The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.
Mr. Speaker, this is what the then Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, today the Minister of Industry, had to say on CBC News in Vancouver on May 3, 2011, the morning before the Conservative Party's re-election:
We have said that we will maintain or increase support for the CBC. That is our platform and we have said that before and we will commit to that.
Unfortunately, the Conservative government once again broke its commitment. Budget 2012 took a hatchet to Canada's national broadcaster, slashing $115 million from the budget.
That figure is a known fact. It is on page 34 of the 2014-15 estimates. Since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, CBC/Radio-Canada has lost $227 million in parliamentary appropriations, in 2014 dollars, which is equivalent to a cut of 18%—nearly one-fifth—of its budget.
Furthermore, CBC/Radio-Canada lost $7 million with the reduction of the Canada media fund and $47.1 million as a result of the CRTC's decision to put an end to the local programming improvement fund. When I asked a question in the House about how the cuts were affecting CBC/Radio-Canada, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages replied that the government was not involved in the corporation's decision to cut to services and jobs. How can she make such a claim? The budget cuts imposed by the government are certainly forcing the corporation to make drastic decisions, such as eliminating 657 full-time jobs and cutting a number of programs.
Today, in parliamentary committee, the minister told me that she was not the one who promised not to cut the CBC/Radio-Canada budget in 2011, only to cut it in 2012. She dissociated herself from her government. It is understandable that she did not want to be associated with a broken promise. In this context, it would be wrong to liken the cry of alarm from CBC employees to a corporatist reaction. Yes, the CBC is slowly dying, and we are reaching a breaking point.
It is important to realize that our public broadcaster has been living in the shadow of budget cuts since 1990. According to CBC/Radio-Canada's figures, in 2014 dollars, the corporation received $1,673,000,000 in parliamentary appropriations in 1990 and, in 2014, is receiving no more than $1,038,000,000, which represents a 38% decrease. Naturally, the combined effect of these cuts has weakened the institution. CBC/Radio-Canada has quantified the results.
Following recent cuts to parliamentary appropriations, the reduction of the Canada media fund and the elimination of the local programming improvement fund, the amount allocated by the government to the public broadcaster is only $29 per Canadian. That is much less than the $87 average for other developed democracies. Per resident, countries like Japan, Spain, Belgium and France financially support their public broadcaster twice as much as we do; Austria and the United Kingdom, three times more; Germany and Sweden, four times; Switzerland and Norway, five times. Only the United States and New Zealand are cheaper than we are.
Is there another country that needs a public broadcaster more than we do? Ours produces more national programming than all the private broadcasters combined. It offers local talents an irreplaceable springboard. It almost single-handedly provides broad coverage of international news. It is the only one to be required to provide programming that reflects a diverse country with two official languages, a country the size of a continent. It admirably serves the French cause in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, in addition to providing English-speaking Canada a voice that differs from the voice of American culture.
More than ever, Canada needs a quality public broadcaster. However, the broadcaster must receive the means it needs to carry out its mission in a rapidly changing world. The CBC does not have those means.
The corporation is increasingly forced to go after advertising revenue, at the risk of undermining its special status as a public service.
As our friends from the CBC remind us, our public broadcaster has increased its TV advertising by 33% since 2012, from 12 minutes to 16 minutes per hour. However, not only is the advertising market more segmented than ever, with 742 competing channels, but it is difficult to succeed when, like the CBC, a broadcaster does not have access to revenue from digital broadcasting. In a decade, the revenue from digital content has caught up with and is now exceeding the advertising revenue of traditional television.
CBC/Radio-Canada must stop being haunted by budget cuts that, year after year, are forcing the broadcaster to take a short-term patchwork approach. It is high time to provide the corporation with the resources it needs for proper planning—like the resources BBC has—and with multi-year, stable and predictable funding, over a five-year period perhaps.
The Broadcasting Act must be reviewed, because it has not been reviewed since 1991. The act does not even address digital content. It is crucial to reaffirm the independence of the public broadcaster, and as a first step to restore its autonomy in labour relations, which have been undermined by the Conservative government.
To justify the current cutbacks, the Conservative government often mentions those made by the Liberals, but that argument cannot hide a fundamental difference. We Liberals were forced to cut government spending to eliminate the huge structural deficit left behind by the previous Conservative government.
Despite that, we kept to the objective of preserving the public service, because we believed in its mission. As soon as the budget was balanced, we cautiously resumed investment in government action. That was true for CBC/Radio-Canada.
It is a fact that the Chrétien government had to reduce our public broadcaster's budget to get the nation's finances back in order. However, we did our best to protect its ability to fulfill its core mission, and once the budget was balanced, the Liberal government invested in the prestigious institution.
What a difference from today's situation, with the Conservative government imposing repeated drastic cutbacks on CBC/Radio-Canada motivated not so much by financial necessity as by the ideologically motivated desire of a large part of the Conservative caucus to dismantle this public institution.
It is a given that the Liberal government, if elected by Canadians in 2015, will impose an ironclad fiscal discipline on itself. However, this discipline will be based on proven and impartial data, not on ideological obsessions like the one of the Conservative government against the CBC.
The Liberal Party will combine fiscal discipline and firm support for CBC/Radio-Canada, as we believe that a strong public broadcaster is a critical part of maintaining and promoting Canada's diverse and rich culture in both official languages.
Conservative cuts have served as a severe setback for both the development and diffusion of innovative bilingual programming and have undermined CBC/Radio-Canada's capacity to fulfill its mandate, especially as it works to realign operational models to reflect 21st century program and consumption demands.
This brings us to motion moved by our colleague, the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, who is calling on the House to:
(a) reverse the $45 million in cuts for 2014-2015 in Budget 2012; and
(b) provide adequate, stable, multi-year funding to the public broadcaster so that it can fulfill its mandate.
The Liberal opposition supports this motion in that it is consistent with what we have been saying for some time now.
We would also add the notice of motion moved unsuccessfully, unfortunately, on May 13, 2014, by my Liberal colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain that the Standing Committee on Official Languages undertake a study on the impact of budget cuts on Radio-Canada’s programming for rural and urban francophone communities across the country.
There are many more things to be done, but the most important is for the government itself to truly believe in the essential mandate of a top-notch public broadcaster. The government must acknowledge that CBC/Radio-Canada provides an essential service to Canadians. It must acknowledge that and prove it through tangible actions, starting with supporting this motion.
Do not boo, because we lost. Seriously, we cannot rub it in any more than what it is. That is the passion we share.
As a child, I loved watching baseball. If I could bring the Montreal Expos back, I would bring them back tomorrow. God love them. The issue is not just about baseball or the Carnaval or the hockey that we share. The issue here, if I may steal something from a Canadian intellectual, the late Marshall McLuhan, is that the medium is the message.
Today, that is exactly why we are debating this. It is the medium that brought us the message of Canada. That medium is not just about radio, not just about television, not just about the Net or any social media out there, but it is about the existence of public broadcasting.
What worries me is there is a change in ideology. I know that once I sit down, I will be questioned about cuts that happened in the 1990s. I am well aware of that. There were budgetary constraints. The Liberals were under pressure to wrestle a massive deficit and tough decisions were made. It was not just the CBC that was affected. Other tough decisions had to be made as well. However, we never lost sight of the fact that public broadcasting was vital to our country. Funding was stabilized once the budget was back into balance.
What worries me, however, and I hope it is highlighted in this debate, is an ideology is creeping in that dictates, “Why should I pay for public broadcasting when private broadcasting can fill that space?” Through you, Mr. Speaker, to all my colleagues in the House, that is the most dangerous attitude we can have against any semblance of public broadcasting.
I believe that our private broadcasters are doing a wonderful service to our country. They donate to the Canada Media Fund, which is a wonderful program providing movies, documentaries, and funding for all these things that tell our story, not only to each other but to the world. However, our public broadcasting is incredibly sacrosanct.
I would like to talk about some of the issues of recent time. I noticed the motion itself calls for multi-year funding to the public broadcasters so it can fulfill its mandate. Indeed, in the last couple of elections we talked about that. It is really the only way we can go about doing this. The BBC does it, and it does it well. If members noticed, some of the best programming in drama is now coming from the BBC, a public broadcaster. One of the greatest worldwide news services, the most respected, is the BBC. We must look to other models around the world, and the BBC is one example, especially when it comes to multi-year funding.
I want to talk briefly about CBC/Radio-Canada and its history through the years.
It has been said that through 1920s, there was a proliferation of private radio stations in our country, but we also had a lot of private radio stations streaming across the border. The origins of public broadcasting are not dissimilar from the origins of public broadcasting around the world, which is to say that we need to protect our message here. This is becoming more difficult because of the regulations in place to help protect our Canadian culture, like Canadian content rules allowing certain channels on the satellite spectrum. There are certain regulations, but a lot of people are now able to get around that because of technology.
By way of example, there is Netfllix, or what is called an over-the-top broadcaster, essentially, through the Internet, because the CRTC does not regulate the Internet. Therefore, content is now streamed through our computers. We can get copies from iTunes and these sorts of things. There is a fundamental shift in content and how we deal with content now. We will have to subsidize content in the future, but in the meantime, the CBC started with the very basics of protecting our own culture.
In 1928, it established a royal commission to advise on the future of broadcasting in Canada.
Going ahead to the 1940s, the national public broadcaster took off.
In 1941, CBC news service was formally opened. Radio-Canada's news division was also created. As the next decade approached, getting into the 1950s, television was on the horizon and CBC/Radio-Canada was preparing.
In 1947, the corporation presented a 15-year plan for the development of television in Canada.
Throughout the 1950s, CBLT Toronto and CBFT Montreal began broadcasting.
In 1955, television services were available to 66% of the Canadian population. That is a pretty big goal and accomplishment for a country with a few million people, the second-largest country in the world, and most of this stuff was over-the-air transmissions.
In the 1960s, the regulatory framework was refined. The CRTC formally took over as the regulator. Before that, the CBC handled it.
In 1968, the new Broadcasting Act confirmed CBC/Radio-Canada's role in providing the national service. Therefore, 1968 was the year when we said that we had a national broadcaster, a public broadcaster, and, therefore, it should be enshrined and protected.
Recently, however, due to cuts, the CBC had to make some fundamental decisions on its service. It had to manage $390 million in financial pressures since 2009. Overall, these reductions have affected the equivalent of 2,107 full-time positions.
We talked about some of the numbers earlier in this debate. For people are just tuning in now, I would like to repeat some of those numbers because it is very vital that we do so. A lot of people think we may spend too much on public broadcasting, but let us put it into perspective. Each Canadian pays $29 per year for the combined services, CBC/Radio-Canada, but the worldwide average in other nations is $82. Of the 18 countries that invest heavily in public broadcasting, we are at number 16. Therefore, there is room to grow.
Again, I go back to what was in the original motion. We also have to provide a model for multi-year funding.
The services offered now to Canadians include 88 radio stations, 27 television stations, three all-digital services, two specialty television news services, RDI, CBC News Network , three other specialty television services, and 11 other services, including music channels and services in two official languages across six time zones. Therefore, we get the vastness of what our public broadcaster has to accomplish.
The 1980s saw a tremendous growth in the number of private and specialty channels. We went from a four- or five-channel universe to about a 60-channel universe in the 1980s, with American channels being the most prolific at the time, the CNNs of the world. We followed suit with Newsworld, which it was called at the time, the CBC component of an all-news channel. CTV did much the same. We had TSN as well as the Weather Network, MétéoMedia en français.
The corporation continues to push ahead this multi-channel universe. Throughout the 1990s, it was much of the same. All of a sudden we find ourselves now in the proliferation of not just channels but platforms. Therefore, we move into the digital world, providing content. The way we consume our entertainment through digital devices has changed dramatically. Tonight's Hockey Night in Canada starts at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Newfoundland time.
Basically, we are moving out of making appointments to see entertainment. What we are doing now is downloading content in our digital world. Whether it is to save it to view it another time or to stream it from a cloud or from the central service that is provided. CBC, our public broadcaster, has to fit its way into that.
However, what is interesting about that is it also provides a great deal of opportunities. Through one of these providers, lately I have downloaded—and paid for it, I might add—several programs that originated with the BBC. One has to wonder, with the BBC providing this content, if we could do much the same.
However, we have to get serious about content, and that is a conversation and a debate we should have in the future about not only the CBC but the National Film Board and the Canada Media Fund. We can look at Canadian content.
I thank the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher for bringing forward the motion. I hope the debate will be a fruitful one, despite the vote. We pretty much know how the vote will go, but in the course of this conversation, we can talk about fundamental reasons why we like our public broadcaster and how we can improve it, given technology today.
Mr. Speaker, once again I would like to thank my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher for his question and his efforts on behalf of CBC/Radio-Canada.
What is motivating the people in my riding is their pride in Canada. It is their passion for communication, the arts, information and the news. They like the information they get from CBC/Radio-Canada, which is impartial—which is not the case in the private sector—reaches every corner of our country and represents all Canadians.
I think it is this pride and passion for our country that is really behind the support for CBC/Radio-Canada. That is why it is so important to adequately fund this public institution.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher for his strong statement today and for his motion in support of the CBC.
For those who are watching this debate, this motion:
....calls on the government to: (a) reverse the $45 million in cuts for 2014-2015 in Budget 2012; and (b) provide adequate, stable, multi-year funding to the public broadcaster so that it can fulfill its mandate.
Let me just say first of all why we need a CBC. I want to begin with a quote from Canadian producer and director Peter Raymont. What he has said is:
I think the arts, arts programming on CBC English Television in particular, could really help revitalize the CBC. There's been very little arts programming on the CBC for quite a few years now. I think it's a great shame that the artists of Canada, the musicians and poets and writers and filmmakers of Canada haven't had their voices heard and their work seen on CBC television, and it's a vital part of Canadian culture and Canadian identity.
It is still very essential that Canadians share their stories. That is what the public broadcaster allows us to do. We need to be able to tell our stories, from every corner of this vast country, not just the big cities. I come from Toronto. My riding is Parkdale—High Park. However, we need to know the stories of big and small communities right across this country as part of our Canadian identity.
The government does not seem to like our Canadian institutions, whether it is Elections Canada, the Supreme Court, Canada Post, or now the CBC. These cuts seem to be part of a broader assault on our public institutions in Canada.
Let us face it: our national broadcaster is part of our nation-building. It is an important element of our country. We need to share our stories. There is no private sector replacement for what the CBC does. These cuts are preventing us from effectively telling our stories across this country.
What are the cuts I am talking about? The cuts we are talking about today are a direct result of the 2012 budget from the Conservatives. However, ever since coming to power, the Conservatives have had the CBC and Radio-Canada in their sites. They appointed Conservatives to top management positions and instructed them to literally take an axe to the institution.
As a direct result of the actions by the Conservative government now, but also previous Liberal governments, CBC/Radio-Canada has been weakened at the same time as it is trying to survive in an extremely competitive television market, and struggling to transform and keep up with the 21st century technology.
New Democrats question whether the CBC/Radio-Canada can actually fulfill its mandate under the current conditions, particularly in respect to the regions and minority language communities. We so badly need these voices to knit our country together and not allow us to build on our differences but rather to celebrate our differences.
It is disappointing that the new Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages seems to be pursuing the Conservative approach of abandoning this important Canadian institution.
The NDP believes in the importance of our public broadcaster. CBC/Radio-Canada should have an adequate, stable budget that affords it a measure of predictability. This would make it less susceptible to the whims of the advertising market and less affected by political influence, I might say, because they would not have to be as concerned about the government of the day.
These cuts are having a huge impact on the staff at CBC. We are losing hundreds of young people, good people who are the future of our broadcasting, people who could make a huge difference for this country.
I want to just quote Linden MacIntyre, the host of the fifth estate, who is talking about the 657 people who will lose their jobs under these cuts.
He is someone who stepped down to save one more job of a young person. Mr. MacIntyre has been a Canadian treasure in his role as host of the fifth estate. He said:
...the 657 people are young, bright, talented and they represent the future of the CBC. If we start losing them at this point, we are losing the future. It's a tragedy, it's a human tragedy and it's an institutional tragedy and, I suppose it's not pushing it to say, it's a national tragedy.
I agree. I believe that these cuts to CBC are indeed a national tragedy. However, it is not just the Conservatives, as I said, who have been making these cuts. It should be said that while they were in power in the 1990s, the Liberals imposed cuts on CBC and Radio-Canada to the tune of $400 million, and almost 2,500 people lost their jobs. The Chrétien era is generally accepted as the time when the troubles of the CBC and Radio-Canada began. It is on this terrible history of cuts that we are seeing these further cuts by the Conservatives today.
What does this mean to our major broadcaster? As I said, young talent is being lost, but we are also losing voices of Canadians. We are losing regional programming and diverse programming across this country and we are dropping in our ranking around the world. Among the 18 major western countries, Canada ranks 16th, third from the bottom, in terms of per capita public funding for public broadcasters, just ahead of New Zealand and the United States. That is sad testimony to the lack of support given to our public broadcaster.
This is a very important issue right across this country, but in my community and in my riding of Parkdale—High Park, it has been a huge issue. I have received hundreds and hundreds of emails, calls, and letters from community members who are very concerned about this series of cuts. I want to quote a couple of these letters. One of them, from a constituent named Joe, who is talking about now having advertising on CBC Radio. He writes:
I just heard the first ads on CBC Radio. Consider this a howl of outrage. Promise me the NDP will establish stable funding for the national public broadcaster so that we may be spared further erosion of this once-mighty institution. What's next, billboards on the side of the parliament buildings?
Joe can rest assured that the NDP will restore funding to the CBC.
I want to quote one other letter from a constituent named Cathy. She has copied me on a letter to the Prime Minister. This was about budget changes in 2012. She wrote to the Prime Minister:
Your disrespect for the intelligence of the Canadian people is transparent when you challenge the value of the CBC. At election time you suggested [you] would support continued funding for the CBC, but when handed a majority you've worked to de-construct an internationally respected network on the basis that it threatens your ideology. To lose the CBC or worse, make it a propaganda machine for any standing government is an offence to our democracy and evidence of your disassociation with the history of this vast nation and the irreplaceable role that the CBC has played in maintaining our ties as a nation. Decades of increasingly depleted funding and the staffing at upper echelons of Executive Officers prepared to dismantle the CBC, managing it as if it were a private company, continues to undermine the CBC's unique mandate to connect Canadians. Shame on you...
I thank Cathy for that letter, and I echo those words: Shame on the Prime Minister.
The NDP motion today is calling for stable, predictable, long-term funding for the CBC. Let us not attack our national broadcaster. Let us treasure it, preserve it, improve it, and leave it there for future generations for the benefit of all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher was in Winnipeg this weekend to celebrate the best of Canadian music at the Junos.
The proud people of Winnipeg were all about music last week, celebrating en masse how music brings culture to life and makes it travel the world.
Our music thrives from coast to coast, from Quebec City's Karim Ouellet and Burlington's own Walk Off the Earth, to Calgary's Tegan and Sara, the multi-talented and awarded Serena Ryder, and Métis band, A Tribe Called Red. Music in Canada is prolific, diverse, and alive.
I want to congratulate the winners of the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, iconic couple Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk, for all the work they have done with War Child Canada.
Times are changing for musicians as the digital world changes the way we access music. It is up to us as parliamentarians to make sure Canadian music shines and remains a strong cultural industry.
If the name is used in a quotation, the same rule applies. The member should replace it with the member's title or riding.
The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.
The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.
Order, please. The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher is rising on a point of order.
The electoral district of Longueuil--Pierre-Boucher (Quebec) has a population of 98,032 with 77,111 registered voters and 211 polling divisions.
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