Mr. Chairman, I welcome the opportunity to address this issue. It's always interesting to read newspaper articles where people from the heritage ministry are quoted saying one thing, and then, somehow, somebody else comments who doesn't necessarily have any knowledge of what's going on and has no connection whatsoever with the government, and then ends up speculating on the comments of the heritage official. It becomes kind of a mixed bag.
I think it's important to take a look at Bill from the point of view of its history and understand why it is the way it is. It basically started in a budget announcement in 1999 under the then Chrétien Liberals. A number of other ways and means motions were brought forward that never actually came to fruition until, as has indicated, sometime in 2003. It then carried on and was reintroduced in the Paul Martin government, fundamentally unchanged. It was picked up by our government and was then run through. I think it's very important to note that this was run through the House of Commons with all-party support, so we all had an opportunity to take a look at this.
With respect to the clause that is of concern to , I'd note that the original legislation was introduced by John Manley at Sheila Copps' request, and you wonder why. Well, the move, which she wanted, was sparked by a request for tax credits on a film based on the Paul Bernardo story, and the minister didn't have the ability to deny the credit. There are times in Canada when we have to trust our government, be it a Liberal government, a Conservative government, whatever government. There are times when the ministers of the crown have a responsibility to the people of Canada to make some decisions that may be censorship. Censoring the potential of public money going to a Paul Bernardo film is something that I would have absolutely no difficulty whatsoever in justifying. As a matter of fact, I would have difficulty in justifying Canadian taxpayers' money going to such a film.
So it was on that basis that the Liberals originally decided this was going to be part of this bill, and it's something on which I would hope there wouldn't be any difference in Canadians' minds in terms of the level of responsibility that a Liberal Minister of Canadian Heritage would show over a Conservative Minister of Canadian Heritage. In other words, the law is the law, and there is a responsibility on the part of the government, representing the people of Canada and the values of the people of Canada, for a minister to be able to make these judgment calls.
I guess what I quite frankly find odious is the presumption, somehow, on the part of some of the commentators in this story that God forbid a Conservative heritage minister would have this power to actually make this kind of judgment and be able to restrict the flow of Canadian taxpayers' dollars into odious, unacceptable, and repugnant movies such as what would come of the Bernardo story. That's really the background to it.
I would offer to test the veracity of this story. The official—I believe it is Charles Drouin—is quoted as saying that the department “has recently standardized and updated the list of illegal and other ineligible content.”
I would offer to go to the minister and ask the department to give us those lists, if those lists exist, and I would be very happy to see that those lists are tabled at the next meeting. But that said, I think we have something rather spectacular here, some journalism that maybe could have been a little bit better, and we probably have a little bit of a tempest in a teapot at this particular point.