Mr. Speaker, in the next few minutes, I would like to comment on the motion presented by the Reform member for Calgary Southeast. It is Motion No. 278, which advocates the partial or total privatization of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
First of all, I want to say that my colleague, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, is not considering any privatization of the CBC. This corporation was created in 1936 by the Liberal government of the day especially to give Canadians control over broadcasting in Canada.
Even today, the CBC remains the cornerstone of Canadian broadcasting policy. The present Liberal government also considers this national public broadcaster to be essential.
The CBC has followed the evolution of our country over the decades and today its importance justifies its continuing to receive public funding. After all, it is thanks to the CBC that Canadians get to know one another better and stay in touch locally, regionally, nationally and with the whole world.
The previous government had an addiction to privatization. It even had in hand a resolution passed by its party membership calling for the complete privatization of the CBC, but it too recognized that this was not a viable option. It was also the Mulroney government that took a scalpel to the corporation and forced some very painful surgery. In an interview given shortly after his appointment the Minister of Canadian Heritage described such treatment as de facto privatization.
Our new government made a clear commitment prior to the October election. We committed to stop forcing the CBC into anorexic behaviour in recognition of the vital role it plays as a national cultural institution. We also committed to finding the right means of providing the corporation with stable, multiyear funding.
Just three months after the election, on February 3, the government made its first stride toward meeting our commitment. At that time the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced a strategy for the CBC designed to give the corporation the capacity to plan for the future with confidence and to be the distinct Canadian voice we need as we continue to forge our national identity.
The first step in this strategy was the Prime Minister's announcement of a new president for the CBC. With the appointment of Anthony Manera, the CBC can continue to benefit from the talents of an individual with a distinguished career both within the corporation and beyond. I beg to differ with the hon. member. I understand Mr. Manera has appeared twice before the committee and has been very forthcoming.
Mr. Manera's commitment to the ideals of public broadcasting and his intimate understanding of the challenges facing the corporation were among the attributes which earned him the reins of our most important cultural institution.
While the previous government's commitments are still filed under fiction our government has taken decisive action to achieve our commitment to stable, multiyear funding.
The government has already announced that it does not intend to impose new cuts on the CBC over the next five years. It is prepared to reprofile the cuts announced in April 1993 so that they can be more easily digested by the CBC. In effect this reprofiling represents an investment of $100 million from the consolidated revenue fund as the program cuts will start to be implemented in 1996-97 rather than 1995-96.
In addition to this reprieve the government has also recognized that the corporation needs more businesslike flexibility. This is being provided through the CBC's new power to borrow up to $25 million under highly specified circumstances and with the case by case approval of the Minister of Finance.
Most recently the minister announced his intention to consult with his colleagues, the new CBC president, and other players in the industry to identify other revenue generating mechanisms for the CBC which could lead to a reduction in the corporation's dependence on commercial advertising revenues. The minister also confirmed recently that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage of the House would undertake the review.
These commitments are consistent with the government's desire to give the corporation some flexibility in terms of its strategic orientation.
This government believes that instead of taking financial resources from public broadcasting for the benefit of private broadcasting, as the Reform Party's privatization proposal suggests, we must try to find ways to do the opposite.
With the advent of many television services, all private, the government must mobilize resources for the public sector and for the production and dissemination of Canadian programs. In this multi-channel world, the government must ensure the survival of the distinctive Canadian voice which the CBC represents.
That said, this government believes that the goal of redistributing resources for the benefit of the national public broadcaster can only be achieved through a public process in which parliamentarians, the general public and all concerned can participate.
The government is mindful of the concern felt by all Canadians about the economic situation we are currently facing. Our strategy for the CBC is based on a shared approach. We have granted the CBC important tools designed to restore financial stability and provide the corporation with a clear planning horizon. At the same time we have made clear to the CBC that our financial flexibility is severely limited and that we have expectations on how the CBC will manage its affairs.
Specifically the minister has notified the new president that the CBC would be expected to eliminate its structural shortfall and to absorb other costs, inflationary or otherwise, which may be required to carry out its operations. The government has asked that the CBC's development of a new corporate plan
remain faithful to the objective of maintaining its regional presence and existing radio services.
These restrictions were deemed necessary in light of the unique and highly prized reputation of CBC radio services and the corporation's ability to serve national and regional audiences. We recognize the CBC is being asked to scale many challenges. We expect the corporation will have to adapt aspects of its operations. Over the course of the next several months the CBC will be on the receiving end of many suggestions about what kind of changes Canadians would be prepared to see undertaken.
Nevertheless the uncertainty which has prevented the corporation from planning beyond the current fiscal year has been eliminated. It is now possible for the corporation to take long term decisions and make multiyear commitments or investments aimed at improving the efficiency of the corporation.
The most important result of these efficiencies is that they will allow the CBC to maximize its investment in the kind of quality Canadian programming we expect and need from CBC. It may be interesting to note that while technology has changed the issues and principles related to public broadcasting remained largely unchanged since the genesis of the CBC and its mandate.
The royal commission on radio broadcasting examined the possibility of establishing a Canadian public broadcasting corporation for radio in 1929. This commission, the Aird commission, stressed that a public broadcasting system should provide national coverage and varied programming which would be informative, educational and entertaining.
These principles have been echoed repeatedly in the parliamentary committee hearings, task forces and royal commissions dealing with broadcasting in 1951, 1957, 1963 and 1986 and they remain as relevant today as they were 60 years ago.
The Canadian broadcasting system is definitely characterized by a fair sharing of-