Mr. Speaker, I move that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented on Thursday, October 5, 2006, be concurred in.
I am grateful for this opportunity to propose to all hon. members in this House that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage be concurred in.
This report reflects a motion adopted by the committee on October 4. The motion reads as follows:
|| That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommend that the government maintain the Museums Assistance Program (MAP) at the same level as in fiscal year 2005-2006, that a new museum policy be established, and that the Chair report the adoption of this motion to the House as soon as possible.
I should point out here that this motion was not unanimously passed by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. However, it was supported by a clear majority of members who are worried about the damage done by those who are killing Canadian and Quebec cultures.
On April 10, following the throne speech, which was unacceptably silent on culture, I expressed in this House the concerns that were emerging in Quebec and Canada's cultural sector.
I remember saying that many people are concerned about the future of culture in Quebec and in Canada under a Conservative government, and that some even believe that the term “culture” is not part of the Conservative vocabulary owing to the absence of any significant vision for culture in the throne speech.
I remember telling this government about the importance of culture, explaining that culture is what enables humankind to create a framework for itself and for its development. It helps us to think for ourselves. It enables us to understand the world and to contribute to changing it for the better.
I remember telling this government that, in Quebec, many of us believe that culture is key to having a sense of belonging to a community. It represents the essential fibre of the Quebec people; it influences its thoughts, words, actions and daily life, and it enables the development of individual members of that community. For Quebec culture, this reality is intertwined with the exceptional need to affirm itself and to encourage the expression of its uniqueness in North America.
I remember saying that the silence on the issue of culture leads us to anticipate a slow death of culture by destruction of the arts, artists, the next generation in Quebec, of Quebec's identity, by the liquidation of our cultural sovereignty. I remember saying that this destruction will strike a major blow to Quebec's humanist and progressive culture.
I also remember asking questions. Would the silence concerning culture in the Speech from the Throne be hiding rather the temptation of a massive intrusion by the private sector, with its alienating financial power, into arts and culture? Are we headed towards U.S.-style homogenization and will we eventually undergo the unilateral, impoverishing ideological marking of content in the publishing media? Are we going to witness the accelerated deterioration of our public television and radio services, followed fatally by privatizations and moronic ratings races to sell available brain time to consumerism?
I remember asking the government, on April 10, are we going to witness the dismantling of the museums? The answer to all these questions, and in particular that about Canadian and Quebec museums, was brutal: $4.6 million was hacked from museum budgets.
Museums are vital institutions in communities throughout Quebec and Canada. There are just over 2,000 exhibit spaces in Canada and, of those, more than 400 are in Quebec. We must consider that 40% of these spaces are considered seasonal. Also, exhibit spaces are divided into three types of space: museums, exhibition centres and interpretation centres.
Museums are not only cultural centres but also centres where the arts, history and science are displayed and interpreted.
Quebec and Canadian museums welcome 59 million visitors annually. They receive support from over 400,000 members and 55,000 volunteers.
Quebec museums alone, on average, welcome between 12 million and 13 million of these 59 million visitors annually and employ some 6,000 professionals and employees.
Museums bring citizens together and exhibit our achievements both here and abroad. Museums preserve our history, our art and our scientific and cultural achievements. They are places of learning, for teaching our children, adults and families; they play a major role in building collective identities and in social integration.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and the Standing Committee on Finance have presented successive recommendations to previous governments and the current government in favour of new investment in museums. The urgency of having a federal museum policy is supported by the current Government of Quebec, by the provinces and territories of Canada, by the tourist industry, the cities, municipalities and several other entities.
In light of this data, the Canadian Museums Association and the Société des musées québécois recently called on the Government of Canada to immediately honour the election promise by the Conservative Party of Canada to implement a new Canadian museum policy with multi-year funding for museums across Canada as soon as possible. And they were absolutely right to remind the Conservative government of the promises it made during the last election campaign.
It is in black and white. Wisdom guides us. On December 16, 2005, the Conservatives made clear promises that are well illustrated in the questionnaire and responses I will read to you.
Question 1 states:
|| Does the Conservative Party of Canada support the development of a new Canadian Museums Policy to replace the current policy that dates back to 1972?
Here is the Conservatives' response:
|| Yes, the Conservative Party of Canada supports the development of a new museums policy for Canada. Canadians want to see the country's rich heritage protected and preserved for this generation and for future generations. It is not acceptable that this policy has not been updated and that Canadian museums have been neglected by the federal Liberal government. A Conservative government looks forward to working with the Canadian Museums Association to develop a revitalized and renewed vision for Canada's museums.
Question 2 read as follows:
|| Does the Conservative Party support the CMA's principal objectives for a new policy:
||a. preserve Canada's national heritage, including artifacts of key importance held in museums across Canada;
||b. support museums in their role as important economic engines in the revitalization of cities and communities;
||c. increase engagement of citizens, visitors, volunteers, and members by greater outreach to community groups and the general public; and
||d. stabilize the capacity of museums to achieve these objectives through multi-year funding, endowment programs, tax incentives, and so on.
The Conservatives answered as follows:
|| Yes, the Conservative Party of Canada supports these objectives. A Conservative government would look forward to discussing these policy objectives with the Canadian Museums Association and to developing a new policy for Canada's museums which allows us to fully realize these objectives.
Question 3 asked:
|| Does the Conservative party support the investment of $75 million per year, as recommended by the CMA, in sustained, multi-year, predictable programs, to meet these policy goals?
The Conservative Party answered, and I quote:
|| As was confirmed at our policy convention last spring, the Conservative Party of Canada affirms the federal government's role in the preservation of Canada's natural and historical heritage (such as national parks, museums and historic sites) for the benefit and enjoyment of all and as an enduring reminder to all Canadians of our common inheritance. The Conservative Party of Canada supports stable, long term funding—
And I stress the words:
||stable, long term funding for Canada's museums.
And they continued:
|| We believe that continuity of programming is important and can only be achieved through stable, predictable funding. Canada's museums conduct the valuable work of educating Canadians about their nation's rich history through their conservation and preservation efforts.
This is still the Conservatives speaking.
|| Canadians are avid visitors to our museums and enjoy viewing museum exhibitions and collections, but many do not recognize that the “behind the scenes” work of conservation and collections management is expensive and labour-intensive. Canada's museums make this look effortless—
How compassionate. It continued:
||—but are increasingly strained by a lack of funding.
This is the Conservatives speaking.
|| Although we would need to see a definitive plan before making a specific funding commitment, please be assured that generous funding for Canada's museums would be a priority for a Conservative government.
Big words. Big mouths. Easier said than done. A hundred rejections hurt less than one broken promise, wisdom teaches.
In reality, the answer of the Conservatives, these culture poachers and vultures, is a brutal one: a $4.6 million slash in the museums assistance program.
Last October 4, the Société des musées québécois passed resolutions at its annual general meeting in the Saguenay region asking the Conservative government to keep its election promise and adopt a new museum policy as soon as possible along with funding to provide multi-year support for museums. They also asked the Conservatives, as the Bloc Québécois has been doing, to revoke their decision to cut the budget of the museums assistance program until a new museums policy has been adopted.
The $4.6 million in budget cuts announced over the next two years amount to one-quarter of the funding currently provided under MAP. If the 50% in budget cuts over the last 10 years is added to that, for the Canadian heritage minister to announce these reductions is totally incomprehensible, especially when the federal government is telling us that it is running a $13 billion surplus.
This situation is all the more paradoxical in view of the fact that the Conservative government is campaigning to have the convention on cultural diversity ratified by as many countries as possible and this convention requires the signatories to ensure a fair income for their artists so that they can make their voices and works felt on the national and international scenes. Ultimately, the Conservative government is making a decision that undercuts this convention and shows no consideration for the difficult situation facing artists and producers who show their works.
This is extremely disturbing news for the Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Québec, which is trying to persuade Canadian museum directors to pay visual artists more for their exhibition and reproduction rights—these people, whose average annual income is about $3,500, will be the first to suffer from Ottawa’s decision—but also for all Quebec museums, which suffer from chronic under-funding. Cutting the rations of museums is no way for this government to contribute to the development of the cultural and artistic forces in Quebec and Canada.
While elsewhere in the western world museums are doing tremendously well thanks, in part, to substantial government financial support, museums in Quebec and Canada have been suffering from chronic under-funding for nearly a quarter of a century now and are growing ever weaker.
Allow me to share some reactions to these cuts. In a press release, the Société des musées québécois denounces the cuts made by the Government of Canada.
|| Montreal, September 26, 2006
|| The Société des musées québécois was dismayed to learn late yesterday that the Minister of Canadian Heritage was cutting the budgets of some of her department's programs. These cuts are devastating to museums, because the only Canadian Heritage program dedicated exclusively to museums will be reduced by roughly $4.6 million over two years. In fact, these cuts represent a 25% decrease in the already inadequate museums assistance program (MAP) envelope.
|| According to Guy Vadeboncoeur, president of the SMQ, “this is extremely disturbing news for museums in Quebec, which have suffered from underfunding for several years already”. The museum community is especially surprised at these cuts because last week, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage tabled a report and a recommendation in favour of a new museum policy for Canada.
|| The situation is also paradoxical, because these cuts affect the mounting and circulation of numerous art, history and science exhibits. Recently, consultations had been held to examine MAP's parameters. They showed the strategic importance of this program and underscored the inadequacy of the program envelope—
Here is the reaction to the cuts to the MAP from the Canadian Museums Association, which was in shock.
|| Ottawa, September 25, 2006
|| Late this afternoon, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Hon Bev Oda, announced a series of cuts to her department. In particular we are alarmed that the Museums Assistance Programs has been selected for a $4.6 million cut. MAP is the one program that is dedicated solely to museums.
|| We are shocked, puzzled and feel betrayed by these cuts—
Quebec and Canada are on the same wavelength on this.
I will conclude with the reaction of the Quebec minister of culture and communications, Ms. Beauchamp. The headline of the article that appeared in the Journal de Montreal on September 29, 2006, read:
|| MINISTER BEAUCHAMP IS WORRIED
|| Ottawa announces $4.6 million in cuts to museums.
|| In a press release yesterday, the Quebec minister of culture and communications, Line Beauchamp, expressed her concern following the federal government's decision to cut $4.6 million from its museums assistance program...For Quebec museums, this could mean a shortfall of over $500,000 annually.
The Quebec minister of culture and communications said:
|| I am surprised by the federal government's decision to slash the museum assistance program, while considerable effort is being made in Toronto to bring together tourism and culture...Museums are a main component of tourism products across the country.
Later, the article went on:
|| According to Minister Beauchamp, the federal government's cuts only undermine Quebec's ongoing efforts to strengthen its museum network.
In light of all my arguments, my proposal to adopt the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage represents a simple gesture inspired by the desire to protect our museums. We must, absolutely, resist this civilized-seeming barbarity.
Mr. Speaker, first, concerning the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, it must be remembered that, for years in this House, the Bloc Québécois and other parties, such as the NDP, have urged that the budget of $151 million be doubled in order to provide artists, creators and artisans with a decent living. When we see an addition of $20,000 one year and $30,000 the next year, I have to laugh. We are far from the results that the museum community expected.
There are a great many creative people in this country, who, out of frustration due to the denial of their applications, give up their essential passion. The cultural situation outside Quebec may be different. I say different because in Quebec, as I have said previously, culture is essential to the survival of the Quebec identity. The more creative people who are at work, the more artisans and artists there are, the greater is the hope for the long-term survival of our culture and history, because it is through culture that one makes one's mark on history and reaches people's hearts.
I return to the savings that were made in the museums assistance program (MAP). I am astounded that any savings would be made in this program because it is a residual amount that has gone back into the public treasury every year. But let us be clear on this subject. We need to put several factors into perspective. When an application is submitted, there is a delay in the response. Projects have to be carried out within a fiscal year, between April 1 and March 31. If a project goes beyond March 31, it is turned down. Some projects, even after approval, have to be abandoned before they can be carried out because people are desperately waiting for a cheque that never comes.
The government is very much aware of this Machiavellian ambiguity—let us call it that—and plays the game marvellously. Without imputing motives, it practices financial retention in a calculated manner. It should be known that the museum assistance program is divided into three components: access and exhibition, aboriginal heritage and organizational development.
Under this program, the minister decides at his or her—in this case her—own discretion, in accordance with utterly obscure criteria, what portion of the budget will be allocated to each of the program components, in a proportion that is unknown to the museums, even though applications are made every year. Only departmental officials know the percentages, and they are not allowed to disclose them.
Let us suppose that the minister, with her discretionary power, were to decide to favour the aboriginal component by providing $6 million from an $11 million budget. The other two components would share the remaining $5 million. Suppose that the aboriginal component only submitted one eligible project worth $20,000; that would leave $5 million and change that would never be spent under the program.
It is impossible for officials to transfer unspent monies from one component to another. The minister's directive is in force for the whole year unless she decides to change it along the way. That is the reality. Figures are juggled when it suits the government that wants to save money on the backs of the most vulnerable and on the backs of the ambassadors of our identity.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in this debate. While the member opposite seems intent on distorting the record of this government, I will attempt to engage in a higher level of debate and discuss the importance of museums in this country.
I want to begin by congratulating the committee that I am part of, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, for drawing to the attention of the House the importance of the role that the collective heritage of our country plays. For over 13 years of Liberal rule, museums were left on the back burner. Nothing was done. This government recognizes the important role that museums play in terms of our society and our culture.
I want to speak about the importance of heritage to all Canadians and about the safeguarding of our heritage for the benefit of our current and future generations. Heritage is a vital aspect of all of our lives. It binds us to our past, to each other and to our country, Canada.
The standing committee's motion reminds us of the important aspects of our cultural policy. Canadians connect to their heritage and each other in their communities and mobilize hundreds of thousands of volunteers to cherish the places, the stories and the objects that epitomize the spirit of the communities they live in.
There are over 2,500 museums and related heritage institutions across this country. They range from the tiniest historical society, entirely staffed by volunteers, to the largest institutions with encyclopedic collections and international reputations.
Through our heritage, we are able to reflect with pride and confidence as a nation about our accomplishments throughout our past. Since Confederation, the federal government has played an active role in cultural heritage, beginning with the creation of our national heritage institutions to preserve heritage objects, records, buildings and sites significant to Canada. The Government of Canada makes its greatest investment in the sector as guardian of our national collections.
The federal government is not alone in the efforts to preserve Canada's heritage. All levels of government across the country own and support heritage assets within their areas of jurisdiction. While the Government of Canada makes its greatest investment in our national museums, it also recognizes that all across this country our collective memory finds its home in museums.
Canada's new government recognizes the efforts and the actions of our provincial and municipal governments, which make, at the local level, a major effort in terms of protecting our national historical documents and our historical items so they will not be irreplaceably lost.
This government also recognizes the efforts and actions of countless community leaders across this country who serve as volunteer board members of not for profit museums, who give generously of their time and their financial resources, and who are actively involved in fundraising.
As the said when he introduced the budget in May of this year, “Charities”--and museums are included in this definition--“play an invaluable role in assisting Canadians, and in contributing to our sense of community and to important projects in the cultural, educational and social sectors”.
Canada's new government has made it more attractive for taxpayers to make donations to charity. In the 2006 federal budget, Canada's new government eliminated the capital gains on donations of publicly listed securities and registered charities. This new measure is already having a dramatic impact on charitable giving across Canada and will provide significant benefits to the arts and cultural communities, including museum communities.
I want to speak about our commitment to the preservation of national collections. As I indicated, since Confederation the federal government has played an active role in preserving our cultural heritage. The Government of Canada allocated approximately $140 million in the 2005-06 budget to national museums and a further $90 million to Library and Archives Canada.
Our national collections are national treasures and belong to all Canadians. I am reminded of the words of the great Nova Scotian Joseph Howe, who said, “A wise nation preserves its records, gathers up its monuments, decorates the tombs of its illustrious dead, repairs its great public structures, and fosters national pride and love of country...”.
In 1880 the Governor General inaugurated the first official exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy and launched the National Gallery of Canada at the Clarendon Hotel in Ottawa.
Many of the hon. members in the House today have visited the Canadian Museum of Nature in the Victoria Memorial building, but I do not know how many know that the Victoria Memorial building is the birthplace of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The Victoria Memorial building opened to the public in 1912 and was one of the earliest buildings in Canada designated as a museum to preserve and showcase collections.
In the late 1950s, the single National Museum of Canada was divided into two branches, the National Museum of Natural Sciences, dedicated to natural history, and the National Museum of Man, representing human history, both housed in the Victoria Memorial building. The building has also housed the national collection of fine arts.
Today we have four national museums. The Museum of Man is now the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Together with its affiliate, the Canadian War Museum, it tells a story of human achievements and sacrifice. The Canadian Science and Technology Museum helps the public understand the ongoing relationship between science and technology and Canadian society. The National Gallery of Canada is proud to present outstanding Canadian art, together with its international collection.
In 1990 the National Museum of Natural Science became the Canadian Museum of Nature and continues to occupy the Victoria Memorial building. The Canadian Museum of Nature has embarked on a renewal project marking its 150th anniversary. The project includes extensive renovations of the 90 year old building that is recognized for several reasons as a national historic site. It takes a fair bit to do, because the extensive renovations have to respect the fact that it is a national historic site. I was there on October 20 for the grand re-opening of the west wing. It means that new activities, programs and special exhibits will continue to delight visitors as they walk through this wonderful new expansion.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization is also celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2006. With its scholarly expertise, extensive collections, absorbing exhibitions, stunning architecture and high standards of operation, the Canadian Museum of Civilization is a source of pride and inspiration for Canadians and is one of the most visited cultural attractions in the nation's capital.
Close behind is its affiliate, the Canadian War Museum, which attracted over 575,000 visitors in its first 11 months of operation. That is unbelievable. Its new building has won many architectural design and construction awards in both national and international competitions.
I also want to speak about some of the other federal government initiatives that we are involved in to preserve our heritage.
The Cultural Property Export and Import Act came into force in 1977. The act regulates the import and export of cultural property and provides special tax incentives to encourage Canadians to donate or sell important objects to public institutions in Canada.
The act protects objects of cultural significance to Canada by regulating their export. It also supports Canada's obligations to international agreements that prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural property. Lastly, it assists designated, well-managed custodial institutions and public authorities to acquire cultural property and to apply to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board to have donations certified as cultural property for income tax purposes.
The government assists designated institutions and public authorities in acquiring outstanding artifacts that might otherwise be threatened. More than 600 major collections and objects have been retained or recovered from outside of Canada with support from the government through this program. For example, the government recently helped the Royal Alberta Museum to acquire important first nations and Métis artifacts from the 1840s and 1850s, acquired in 1859 during the travels of a Canadian throughout the plains.
In March 2006 Canada's new government announced that Canada has agreed to the two protocols of the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, known as the Hague convention. The protocol came into force in Canada on March 1, 2006.
The Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Act is also something that addresses two key objectives that are important to Canadians. First, it increases access for Canadians to Canada's and the world's heritage through the exchange of artifacts and exhibitions in Canada. Second, it provides Canadian art galleries, museums, archives and libraries with a competitive advantage when competing for the loan of prestigious international exhibitions.
Through an indemnification, the government assumes financial risk for potential damage or loss in major travelling exhibitions should this occur. In the first five years, the program indemnified 46 exhibitions valued at $7 billion, without a single claim for financial compensation, saving Canada's museums more than $20 million in insurance.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is currently reviewing the first five years of operation of the act. I look forward to hearing and being involved in the committee's review of this matter.
The museum sector encompasses the national museums, the provincial museums and other major collections, the mid-sized institutions in regional centres, aboriginal cultural centres, and small community institutions that reflect local experiences of the forces that helped shape Canada. Each segment of the sector has a role to play in Canada's heritage sector and each segment must contend with unique issues.
Canada's new government is meeting with museums and representatives of the museum sector to discuss priorities and to develop a renewed vision for the role of museums in the 21st century.
Provincial and municipal governments also share an interest and a responsibility in the preservation of museums. We will continue to recognize the responsibility of other levels of government as we undergo this process. We will take the time necessary to get it right.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak about this important issue this afternoon and I will entertain any questions.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the issue of culture and identity, two words that keep coming up. They are two words that we take very seriously, certainly in my esteemed neck of the woods in the eastern part of this country, Newfoundland and Labrador.
I have always looked at the province of Newfoundland and Labrador as brimming over with culture, as the expression goes. Certainly, anyone who travels there bears witness to what a beautiful place it is.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, Newfoundland and Labrador has gone through a lot in the way of a downturn in its traditional industries, such as the fishery. Tourism, however, has been a small gem for many areas of my province and for many areas of Atlantic Canada. One only needs to look at places like Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia where tourism is on the increase. One of the big reasons, and I would argue one of the major reasons, is the infrastructure that now exists, an investment in a vast amount of infrastructure that dedicates itself toward our culture and identity as people who live in Newfoundland and Labrador, or on the east coast in general.
To me what truly represents Canada is the diversity of culture across the entire country, whether it is in British Columbia, the north, certainly Quebec, and now Atlantic Canada as I have mentioned. The museum assistance program represents a vast investment into parts of this country that certainly show themselves to the world. For the past five or six years the numbers would dictate that a lot more travellers are coming to this country from other parts of the world to celebrate our culture, as we like to do ourselves.
One of the reasons I really like the museum assistance program is it provides the funding for the incorporated non-profit Canadian museums. So many volunteers give their time and their expertise to so many organizations, institutions and museums across this country. It is absolutely outstanding. The volunteers in this country who give up so much of their time to celebrate our culture have been absolutely outstanding. I think some of our greatest volunteers are in my part of the country, in Newfoundland and Labrador. I commend them all because to put up our culture to the world shows just how proud we are of that culture.
Approximately nine years ago we celebrated our 500 years in Newfoundland and Labrador. What a celebration it was in the town of Bonavista, which is one of the oldest towns in all of North America. It established that link between the old world and the new world with a replica of the Matthew, the first ship to come over to this country about 500 years ago. Before that, we celebrated the Vikings in L'Anse aux Meadows up on the northern peninsula.
The volunteers and the money that we have invested into infrastructure showed to the world that we have a good sense of who we are and our identity has been celebrated because of that.
The MAP funding is available under certain components. That is how the program has worked. Access to heritage, the exhibition circulation fund, aboriginal heritage, organizational development, and the Canada-France agreement are some of the programs accessed by many people across this country. As some of my hon. colleagues talked about , all the data is there, the work has been done and now all we need is to say yes to our cultural organizations across the country.
A short time ago members of the committee had the pleasure of welcoming Exporail, celebrating our linkage to the railway. Let us face it. The railway is what brought us to who we are as Canada. Being the second largest nation in the world, we certainly have a great appreciation for our geography. The railway, and the establishment of it, has shown that to us.
Anyone who has the chance should see the fantastic museum in Saint-Constant, Quebec. That is the place to celebrate our heritage when it comes to railways. There is also one in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, which also celebrates our connection to the railway. I encourage all members of the House to take advantage of this.
I mentioned earlier that Newfoundland is celebrating 500 years. I also mentioned the fact that the Vikings first landed on Newfoundland and Labrador. It was somewhat of a contentious issue I might add. Thousands and thousands of visitors over the last couple of years have come to celebrate with us. To me that is the essential link between our government, a museum assistance program and the ability of my constituents and all Canadians to show the world exactly who we are. It gives them a reason to be very proud.
I want to talk about some of the programs the museums assistance program has helped benefit over the past couple of years. In Newfoundland and Labrador alone, these include groups such as the St. Michael's Printshop. We are also involved with the National Tour of Possessions and Speaking our languages, in conjunction with the provincial museum of Newfoundland and Labrador and the professional development program. A lot of this helps us to gather information and present it. It provides essential support for many volunteers across the country and for staff as well. These programs alone will testify. Anyone who has been into the museum rooms in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador will see the celebration and linkage to the old world.
My hon. colleague from Churchill and northern Manitoba pointed out the Métis National Heritage Centre. The Manitoba Métis Federation received money to conduct a feasibility study for the centre. It is an incredible program. It helps find the information, creates the links and gives something to our young, a sense of identity and pride. It is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our next generation.
I also commend some of the projects ongoing in Prince Edward Island such as the museum development project by the Community Museums Association of Prince Edward Island and the Confederation Centre Art Gallery exhibition, “To a Watery Grave”.
I will go back to my riding once again and talk about Bonavista. Certain events over time have defined us. They may be good times, they may be tragedies, but they reflect who we are. My hon. colleague brought up the term “diversity”.
What a perfect way to show the diversity across the country when we visit the museums and institutions of Manitoba and we hear about the struggles of the Métis. The residential school museum project is also part of the museums assistance program. We also have British Columbia and Quebec. It is quite fascinating to go through rural Quebec and see some of the older churches. It is the same for our urban areas as well.
I commend the people who do much of this work behind the scenes. The bureaucrats involved in Canadian Heritage do a tremendous amount of work, and we commend them for that. They want to get in there and get every area of our country represented. This program is all about that.
I congratulate my hon. colleagues for bringing this issue to the floor. I also commend our committee for doing the work. I also commend a colleague of mine, who I served with on the heritage committee, the hon. member for , chair of the heritage committee. He has brought this matter up quite often. I commend him for the works he has done and continues to do. He has been an inspiration to us all.
I hope he manages over the next little while to convince his colleagues, when it comes to investment in our museums, no matter how big or small they are, small town or big town, that one step forward and two steps back is really not the way to go. Essentially that is what we are seeing.
Commitments were given in the election. Now recent cuts show that the Conservatives were maybe not as sincere as we had first thought, and what a crying shame. As my hon. colleague pointed out earlier, with the information that is there and the commitments that have been given, the logical step now is to make this happen, certainly for my province and for the entire country.
My hon. colleague, who spoke earlier, talked about his sincerity, about protecting our cultural institutions such as the national museums in Ottawa and other museums across the country. Let us go forward with that. Let us not say to them that we will cut this now and maybe do something in the future. One of the biggest problems with our cultural institutions is that they need the core funding to allow them to operate. It gives them the flexibility by which they can make the long term plans. Let us bring some clarity to this. Let us find out what they stand for and bring this forward to the House for a vote.
I support my colleague, the member for , in his efforts to do this. I congratulate him as well as my hon. colleague, the member for , from the northern part of Ontario, who, like me, represents a lot of small communities that love to put their culture out there for public to see.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss this issue today. I think it is a very important issue and I thank my colleague from the Bloc for bringing this forward today.
When we are talking about a commitment that was made to museums, we have to place it in context of the political rollout that has happened with these cuts. We have not heard from the government that tough decisions had to be made, that this is difficult, and that it wants to work with those in the museum sector who have lost a major share of their funding.
What we heard is ridicule. I was there when the made his announcement. He was emphatic. In fact, he seemed almost gleeful. He said he was going after programs that were wasteful, inefficient, and completely out of touch with average Canadians. That is what he said.
He did not say that some of these programs needed to be tweaked and could be better if we got stakeholder interest. He attacked these programs. The program he attacked in heritage was our museums program. The finance minister followed up with the same sort of gleeful contempt saying that he did not mind saying no to what he considered a bad idea.
I have a question for these minister. Are the museums that we have in Canada a bad idea? Are they wasteful? Are they inefficient?
We had a colleague from the Conservatives who just left who said that in choosing where to cut they went after programs that did not deliver value for money. He used the example that some $240 million a year is spent on museums, so why are we trifling about 1% or 2% that is being taken out of the MAP?
That is a code word. That money is given to Ottawa and Toronto, to the three or four big museums. The government did not cut those. No, it cut every small museum in the country.
When the government says that these are not delivering value for money, it is sending a message to Gander, Newfoundland, to Moose Jaw, to Timmins and other small communities. That message is, “Buzz off. Your story is not part of our story. If we're going to fund something, it will be one, two or three of the large national centres. We will continue to put money in there, but for your museums you can continue to find ways to raise your own funding like bake sales”.
I think this discussion is very important now. We have had this discussion over and over again about where we need to go with the museums policy. We have looked at the problems with the MAP. One of the things that is very clear is how do the voices of the small regions of Canada fit into some sort of national voice? How is it part of a national significance? That is one of the criteria for federal funding. The museum, the story and the history has to be part of a national significance.
I have always found, as a writer of history and the arts, that we are arbitrary in what we consider nationally significant stories and what stories we consider absolutely not worth funding. This is an important issue for museums.
Across Canada, since 1990, we have seen a 40% drop in attendance at museums. Museums are struggling to reinvent themselves because history is not objective. History is not something that exists out there. History is reinterpreted all the time. For a museum to keep pace with changing demographics and changing cultural attitudes, it must change its own presentations and programs of study which requires research. It requires a commitment between museums and educational institutions. It requires funding in order to rediscover histories that have been erased and deliberately forgotten. We know of stories all across Canada where our histories have been forgotten.
I am from the mining community of Timmins. As a little boy growing up I always felt that the story of the people who came to work, the multi-ethnic families who worked in the hard rock mines of northern Ontario and northern Quebec, were not represented in any national story.
We did not fit the sort of two dimensional tableau by which we tell our stories: the prairie print dresses in Saskatchewan; the happy bûcheron; the roller piano player in the Klondike; the story of families who came over from Yugoslavia, Finland, and my own family who came from the slums of Dundee, Scotland. These families were sent underground, entire multi-ethnic communities, with men who died at age 41 of silicosis.
These stories were never part of a larger sense of history. I always had my own desire to find where this history was and who could tell the story. I spent many years doing oral histories, meeting people, and realizing that there is a much larger sense of history out there than the history that is often presented to us in schools. The museums recognize this and the need to be reinventing themselves.
When we talk about a museums policy, a lot of that work has been done. This work was laid out. The issues were brought forward. Last year I met with museums from across northern Ontario to talk about what we would need in terms of a museums policy that we could present to the government so we could get some action. What we are being told now by the government is that not only is it going to take the money, but it will give the vague promise of a new policy somewhere down the road. That is not good enough.
What we are seeing right across Canada is that museums are suffering now from years and years of underfunding in terms of their ability to maintain capital costs, collections and artifacts in carefully enclosed areas. The discussion that arose is that somehow this MAP was not delivering value for money. My colleague from Gander was saying that money was not spent and perhaps they did not know how to spend it.
What strikes me as amazing in this situation is that I have met with people from museum after museum who said they have tried to work with heritage officials. They tried to get a program that responded to the needs of museums across this country. What did we see? Since 1995-96, when the program was at $11.8 million, there was spending of only $8 million, $7.9 million, $8.3 million or $7.2 million. Year after year the program was not being utilized.
I asked the minister in the House this question. Why was it not utilized and was this part of what the government said was wasteful, inefficient and out of touch? Was it that the museums somehow did not bother to apply for this funding?
The minister's assistant said there was an issue of sophistication. The word used was “sophistication”, as if the museums all across Canada are just a bunch of country bumpkins that do not know how to fill out the forms properly. I would suggest that was not the case at all.
Unfortunately, under the former Liberal government there was a program in place that did not meet the needs of museums across this country. Year after year museums were asking for help and did not get it. Year after year the Liberal government was throwing that money into the surplus.
Now we come to this so-called new government. Canadian museums across this country needed a champion. They needed a government that was willing to fight for them and say that the museums were right, that year after year this program was not meeting their needs and the government will make it meet their needs.
However, no, they did not get a champion. What did they get? They got a pack of ideological buzzards who set upon them, feasted upon them and, not only that, crowed upon them when they were done. That is what we have seen here.
The government said it was taking the money back, money that the museums were never able to access. It said it was going to take the money back and give it to its buddies in tax cuts. That is an unacceptable situation. We needed a minister who was willing to sit down and make this program work. Unfortunately, she has been more like an absentee landlord.
Why are our museums not able to access these funds? I will give an example. I was speaking with an arts organization the other day that had successfully applied for the cultural spaces program. It is six months into the year and it has not seen a penny. It is waiting. The government committed, but no money has flowed.
In fact, one of the bureaucrats from the Department of Canadian Heritage wished the person good luck in using the money as the museum would need a full time staff person just to administer the amount of money it was receiving. We are not talking about a very large amount of money.
The Ontario Métis and Aboriginal Association has not received any money this year from the funding commitments of the government. In fact, it has not received money from last year. It has been running on empty halfway through the fiscal year because of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
I would say that culture is not the only “c” word that our government and our minister seems to have a problem with. I would say that contracts, commitments and capability might be other questions that need to be asked. When the minister was in opposition she heard the problems and she knew what the problems were. They were discussed, brought forth and she presented herself as a champion.
During the election, the Conservatives told our museums that they would support them by bringing forward increased funding. What we hear now is claptrap, another “c” word, claptrap from the government that the museums never bother to deliver good value for money. Why did the Conservatives not say that in the election? Why did they not have the guts to tell people?
Another fiction that is being thrust upon the House by the Conservative Party is that we will all be sitting around the heritage committee working with the government on a new museums policy. We do not need a new museums policy. Canadian museums do not need to hear the heritage committee talk for another year. They need some action. They need that money put into programs.
What we are seeing here are the 12 steps for doing nothing. The government has laid out a course of action in terms of our museums and our other arts programs, which is to do nothing.
I would like to read Sir Humphrey Appleby's twelve steps for doing nothing. Sir Appleby is on a well-known U.K. television show. He says, first, informal discussions; second, a draft proposal; third, preliminary study; fourth, a discussion document; fifth, an in-depth study; sixth, a revised proposal; seventh, a policy statement; eighth, a strategy statement; ninth, a discussion of strategy; tenth, circulation of an implementation plan; eleventh, the revision of the implementation plan; and twelfth, cabinet agreement. However, guess what? In a minority government, we will not even bother getting to step 12, so here we are at step 1 again.
The Conservatives have taken millions out of the program and we are back at step one. The Museums Association is supposed to come into the House and kiss the ring of the absentee landlord ministry and say “Thank you, Madam Minister, for not only taking our money, but putting us back to the first step out of the 12 step program when we thought we were at step 12. What a wonderful situation”. For me to be standing in the House and talking about it is an outrage.
I was told by one of our former members that we should be talking about important things in the House like terrorism rather than the fact that our cultural sector is going down the tubes.
It is incredible that we have put in place a minister who has basically sat back on issue after issue and done nothing. We are seeing major issues that are being brought before government right now that will forever change cultural policy in this country. The government is talking about its commitment to UNESCO, its commitment to cultural diversity and yet there is a complete undermining of our cultural industries, the people who create our notion of culture.
A series of issues are coming forward right now. The CRTC review of television will have profound implications. The government is over in Geneva right now pushing for the Telecom deregulations, Telecom, which is now our delivery system for our forms of culture. We need a mandate review of CBC and it is obviously not happening. The minister appears to have choked in Banff on her commitment to hold a mandate review.
In terms of the television sector, where so much of our culture is being delivered, serious decisions are being made right now and we have heard nothing from the government. We have heard lots from the industry minister. The industry minister has been on record. He is telling CRTC to let the market forces rule. If we talk about culture in the House we will hear members from the Conservative Party ask what business it is of Parliament to tell a private industry how to run its business.
Those private industries receive the right to the public airwaves. They do not have to compete. Those airwaves belong to the people of Canada and in belonging to the people of Canada, there are certain commitments and requirements that go along with it, which is the entire cornerstone of our cultural policy in this country. That policy is being undermined at this moment and we have no plan from the government other than to sit back, wait and watch it fall.
This brings me back to my earlier metaphor which is that we need a champion in culture but instead we have a pack of ideological buzzards.
I want to go back to the issue of museum policy in this country. This government told people it would make--
Mr. Speaker, I made sure I did not call anyone in particular a buzzard. I was referring to the general term. Would I call it a murder of crows or a flock but perhaps flock is not correct? I will not use that expression a second time, as long as I got it in the first two times I will be pleased.
I have been thrown off my discussion and I must get back to what we are talking about. We are talking about the fact that a government told an arts and cultural sector that it would be there for them. It told them that it would commit because it recognized that this was a sector that for years had been underfunded.
We are not talking about a sector that had received adequate funding. People understood that the museums across this country were having serious problems and that an infusion of cash was needed. Meanwhile, some of the cash was sitting there.
What the government could have easily done is it could have worked with the museum sector to ensure the money flowed. The government would not have needed to increase it because the money was there but it did not. It took the money back while it was sitting on a $13 billion surplus and then turned around and told this House and the public that the museums were not delivering value for money and that they were wasteful and inefficient.
It is the insult to the injury that has to be opposed here most strenuously. We also need to clarify the misinformation that is coming from the government that it has only cut 1% out of the $240 million. It has in fact cut 25% of the funding that goes to every regional museum across the country. In doing so, the government has undermined the ability of smaller regional museums to partake in a national conversation, to tour exhibits and to work together, a number of museums working together to create stories that are of national significance. Under the present government these stories will not matter. The government will put its money into two, three or four main urban museums and leave everyone on the sidelines. That is not acceptable.
What we need in this House is a commitment. We need to tell our cultural arts sector, not only that they are the ones who tell our stories and make of us a nation, but that they are also a serious industry. These museums are a serious player in the creation of jobs. If we go to any small town in Canada and ask people in the town about their tourism strategy, what do they point to? They point to their museum. Every small town knows that culture is what brings in tourists and tourists play a major role in the ability of our smaller communities to survive. Our regions understand the value of art and culture in terms of economic development but the government does not seem to have a clue.
The government does not seem to think that culture is anything other than some kind of soppy waste for the left wing socialists. I would argue that culture is an industry that needs a commitment and, if there ever was a time, we need it now.
In terms of the Canadian Television Fund, where is the government on its commitment to invest in the Canadian Television Fund? It is absent. Where is the government in terms of a mandate review on CBC? It is absent. Where is the government's review of its need to push art and culture internationally so we can sell our cultural voice and products abroad? It has been absent on every account. It has been missing in action.
I have to say that I am very sorry that the minister, who I had some great hope for as being someone who understood the issues of culture in this country, has instead turned into an absentee landlord on fundamental issues that are facing the cultural sector at this time.
Mr. Speaker, the reality is that what we are talking about here is an abysmal failure of the previous Liberal government. The reason why our small museums are in trouble is the Liberals' inaction, their absolute neglect. This neglect is something that has been endemic throughout just about every facility that we can think of, every facility, whether we are talking about museums or facilities that relate to other infrastructure.
Right now what we are talking about here is the possibility of being able to move forward with a new vision of museums. There is a question that really has to be asked here, which I put to my friend from the NDP. What is the vision forward?
In taking a look at funding, we can go to the deep pockets of the federal government because, after all, we have about $200 billion or more in spending annually. We can go to the deep pockets of the federal government and we can pick those deep pockets as much as we possibly want, which is basically what my friend from the NDP is saying.
What basically happened with respect to the Liberals is that they did not have any kind of plan or any kind of foresight as to what should be happening with museums.
There is a fundamental question that has to be answered. What museum, at what place in Canada, should be getting federal funding, and for what purposes? There is, within museums, the entire issue of the facilities, the building of the facilities. There is the maintenance of the facilities. There is the issue of acquisition and storage of artifacts. There is the staffing issue.
What portion of museum costs should be borne by the federal taxpayer and why? This is the question that the minister is trying to arrive at. I am very proud to represent her and the government of this to the House in saying that we are forward looking in taking a look at museums to try to figure out what is going to be in the best interests not only of the museums and the artifacts, but indeed of our entire cultural heritage.
We are going to be hearing on Wednesday from the museums of rail travel. We had a presentation at our committee a week ago from the museum of rail travel in the Montreal area. We are going to have other people before us to explain to us how they see the federal government and the federal government's responsibility fitting into this.
Unlike the NDP, which does not take any responsibility for the spending of millions and millions of dollars, on the other side of the coin is the fact that the Liberals have not had a plan, a way of coming forward with the expenditures in any kind of a concrete way. That is very telling, which is where the problem comes in. There has been no articulation of the Liberal federal government's museum policy and the place of MAP and CMAP since the 1990 Canadian museums policy.
In the context in which the programs operate, it has evolved considerably over that period of time. This lack of vision is a real and serious problem. There is obviously a basis or a potential for overlap between jurisdictions.
Let me give an example in my own constituency. I have a wonderful group of people in the city of Revelstoke. Revelstoke, with a population of 8,500, is geographically isolated from the Okanagan. It is geographically isolated from the southern west Kootenays. It is geographically isolated from the east Kootenays. There are 8,500 people who work diligently in a very beautiful town and they are all pulling together.
Within that town, there is the museum of rail. In addition to the museum of rail, there is also a city museum for the city of Revelstoke. The museum has a building and the upstairs of this heritage building is used for public purposes. In addition to that, there has also been the creation of the B.C. Interior Forestry Museum.
Which of these, if any, should be getting federal funding? There is no way of defining which of those museums should be getting the federal funding and why.
We have to determine very clearly, in addition to the ongoing museums assistance program, which has some good history to it, what other funding should be available.
There has been a patchwork, as I understand it, of various programs, either through infrastructure or student summer works programs, whereby those museums and others in my constituency, and indeed in the constituencies of all members of this House, have been able to access students to come and work on the artifacts, to actually work over the summer and advance particular cataloguing or archiving of materials and information.
What portion of that is a make-work project, as the federal Liberals were wont to do over a long period of time? What portion of that is specifically aimed at the idea of assisting the museums? Again, we have to sort that out. Where does it all fit together?
Now, if there is funding available, who should actually be making the decision? I am just floating an idea here. It is my own idea. I have not had any reference to the minister or to my party. I am just wondering about this. Is there a place, for example, for some kind of an organization, an NGO, that would actually sit outside of the federal government and could take a look at where the funding should come from?
What about the financing itself? Why could we not do some work on the idea of making properties available when they are contributed? In the same way that we have gone forward with our removal of capital gains taxes for other contributions to arts and cultural organizations, why could we not get involved in real property? These are just my ideas. They are not the ideas of the government. I am just saying that there are ideas out there like that which really should be looked at.
We have to be creative, because while we recognize that the Canadian museums association program provides operating support to a single museum services organization, the Canadians Museums Association, the only national museum organization that can include all types of museums and institutions, the organization is important to the department for two reasons. Because the CMA is a means through which the department can communicate with the museum community and because the CMA delivers the bursary program on Parliament's behalf, it probably is as good a starting point as any, in my own personal opinion.
In taking a look at this, we can come to far more productive and far more creative ways of making sure that museums programs are going to be able to move forward.
The last speaker who was on his feet is representing a point of view, as I say, that because the federal government has very deep pockets, obviously we should be able to reach into those pockets. That, in my judgment, was the sole justification on his part, speaking on behalf of the NDP, for the fact that the federal treasury should come up with the money.
That is not good enough. It is not even remotely good enough, certainly not for this government.
Our government is out to make sure that there is proper value realized by all Canadian taxpayers, proper value that the money is put forward in the most responsible manner. For example, another idea that has been floated is the idea that we could get to a situation of establishing trust funds, establishing a large trust fund for museums so that we would be in a position, then, to be able to have some relative security of forward-going funding for individual museum properties.
What the Bloc member for brought forward in this motion is specifically about the museums assistance program. What I am saying is that my minister and my government want to get to the point of not being bound by the museums assistance program.
We want to be creative. We want to take a look at ideas, whether they are my ideas or the ideas of the member for , wherever the ideas come from. We need to pull the ideas together to see how we can do better.
The museums assistance program will retain an annual budget of $9.6 million, which will continue to help museums across the country. The member from the Bloc, our Liberal friends and the NDP are basically saying that the sky has fallen and there are no funds left. Excuse me but $9.6 million is not chump change. That is a fair amount of money, and as I indicated, it actually exceeds the amount of money that was distributed by former Liberal governments by about $2 million a year. There were $2 million a year more at $9.6 million.
In addition to the museums assistance program, Canadian museums are able to access funds through Cultural Spaces Canada, which assists in the renovation of buildings to meet modern standards, a contribution on the government's part of an additional $2.21 million a year.
Add to that the arts and heritage sustainability program which invests in improvements in the business practices of those managing the museums. Guess what? That is almost $2 million. It is $1.8 million a year.
As I indicated, the previous Liberal government failed to address some of the most basic needs of our museums. Our Conservative government, our new Government of Canada is committed to reviewing the museums policy to ensure that it reflects the real needs of Canadian museums in the 21st century. We are not going to be bound by the museums assistance program.
In a previous intervention I asked the Conservative member from the committee what he thought of the fact that my friend from the Bloc had brought this motion before the House at this time when we should be discussing how to make our streets safer. The member knows full well that the is committed to going ahead with a new museums policy. He heard it from my lips. He heard it from her lips. He has heard it from the . What else does he need? Why are we taking the time of the House on this issue at this time?
Did I say that this issue was not important? Of course it is important, but it is a done deal. It is already taken care of. The minister, this government, the have it under control. We are moving forward. Why are we taking the time of the House at this time to talk about the museums assistance program when it is a done deal and we should be discussing how to make our streets safer?
We want a policy on museums that will recognize there are different types of museums. For example, it makes sense that the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canada Science and Technology Museum have national sites in Ottawa. In addition, there are the National Art Gallery, the National Arts Centre, and Library and Archives Canada. All of them require a tremendous amount of money.
As a matter of fact, the amount of money the government is spending on them is well over a quarter of a billion dollars a year. It is not a question of money; it is a question of using the resources of the people of Canada in the most responsible manner. What we are talking about here though is not the national museums and the national collections. We are talking about the 2,500 museums across Canada. Again I ask the most fundamental question, what is the responsibility of the federal government to the small museums spread out across Canada?
Come back to Revelstoke with me for half a second with the three museums that I outlined. What is the responsibility of the federal government to the rail museum in Revelstoke? Is that federal responsibility any different from the responsibility the federal government may or may not have to the museum in downtown Revelstoke? Or, because some people got together in good faith and came up with the B.C. museum of forestry in Revelstoke, is there a responsibility on the part of the people in Chicoutimi to pay for the B.C. museum of forestry in Revelstoke? Is there some responsibility on the part of the people in Victoria or Victoriaville to pay for the museum in downtown Revelstoke? If so, why? What is the rationale? What is the raison d'être?
If the raison d'être is that the pockets of the Canadian government are so deep because it has collected so much money from individuals and corporations, then that is a lousy reason. That is a terrible reason for reaching into those pockets.
Conversely, rail, for example, was the backbone of Canada. Canada exists because of the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It continued to thrive with the takeover by Canadian National Railway of the bankrupt railways that were built following that. I believe that is a pretty good reason to look at the responsibility of Canadians at a national level to take some financial responsibility to reach into and extract some dollars from that deep pocket, to make sure rail museums are honoured and supported.
Does that mean when a community rolls in an old diesel locomotive or Rubber Boots, Saskatchewan rolls in an old caboose, those communities should end up with some kind of grant from the federal government? I do not know. That is the kind of thing we have to outline. If, and this is a big if, there is a national responsibility for the rails, then at what point and with what size of display and where should there be a national responsibility for the federal taxpayer to pay for those facilities?
In view of the neglect of the Liberals over their 13 years in government, I am anticipating there are not going to be any questions from my Liberal friends, because for them to ask questions would be to admit they should have done things differently. Although in fairness and under House rules, the Liberals can go ahead and ask whatever questions they want, but if I were a Liberal, I would be awfully red faced to be asking a question about a museums policy when they completely failed. Since 1990 there has been no revision of any museums policy.
As this motion and debate is about the museums assistance program, which in fact now has $9.6 million in it, I suggest our time could be spent more profitably on behalf of the people of Canada. As the federal minister has made a commitment to go ahead with a new museums policy, there is no reason for this debate. Our time could be more profitably spent talking about how we are going to keep our streets safe, talking about how we are going to create interdictions and problems for drug traffickers, talking about how people who borrow money through payday loans will be properly protected. All of these things are forward looking. We have the developed policy and we simply want to get it through the House so that we can protect Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to address this House on a question as important as our identity as Canadians.
I would first like to congratulate the member for for introducing this motion at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, for getting it passed and then for ensuring that its report was tabled in this House.
We have different views when it comes to Quebec’s position in Canada, and its future. My dear colleague cannot be right about everything. But he is right when he talks about the importance of culture for society as we define it, and for individuals, for the hearts and minds of man.
As my colleague said, the government seems, at worst, to have completely abandoned culture, and at best to have forgotten how important it is. For example, we are talking today about budget cuts to the museums assistance program, but also about cuts in other areas and in other components of culture that affect the arts and culture in Canada.
The government does not seem to be achieving specific objectives for assisting cultural industries, for example the film industry. The Quebec film industry is not particularly happy with what the government has done. The magazine industry in Canada is teetering on the brink and is not far from a crisis of its own. The government does not seem to want to do anything about this.
I can understand how the government might not be keen on supporting cultural endeavours of a more vibrant and dynamic nature, like film or music, the types of cultural expression that challenge orthodoxies, like neo-conservative orthodoxies or even separatist orthodoxies, but we are talking about museums. We are not always talking about the most current or cutting edge forms of cultural expression. I have trouble understanding why the government is pulling back its support for museums.
We hear often from educators and historians how we do not put enough effort on the teaching of history, that our young people are not as aware of the history of our country and of the country's regions as we would like them to be. Museums are an excellent vehicle for sensitizing not only young Canadians but all Canadians to our past.
There is a lot of talk these days about the Internet and how there are new ways to deliver information. In fact, the federal heritage information network makes pictures of artifacts in museums across Canada available through the Internet, and that is wonderful. That is keeping up with the evolution of technology, but there is nothing like actually seeing an artifact in a museum, to come into contact with a physical object, a material object. There is something evocative about that.
If I am not mistaken, Marcel Proust, the great French writer, alluded to the power of material objects when he coined the term madeleine object. For him a madeleine object was an artifact or material object that could allow one to live in the past and in the present simultaneously. That is what museums do. They give us the perspective that other forms of transmission of culture do not.
A lot has been said by some of my colleagues on the other side, and in fact by the minister herself, when she came to committee last week. They have said that no small or regional museums has been hard done by in Canada as a result of the cuts to the MAP. The minister, and again the parliamentary secretary today and other members of the Conservative caucus, challenged others in the opposition to come up with clear cut examples of museums that would be hurt by these cuts.
There were a couple of examples In the Globe and Mail of a few weeks ago. One was the Duck Lake Regional Interpretive Centre in Batoche, Saskatchewan. Its director was interviewed by a journalist from the Globe and Mail. She said that the centre's building needed $80 million worth of repairs, that it relied on MAP for research and conservation and so on. She then went on to say that the cuts would indeed hurt her museum.
If small town museums like hers cannot preserve their collections through assistance from the federal government, they will have to sell their collections. This is happening in other areas. We have heard of museums having to sell their collections in the past. My hon. colleague from mentioned the Exporail Museum in Saint-Constant, Quebec, with which I am familiar. It is crying out for money. It is a small museum, but I think it should be considered a national museum and that it should receive funding from other sources than the MAP.
However, museum officials have told me directly that some of their artifacts, their railway cars that they keep or other railway cars that they would like to get their hands on, are snapped up by wealthy individuals south of the border who think it would be nice to have an old-fashioned railway car to ride around in the continent. If we do not act decisively and we put off decisions in terms of supporting our museums, their artifacts will be snapped up and we as Canadians will be the poorer as a result.
There are some concrete examples of museums that are going to be hurt by the cuts to the MAP. As a matter of fact, a Globe and Mail article was recently published on this subject. It referred to the cut that was announced by the Conservative government a few weeks ago. It stated:
|| Yesterday's cut has put a big question mark beside a plan by the Diefenbaker Canada Centre in Saskatoon to mount an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary next year of John Diefenbaker's election as a Progressive Conservative prime minister. Acting director Teresa Carlson said the cut “is definitely going to curtail our abilities”.
Imagine that. I do not know if the new Conservative government was aware that its cuts would impact on the ability to showcase the contribution of a former Progressive Conservative prime minister to our country's history.
It is very important that we restore the funding cuts to the MAP, but my colleague's motion also alludes to the necessity of establishing a new museums policy in Canada. We can do things in parallel. We can restore MAP funding and we can pursue a new museums policy.
In terms of a new museums policy, I would like to take this opportunity to go back to my earlier reference to a museum in Saint-Constant called Exporail, which is really Canada's premier national railway museum. I had the opportunity to visit Exporail this summer. I was just overwhelmed and extremely impressed by what is in that museum.
As a matter of fact, I had the opportunity to visit the inside of the railcar which belonged to Sir William Van Horne and the railcar that is showcased in the photos we see of the workers knocking in the last spike. I have seen this photo on the Internet and of course I find it interesting, but to actually see the car, and even better to be allowed inside the car, was something that has fired my imagination and made me think about the origins of this country.
A museum like that, as part of a new museums policy, should be considered a national museum and treated in the same way that we treat the National Art Gallery or the Museum of Civilization or the National Museum of Science & Technology. Even though it is not physically located in Ottawa, it should be part of that network of national museums.
I hope the new museums policy that the government is working on will take account of the fact that the Exporail museum is one of the top five rail museums in the world, which is really quite extraordinary to have here in our own backyard. This museum needs some funding. It needs to be considered as a national museum and given the support that other national museums receive.
We have great museums in the Ottawa region. We have the National Art Gallery and the Museum of Civilization. These, in many cases, were Liberal government initiatives, the initiatives of a government that thought big about Canada, that did not try to make Canada smaller than it really is, and that had a vision for Canada. Where would we be today if Liberal governments had not put forward the ideas and proposals for building these majestic temples of art and civilization in our great capital?
On that note, I would like to ask that the government start to think big, put the politics and the government of gimmicks and clever political tactics aside and think big about this country. Let us begin by funding the repositories of our past which will fire our future dreams, namely the museums.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House as a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage who voted in favour of this seventh report. I am also pleased to support today the motion of my colleague, the hon. member for . Long before the latter became a member of Parliament, defending Quebec's culture was very important to him. He was a strong voice for this culture; he was an actor and a man who always put the defence our culture at the heart of his actions. Again today in this House, by tabling this motion, he is proving to what extent defending Quebec's culture is at the heart of his political life.
I will read this motion because I find it highly important:
|| That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommend that the government maintain the Museums Assistance Program (MAP) at the same level as in fiscal year 2005-2006, that a new museum policy be established.
Before getting to the crux of this issue, allow me to explain what happened to us, the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, when these cuts were announced. We were in a regular committee session at the time and we asked the chair of the committee if he was aware of what the minister was in the process of announcing, whether he knew these cuts would be made to the museums assistance program. Although he thought it odd that this could be true, the chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage was not aware of these cuts.
This shows that there was no respect for the meeting, the members of the committee or the chair.
Respect should be the foundation of any political action: respect for the point of view of our adversaries, respect for our electors and in this case respect for those involved, the people who are the heart and soul of the culture of our nation. In my opinion, these cuts should not have been made, especially not without the knowledge of the people who, day after day, defend in this chamber the expression of culture and the fact that this culture cannot be properly expressed if funding is not available to do so.
Every year, thanks to the museums assistance program, dozens of museums in Quebec are able to expand their services and update their catalogues and programming. In every community, riding, and region there flourish museums that house treasures to be shared and that are run by individuals, extraordinary volunteers who give of their time and money to promote our culture and our history.
That is what the museums assistance program does. It makes it possible to update the exhibits and make relevant the collective treasures that we own and that we seek to enhance in each of our communities. Without the dynamic efforts of these volunteers, boards of directors, employees, without all this money, without all the effective means of promoting and running these museums, it would not be possible to share our treasures. By updating exhibits of our collective treasures we make it possible for others to enjoy them, we make them accessible to our own citizens and also to tourists—domestic or foreign—who may visit our regions. With a history as rich as ours, it is important to be able to take pride in it and to put it on display for the world.
When these cuts were announced, this government also announced surpluses of $13 billion. What signal did this send to those who reflect who we are and promote our heritage? What signal did the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women send today to these people, who are fighting every day to protect and preserve our heritage, when he said in this House that this is neither the place nor the time to stress the importance of the museums assistance program or the importance of protecting and promoting our culture?
Hon. members know that my colleague, the member for , is a man of great wisdom and he has shown it on numerous occasions in this House. This wisdom is reflected in his motion. Indeed, the hon. member for Saint-Lambert is not asking that we never revisit the MAP. He is simply saying that funding should be maintained at the same level, until a new museum policy is established.
Personally, as a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, I feel that this new museum policy could soon be ready. Indeed, in the last Parliament, a large number of stakeholders came before the committee to present submissions. The committee worked extensively on a new policy. Documents were submitted to the department and to the minister. Stakeholders from the museum sector even came to see us earlier this year to tell us that things had not really changed and that what they had said when the previous government was in office was just as valid now.
Therefore, as far as I am concerned, the new museum policy could be tabled tomorrow morning, because the only change that may have happened is the deterioration of artifacts. It goes without saying that the more we wait before giving these people the means to preserve our collective heritage, the more it can deteriorate. This is precisely what officials from Saint-Constant's Exporail recently came to tell the Committee on Canadian Heritage. They told us that, without funding, some major artifacts of great value to the community could be lost in the very near future.
The situation is urgent and this government must not try to debate endlessly the implementation of a new museum policy.
Time is running out: the government must act fast and take the necessary steps to establish a new, modern policy to meet the needs expressed by the people at the heart of museum life in Quebec and Canada.
Mr. Speaker, earlier, my colleague from told us that her riding lacked funding for museums. The government must address this issue soon, because, as I said, we risk losing valuable artifacts.
The Conservative member for described earlier what the major Canadian museums are doing. This leaves us with the impression that the member opposite and the Conservative Party recognize the role that museums play.
But we have to do much more than just talk in this House about the stakeholders in the museum community, the museums and the role they play. We have to go further. As my colleague from said earlier, in the last election campaign, the Conservative Party said that it would boost funding for museums. It made a commitment.
However, in announcing cuts to MAP, the government seems to be sending an entirely different signal. This may be a dangerous signal for the future, and that is why my colleague from , other members of this House and I will be vigilant in the coming days and weeks, to make sure that Quebec culture and Canadian culture will be preserved and enhanced.
Earlier, the asked the member for whether he recognized that Quebeckers formed a nation.
Although the Liberal member did not really answer the question, I would like to remind the that all Quebeckers know that they form a nation. That is why they recognize the importance of investing in culture.
A strong nation with an important, rich, centuries-old culture must provide the people who promote and enhance that culture with the means to preserve it and disseminate it to an ever-wider audience. An audience accustomed to multimedia and new technologies demands that museum facilities be technologically advanced and be able to endure, because history is ongoing.