Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech about Bill C-444, I would like to take a moment to mention Purple Day, which was started two years ago by a young girl named Cassidy Megan, from Halifax.
I am wearing purple today because of Cassidy Megan. I want to show my support for adults and children with epilepsy, and I want to promote information campaigns about this illness that affects an average of 15,500 Canadians each year. Thank you, Cassidy.
Unlike our colleagues across the way, we understand the value of culture. We know that we not only need to support it, but we also need to strengthen it in every way possible.
Previous cuts to the PromArt program, which allowed Canadian artists to promote their work and their culture abroad, and the Trade Routes program, which provided support to artistic and cultural entrepreneurs, were a slap in the face to artists and all Canadians. These cuts demonstrated the Conservative government's inability to understand the arts and its irresponsibility in this sector.
After seeing their budget, it is even more obvious that the Prime Minister and the Conservatives have no idea about culture and have not listened to the many demands from the public about this. This should not surprise us, however, because their decisions have shown that they have no interest in culture and attach no importance to it. It is the same with environmental issues. They just do not understand. If you keep artists from performing internationally, you are keeping our culture from international recognition. You are badmouthing our heritage.
Our party, the Liberal Party of Canada, believes in increasing support for Canadian artists and cultural organizations, especially in this new era of the digital economy.
However, there is another topic that concerns me today and that is Bill C-444 and the impact it will have on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission as well as on culture.
The CRTC was created to defend and promote Canadians' attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic talents. All of these things are the result of our country's history, its geographic location, its institutions and, above all, its linguistic and cultural diversity.
The CRTC's role is to ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public. The CRTC uses the objectives in the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act to guide its policy decisions.
For instance, one of the CRTC's initiatives is the local programming improvement fund, whose aim is to support and improve the quality of local television programming. This program really meets the needs and expectations of the public regarding information on what is happening in their region.
With new digital technologies, regulatory bodies are losing their powers. Barriers to entering domestic markets are becoming almost non-existent. This situation is bringing in new stakeholders that companies have to compete with.
The lines between the media, businesses, mechanisms, programs and content are blurring, and users are already beginning to control content and actively participate in creating it. In the current context, one might reasonably wonder how such legislation would help us face the challenges ahead. I will come back to this later on in my speech.
In Quebec, the CRTC has been working tirelessly to ensure that our artists can access the media and the world of broadcasting, so that the public can benefit from access to local content and our broadcasting industries can grow.
It is an ideal tool not only for ensuring the survival of Quebec culture, but also for sharing it with the rest of the country.
Bill C-444 would split up the CRTC and have it function in a vacuum in the provinces. It will not strengthen culture. On the contrary, dividing up the CRTC would weaken an institution that works for the survival of that culture. It would divide the population and block up our window on the world.
The CRTC has always been a leader in consulting the public and seeking people's opinions on matters pertaining to broadcasting and telecommunications, in order to be in tune with the needs of the people. Therefore, it is a tool of the people and not a tool of political partisanship.
I would like to know where my colleague got the idea for such a bill. No artist or cultural group could have asked for a legislative measure to create another regulatory body in Quebec. Quebec is not asking for this. It is pure political partisanship at the expense of our artists and creators.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission plays a vital role as the protector of our culture. It would make no sense to weaken it when we should be working hard to secure and strengthen its role and mandate in the current political and economic context. Adding to the number of regulatory bodies would only exponentially increase the problems faced by our cultural communities.
Given the challenges of the future, Bill C-444 is not at all a step in the right direction. It would only cloud the issues and add to existing problems that we have been trying hard to resolve for many years.
Let us not erect walls or stuff our windows. Let us protect our culture by sharing it and making it known to the entire world, not hiving it off and having it become inward-looking.
I oppose Bill C-444 and will be voting against it. I urge my colleagues to do the same. I specifically invite my colleague, the member for Repentigny, to work with us. We must focus our efforts on protecting our Canadian culture, and Quebec content makes up a significant part of that culture.