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Liberal MP for Charlottetown (P.E.I.)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 56% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization Act February 17th, 2017
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-308, which provides for the privatization of CBC/Radio-Canada and the amendment of several acts. In studying the bill, it quickly becomes clear that it involves numerous risks for the Canadian broadcasting system, Canadian media corporations, and Canadians in general.
I would first like to point out that the bill seeks to privatize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation by allowing for its public offering. However, there has been no assessment of the market value of the corporation or of any interest in the market for the share offering. There is no guarantee that selling it would even generate any profit. The corporation as we know it could become unrecognizable.
Let me remind my colleagues that the corporation was created in 1936 to counter the American influence on our radio waves. Today, its mandate is inscribed in the 1991 Broadcasting Act. This act states that CBC/Radio-Canada must offer radio and television services including a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens, and entertains; that is predominantly and distinctively Canadian; that reflects Canada as a whole and serves the needs of the regions and official language minority communities; and that it must be made available throughout the country.
In short, CBC/Radio-Canada represents Canadians and unites them. Bill C-308 would repeal the corporation's mandate as established in the act. Since no other private corporation has to meet the same objectives, the privatization of CBC/Radio-Canada would deprive Canadians of a unique service within the Canadian broadcasting system.
Furthermore, the other laws that govern the corporation, such as the Access to Information Act and the Financial Administration Act, ensure that CBC/Radio-Canada remains accountable. In addition, all of those laws also stipulate that the corporation must remain at arm's length from the government when it comes to its own day-to-day management. The legislation also guarantees its journalistic, creative, and programming independence.
The bill would repeal and modify all of those provisions, to the effect that, as a private corporation, CBC/Radio-Canada would be accountable only to its shareholders. Canadians would no longer be able to get information about its operations or take part in any meaningful way.
The possible economic impacts of privatizing CBC/Radio-Canada are also cause for concern. The corporation currently offers numerous radio and television services in English and French, including national networks and local stations, which includes our vital CBC bureau in Charlottetown.
CBC/Radio-Canada also offers many digital services and is considered a pillar of Canadian content broadcasting in the digital environment. In order to offer those services, the corporation uses a hybrid funding model that combines public funds and self-generated revenues, including advertising revenue.
We do not know how much revenue CBC/Radio-Canada would bring in if it were privatized and was no longer accountable to Parliament. However, we do know that cultural industries are currently transitioning to the digital environment. Some platforms, including traditional television, must overcome major obstacles such as a decrease in advertising revenue.
A privatized CBC/Radio-Canada would generate most of its revenue from advertising. This means its total revenue could be heavily reduced. It is quite probable that it would choose to reduce its offering to ensure profitability. It is also possible that it would first choose to cut its regional services, which serve official language minority communities and indigenous communities, among others. This would be a loss not only for those communities but also for the diversity of voices in the Canadian broadcasting system. We could also see a reduction in the quality and quantity of programming offered to Canadians. For example, let us take the local news. It is of vital importance for Canadian citizens.
The current government believes in a strong Canadian broadcasting system. Its approach involves supporting creative industries, investing in CBC/Radio-Canada , and renewing ties with the corporation. The government is investing $675 million in CBC/Radio-Canada over five years. The corporation has indicated that it will use that money to create new, more distinctly Canadian content, continue its transition to the digital environment, and increase its resources in the region in order to be more local.
This money will be used to recruit the next generation of Canadian talent. It will allow the corporation to continue to support indigenous programming and the services it offers to official language minority communities. Finally, CBC/Radio-Canada has committed to being accountable to Canadians on the use of this new funding. In my opinion, those commitments offer real benefits to Canadians. In contrast, the bill does not contain any meaningful measures as specific as those.
To sum up, the government believes in the importance of our national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada, for expressing Canadian culture and providing Canadian content. The bill would eliminate everything that defines the national public broadcaster and ensures its proper functioning. Privatization would fundamentally transform CBC/Radio-Canada, without guaranteeing that the result would be beneficial for the Canadian broadcasting system, Canadian media corporations, and Canadians. For all of these reasons, the government is opposed to this bill.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization Act February 17th, 2017
Madam Speaker, I represent Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Compass, the local CBC news show, is on at six o'clock every evening, and 80% of the televisions that are turned on in Prince Edward Island at six o'clock are tuned in to that program. The CBC is extremely important to places like Charlottetown. The CBC is extremely important to communities that are in a minority situation with respect to official languages. The CBC is extremely important to northern, remote, and indigenous communities. Why does it have to be all about the dollar and not the character of our country?
Taxation February 13th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, it is a little outside my portfolio to talk about the taxation of health and dental plans but I was here in the House, as I believe was the hon. member for Provencher, when the Prime Minister was absolutely unequivocal in his statement to that effect. That is the end of that discussion for me and I would certainly hope and expect for my colleague too.
Taxation February 13th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that the member for Provencher mentioned in the course of his remarks was his belief that the government is considering a Netflix tax. I can disabuse him of that again tonight. That is absolutely not the case.
On November 1, the Minister of Finance tabled his fall economic statement. Setting a new bar for transparency, this statement included economic projections for policy actions taken since budget 2016. This includes the regulatory change that now makes talk shows eligible for the Canadian film or video production tax credit, which dates back to 1995. The immediate value of this change is estimated in that document at $8 million in 2016-17. Over time, this amount will increase as new productions emerge and become eligible to an estimated $33 million.
Our government is proud to support Canada's film and television sector.
Indeed, federal support for this sector in 2015-16 was almost $670 million, excluding CBC/Radio-Canada. In budget 2016, we made important new investments in Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board, and CBC/Radio-Canada. These investments will support a key economic driver in our country's cultural sector. Film and television activity in Canada generated an estimated $8.5 billion in GDP in 2015-16.
This industry is also an important vector for job creation in Canada. It employs more than 140,600 Canadians and benefits small and medium-sized businesses across the country.
It is also a sector that is showing strong growth. In 2015-16, $6.8 billion was spent on production budgets in Canada. This includes both the Canadian content productions supported by this tax credit and also foreign productions that shoot in Canada. As a labour-based tax credit, the Canadian film or video production tax credit increases as more films and television shows are produced in Canada and more Canadian creators are employed.
More film and television production is not only good for our economy today, but also helps us attract the international talent and investment that can position Canada as a future leader in a global economy where innovation and creativity will play an important role. There are enormous opportunities for our creative industries in an increasingly digital and global marketplace. Our government is working hard to support their current and future successes.
Canadian Heritage February 13th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, how unfortunate. What do we mean by enhancing the creation, discovery, and export of Canadian content in a digital world? It means that we want to give creators and businesses in Canada's cultural sector the means to develop and fully contribute to Canada's economy.
It means creating pathways to market so creators can share compelling and engaging stories that positively shape an inclusive and open Canada. Above all, it means valuing the social and economic contributions of our creators and cultural entrepreneurs.
We have to acknowledge that creativity is at the heart of innovation. That is the basis for a strong middle class and it is key to the success of Canada in the 21st century.
Canadian Heritage February 13th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert for raising this issue.
Our government recognizes the value of arts and culture to Canada's society and economy. We know we are living in exciting transformational times. Rapid technological advances and changing consumer behaviour are creating both challenges and opportunities.
The government consulted Canadians in order to ensure that its cultural toolkit is adapted to today's digital reality and that we can successfully meet all challenges related to the creation, discovery and export of Canadian content in a digital world.
The government's focus is to ensure that Canadian creators have the tools necessary to thrive in the digital world.
The consultation will help us adapt our cultural policies to today’s digital realities.
As the initial consultation paper indicated, the way forward is not in attempting to regulate content on the internet. Our focus should be on how to best support Canada's creators and cultural entrepreneurs in creating great content and in competing globally for both Canadian and international audiences.
Grabbing a bigger piece of the global pie is critical to building a strong and viable creative sector.
As part of the consultation process, we organized discussions in Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Iqaluit, Edmonton and Montreal. These discussions took place with representatives from a variety of creative sectors. ADISQ was one of the groups represented that took part in the event in Montreal on October 28, 2016.
As well, individual Canadians and groups were encouraged to submit their ideas to the consultation web portal. ADISQ took advantage of this opportunity to submit a paper, which is publicly available on our web portal. The information and data received from both the online consultations and in-person events is being analyzed and will be presented in a public report. This information will help inform the government's approach to continue to support the sector.
By directly consulting Canadians, the Government of Canada will be able to determine how best to support Canada's creators and cultural entrepreneurs in the new digital environment.
Arts and Culture February 10th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the music lover from Pontiac for that question.
Canada has a reputation for itself when it comes to music. Members might ask “What Do You Mean?” Well, Drake, Justin Bieber, and The Weeknd are in the top 10 global recording artists of 2016. The world is saying, “Canada, baby, I like your style”.
When it comes to our music roster, we have a “really big team”, and we should go “tell your friends” about it. Our government is proud to “take care” of our recording artists. We have no reason to be “Sorry” for our dominance of the music charts, and look forward to more success in 2017.
Justice February 10th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to protecting human rights and official languages rights. In the context of the cross-country consultations on official languages, Canadians highlighted the importance of ensuring access to the legal system, which is why we reinstated the court challenges program, a program that has made a real difference in the lives of Canadians.
In order to get the program up and running right away, it was important to do it in the way that it has been done. The possibility of enshrining it into law is one that could be considered at a later date. However, in order to get these rights available to be supported, it has been necessary to do it in the way that it has been done.
Official Languages February 3rd, 2017
Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time I am rising in this role, I would like to say that I am very proud to be the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and to have the responsibility to speak to the subject of official languages. Our two official languages, French and English, are at the heart of our history and who we are. We have launched a Canada-wide consultation and we will analyze all the data that might support us in preparing our first official languages action plan that will come into effect in 2018.
School Principal Award February 3rd, 2017
Mr. Speaker, our teachers and school administrators play a key role in helping develop our youngest citizens into the best and brightest. They encourage us, they inspire us, and they help us see the potential within.
Earlier this week, The Learning Partnership named Erin Johnston, principal of Prince Street Elementary School in Charlottetown, one of Canada's outstanding principals.
Erin's devotion, enthusiasm, and experience are patently undeniable. Under her watch, the school created a clothing assistance program and a breakfast program for those in need of a meal in the morning. She is sincerely concerned about the well-being of her students.
Under her watch, reading scores are up, student leadership has increased, and students feel more positive about learning.
I have expressed my most sincere congratulations to Erin Johnston for this well-deserved recognition and honour.