating in the debate I think is important because it affects all parts of the country.
I listened very carefully to all members who spoke on this matter. I listened to their arguments. I am a bit puzzled by some of the arguments.
The hon. member for Western Arctic said that CBC North is a lifeline that deserves support. I would agree. In terms of the many services that are provided by the CBC it is a lifeline that deserves support. At the same time, the member for Western Arctic said that there are fiscal constraints. We recognize that. I believe the member for Western Arctic said that we must get our fiscal house in order. Again, I agree.
However, there is another debate which we also need to have, which is: What is the house that we are getting in order? It is the country. How do we preserve, maintain and develop the culture and the unity of that house that we are trying to get in order?
My point, by this motion and by my comments today, is that the debate around the CBC is not just a funding debate, it is about the house that we are attempting to get in order. We may do so well at getting it in order that people may not feel the same allegiance to the house as we lose social programs, health programs and national institutions such as our rail system and the CBC.
That is why I proposed that we have a vote on this motion and that we refer it to committee, although my proposal was defeated.
I understand the argument made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the hon. member for Western Arctic that the CBC is an independent agency in which there should not be government interference. I do not object to that. However, it is impossible to maintain an appropriate service and a stable service without appropriate funding. It is the Government of Canada which provides that funding.
I assume that my two colleagues who spoke before me are not suggesting that providing funding constitutes interference.
I would like to draw their attention to the fact that during the 1993 election there was a very clear promise from the Liberal Party, its members and its leader, that there would be adequate support and maintenance of the CBC.
I draw my colleague's attention to the definition of the word promise from The Concise Oxford Dictionary . It states:
an assurance that one will or will not undertake a certain action
That is a promise.
This Liberal Party promised to support the CBC. Support, according to the same dictionary, means "keep from falling, sinking or failing; give strength to or encourage".
I do not think all the people who are speaking out in support of CBC can define what the Liberals had meant by supporting the CBC because it is certainly falling, certainly sinking and certainly failing.
That also is at the heart of this argument. There was a clear understanding by the Canadian people that the Liberal Party, were it to become the government, would support our national broadcasting system.
The two members from the government side who spoke said that they liked the CBC and realized that there are constraints, as we all do, but they did not know what they could do as it is an independent agency. What they could do is advocate within their caucus, within their government and within their cabinet that there be sufficient funding for the CBC to continue.
Why is it that so many Canadians are speaking out about what is happening to the CBC? Are my colleagues on the government side suggesting that people like Margaret Atwood, Karen Kain, Atom Egoyan and Norman Jewison who have come together with other celebrities, Pierre Berton for example, to support the CBC are wrong, that they do not know anything and that they do not understand the fiscal house? Are we to assume that the group called Safe Our CBC does not understand what is happening? Are we to understand that Friends of Canadian Broadcasting does not really understand the situation in Canada, that the many constituents I have heard from and I am sure the member for Western Arctic and the Member for Nunatsiaq have heard from do not understand Canada?
I think they understand Canada very well. I think what they and many of us fear is that it will no longer be a vehicle to help Canadians understand each other, to define our country to each other, to define our culture to each other and to maintain it in a way that it will be able to do these things.
It is fine to say that we like the CBC. We love the CBC but we are not going to advocate for enough stable funding for it to run appropriately.
I think what all of these groups are trying to say, what I am trying to say today and what my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois were saying is that not only do we have to get our fiscal house in order, as we and all of the groups and individuals I mentioned understand that, but we also understand that this country is important. Some of the institutions will of course be adapting to change but some of the institutions like our national broadcasting system is what will help to preserve the house.
I understand the arguments that are being put forward about inference but I think it is a hollow argument, I am sorry to say. It is a hollow argument because no one is asking the members across the way and the government to interfere with the CBC board. What we are asking for is stable funding for Canada's national broadcasting system for the preservation of a very important Canadian institution which contributes to not only national unity but to the development of our culture and understanding of each other as Canadians.