I call to order this part of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Welcome, Minister, and your associates.
Pursuant to Standing Order 81(5), we're considering supplementary estimates (A) for 2007-08: votes 1a, 5a, 10a, 15a, 30a, 35a, 45a, 50a, 55a, 65a, 75a, and 105a, under Canadian Heritage, referred to the committee on Tuesday, October 30, 2007.
The chair calls vote 1 under Canadian Heritage.
Again, welcome, Minister. We await your statement.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On behalf of myself and my colleagues — Ms. Judith LaRocque, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, and her colleague, Mr. Jean-Pierre Blais, Assistant Deputy Minister for Cultural Affairs, I would like to thank the members of the Committee for inviting us here today.
As you know, as Minister of Canadian Heritage, I am assisted in my duties by the Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver Whistler Olympics, the Honourable David Emerson, and by two Secretaries of State, namely Helena Guergis, who is responsible for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Sports; and, Jason Kenney, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity.
I am delighted to be here today. Several of you, including Gary and Mr. Bélanger, are long-standing members of the Committee. I know that you share my conviction that culture is essential to our quality of life and our sense of identity.
Each year, the cultural sector contributes over $40 billion to the Canadian economy and employs 700,000 people. More importantly, thanks to support from Canadian Heritage, all Canadians have access to their culture. By participating in cultural activities, they gain a sense of cultural ownership and help to forge our collective identity.
This past fall I met with a number of representatives from the public, private, and community sectors. As elected officials, it's our responsibility to develop policies and programs that are in line with our constituents' expectations and aspirations. That is my objective and it's the objective of our government.
The Speech from the Throne is clear on this matter, and I quote:
||Canadians expect their government to help them build on this legacy. They want a government that sets clear goals and delivers concrete results. A government that is accountable.
Where culture and heritage are concerned, Canadians expect their government to contribute actively to the cultural vitality of our society. In collaboration with the organizations and agencies of the Canadian Heritage portfolio, my department is working to achieve that goal. I am proud to share some of our most significant accomplishments with you today.
In the arts, culture and heritage sector, our government has allocated an additional $50 million over two years to the Canada Council for the Arts; $20 million in 2006-2007, and $30 million for the current year. And, to mark the Council's 50th anniversary this year, in July, we announced that the Council could count on receiving that $30 million on an ongoing basis.
Two weeks ago, I took part in the Montreal Cultural Metropolis Rendez-Vous. The event attracted over 1,200 delegates with the common goal of positioning and promoting Montreal, over the next decade, as an international centre for creativity and innovation. I took advantage of this ideal opportunity to join forces with the Government of Quebec, the City of Montreal, artists and industry representatives, in the true spirit of open federalism. Our government also announced funding of $40 million for the Quartier des spectacles de Montréal, the city's dedicated arts district.
In September, I announced annual funding of $30 million for ongoing support of local arts and heritage festivals and related activities.
In addition, our department has allocated nearly $100 million over the next five years to address the infrastructure needs of several of our national cultural institutions. And, speaking of national cultural institutions, we are pleased to report some innovative developments on that front. Last April, the Prime Minister announced the creation, in Winnipeg, of our first new national museum in 40 years. With public and private sector support, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will promote the values that all Canadians cherish.
In the same vein, we recently issued a request for proposal to locate the Portrait Gallery of Canada in one of nine Canadian cities.
In the museums sector, we eliminated the capital gains tax on gifts of listed, publicly traded securities to registered charities such as museums. Museums report that they are already seeing the effects of this measure.
As well, the 2007 budget includes an annual amount of $5 million for our qualified students to work in museums across Canada during the summer.
Finally, as announced in the Speech from the Throne, our government is committed to protecting intellectual and cultural property rights in Canada. I'm working with the industry minister, , on a bill to amend the Copyright Act. The bill will be introduced in Parliament very soon.
Besides providing opportunities for Canadians to engage in rich and diverse cultural activities, my department strengthens the connections that bring us together.
Canada's broadcasting industry plays a leading role in this regard. At the recent Canadian Association of Broadcasters Convention, I reminded the delegates that our primary objective in this area continues to be making high-quality Canadian content available on radio, on television and on-line.
I could go on at some length about our accomplishments in the broadcasting sector, but I want to mention a few of my department's other achievements.
I'm thinking in particular of our work on UNESCO's Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. We have agreed to contribute to the International Fund for Cultural Diversity, and Canada has been elected to the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions. In this context, next week it will be my honour and pleasure to welcome representatives of the Committee's 24 member states to Ottawa.
Canadian Heritage has also increased its efforts to promote Canada's linguistic duality and to support official language minority communities. I will be addressing this topic in more detail in a few days, in my presentation to the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
As you know, Canadian Heritage administers several other programs. I'd like to conclude by mentioning two that are close to my heart, if I may.
Tomorrow I will officially launch the 2008 Canada Day poster contest. This is one of my department's most popular initiatives and a concrete example of a program that truly appeals to all Canadians.
I know that even as I speak, teachers and students all across the country are busily working on creative entries that express all their pride in being Canadian. Next July 1, thirteen talented young people from every province and territory will join us at the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill.
Another exciting initiative is the celebration, in 2008, of the 400th Anniversary of the City of Quebec. I have followed the preparations with interest, and I participated in the programming announcements made by the Société du 400e, the National Battlefields Commission, the Huron-Wendat Nation, and our military forces posted in Quebec. This festive event will underscore the significance of this date in the history of Canada and North America. The founding of Quebec also marks the founding of Canada, and this will be a wonderful opportunity for Canadians to gather to celebrate their culture and heritage.
Thank you for your kind attention. I am now available to take your questions.
Thank you for being with us, Minister. As you may know, I represent a sizeable part of the minority anglophone community in Quebec. You and your government talk about open federalism, but you have closed one of the doors available to minority language communities in Canada by eliminating the Court Challenges Program. Even the Montreal Gazette is disappointed with the decision to do away with that program. It even recommended, a few days before the Speech from the Throne, that the government, at the very least, restore that program for the language communities.
Do you think the case law has effectively come to an end as regards language rights in Canada? Is it your opinion that there will be no further cases coming out of the language communities—anglophone or francophone—and for that reason, we no longer deserve that program?
My second question has to do with the Canadian Railway Museum, Exporail. As you know, most Members of Parliament voted in favour of your department incorporating this exceptional and internationally-renowned museum into the firmament of the federal government's national museums network. At the time, we were told that the national museums had to be located in Ottawa, in the national capital, but since then, there has been talk of moving the Portrait Gallery and, in addition, funding is to be provided for the Canadian Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg.
I would be interested in hearing your comments on those two topics.
Thank you for your question.
As regards the Court Challenges Program, as you know, a case dealing with that is currently before the courts. As a result, I will not be commenting on it.
With respect to the anglophone community in Quebec, we have already had several meetings. We have opened up real dialogue, which is both constructive and positive.
I would like to remind you of a certain number of facts. In the Speech from the Throne, we undertook to move ahead with the second phase of the Official Languages Action Plan, an initiative we were commended for by your leader. We have close relations. We announced a further injection of $30 million in the 2007 budget. I have undertaken to hold consultations with a view to hearing the concerns of official language communities across the country. They should begin very shortly. Those are the points I wanted to make with respect to the anglophone community in Quebec.
If I am not mistaken, in May 2006, I attended one of their meetings that was taking place in Gatineau. They told me that it was the first time a government minister had attended one of their meetings to say a few words and open up a dialogue with them. Indeed, I will be appearing before the Official Languages Committee in the coming days.
As regards the museums, I did, in fact, recently meet with representatives of Exporail. We are attentive to their needs. As you know, the government funds the national museums. Still, we are looking at how we can be of assistance to them.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for being here to take our questions.
In the last election campaign, your party announced that it would implement a museums policy. I would just like to quickly lay out the facts I have been made aware of.
Over the last two years, the Museums Assistance Program has seen one third of its budget cut. Furthermore, several days ago, on November 27, an article in Le Devoir stated that the Exhibition Transport Service provided through the Canadian Conservation Institute will no longer be available as of April 1, 2008. Consequently, the museums will have to deal with the private sector, where costs are much higher. At the same time, the museums' budgets have shrunk considerably.
In my opinion, this is not a new museums policy, but rather, a kind of demolition project aimed at Canadian museums. It particularly affects small regional museums.
Do you intend to take any action, first of all, to restore the Museums Assistance Program's budget by increasing its funding? Also, will you maintain the ETS, which is absolutely critical for our museums, to ensure that their wonderful exhibitions can travel all across the country? Will you bring in a museums policy?
Thank you, Chair, and thank you for being here, Minister, with your deputies.
Minister, one question I wanted to ask is this. A number of agencies and organizations that depend on funding from your department have raised concerns about a 5% overall cut to the budget of the department. The other day the president of the CBC mentioned that there was talk of such a reallocation—I think that was the word he used—that was coming over a four-year cycle.
Can you tell us, if that is under way in your department, how you see it affecting the budget and the programming of your department?
I also have three other very specific questions around funding. My understanding is that funding for the National Anti-Racism Council of Canada was denied earlier this year, in June, for a continuation of the work they've been doing in anti-racism work and racial profiling work. It's been very important work to many people, and yet the funding they requested to continue that program was denied.
Can you tell me why that was denied and how this important work will be carried on without that program?
I also want to know what the government's position is on the CBC request for $25 million of capital costs and what the government's position is on $25 million a year to extend their local radio network to include the eight million Canadians who don't have access to CBC/Radio-Canada local radio.
The last question is around the Canadian Federation of Municipalities' concern that there's a $40 billion recreational infrastructure deficit in Canada. A lot of the projects that were built during the centennial year are now 40 years old and in serious need of repair and upgrading.
Does the government, does your department, have a plan to address that growing deficit in recreation facilities?
Thank you. I will try to answer your four questions.
As regards the management of public funds, our government has certainly made its mark in that area. Over the years, we want to ensure that our programs are effective and that taxpayers' money is spent appropriately; however, what is most important is that we achieve good results for taxpayers that are measurable and concrete. With that in mind, it is the responsibility of every minister to ensure that departmental programs and objectives meet that requirement. That is what we do on a regular basis.
You referred to an anti-racism organization. That is something that falls within the purview of my colleague, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney. I will give the Deputy Minister an opportunity to provide additional details on that specific point.
As regards CBC's budget requests, there is no doubt that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a public service that has its own management. I am confident and, in fact, very proud of the fact that Mr. Hubert Lacroix has been appointed CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, as well as — a little earlier — Mr. Tim Casgrain as Chairman of the Board of Directors. There is no doubt in my mind that they will look at the overall operations of CBC/Radio-Canada with a view to efficiency and good service in a way that should be satisfactory.
Your final question had to do with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and infrastructure. We do have some money in the budget for requests relating to cultural infrastructure. However, if you're talking about recreational infrastructure, my colleague, the Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, would be in a better position to answer that kind of question.
With respect to multiculturalism, I am going to ask Ms. Judith LaRocque to provide you with additional details.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Minister, this is the first opportunity I have had to publicly congratulate you for your appointment to the position of . I want to thank you for stating, in your opening comments, that it is your conviction that cultural is essential to our quality of life and our sense of identity. Although I share that vision, we do not agree on the means that are required to achieve it or the particular approach that is required. So, I have several questions for you.
First of all, I would have liked your visit to last for two hours, rather than one. I feel that is necessary. Therefore, I invite you to come back again, because it would be a good idea to have more in-depth discussions.
There is a major concern at the present time within the cultural community. Many groups have expressed that concern a number of times. It was only deepened by the policy direction issued by your government to the CRTC, through an order-in-council, to the effect that it should rely on market forces.
Recently, your government set up a Competitiveness Committee composed of five private sector representatives. Unfortunately, the cultural industries were included in their mandate.
Why did you allow the cultural industries to be included in the mandate of a committee that will be looking at the competitiveness of our industries, with a view to lifting foreign ownership restrictions? Is that what the committee will be examining? That is my first question.
My second question relates to the Exhibition Transport Service, a subject that has already been raised. We are told that what the private sector is currently providing costs 30 per cent more and that it doesn't go everywhere. At a briefing with your officials, I made a counter-suggestion that would have taken us where you want to go. I would like to know whether they discussed that with you and whether you have retained that suggestion or not.
My third question relates to periodicals. The Canada Post Corporation wants to withdraw from the Publications Assistance Program. Last December — in other words, 11 months ago — your government said it would review this whole matter. As far as I know, no such review has yet been undertaken. When and how will that be accomplished?
I would have liked to ask you a couple of questions about the museums policy and film, but I will refrain from doing so, since I would like to get answers to the ones I've already asked.
Thank you for your questions, Mr. Bélanger.
I, too, have met with a number of groups since August. It seems to me that, in the speech I made to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters — or CAB — our government's commitment was quite clear. There are certainly new technologies available and people demanding that market forces play a dominant role, but there is also an important item which we believe in: our quality Canadian programming. I obviously invited people to give greater thought to these realities. Every time this question has been put to me, I have never denied the fact that there are market forces, but I have most certainly emphasized the fact that we are committed to providing quality Canadian programming.
You refer to a committee looking at competitiveness and foreign ownership. Our government has no intention of changing anything with respect to foreign ownership; I can assure you of that.
I'm trying to go quickly so that I can answer all your questions.
You also referred to postal fees for publications. The government issued a policy directive last year, if I'm not mistaken, asking Canada Post to continue with the program until March of 2009. We are currently looking at this. We know that the publications sector, whether it's community newspapers or magazines, will want to comment on this, and we will most certainly be anxious to hear what they have to say.
Mr. Blais may want to add something with respect to the competitiveness committee.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank the minister for coming. I want to reiterate, perhaps, or to echo my colleague's comments that it would be very nice if we could have you for two hours. That way we could explore a lot of things that I would have liked to ask about, not the least of which is that it's nice to bring in this yearly $60 million to the CBC. It would be really nice to make it permanent, and it would be really nice to give the CBC some money to expand its reach digitally and to build its infrastructure.
My major question, my focused question, is about the idea of passing on cultural heritage from one generation to the next, which the minister spoke so eloquently about, and about Canadian heritage. It's nice to hear that the minister says there will be no changes to the regulations with regard to foreign ownership. Therefore, my question relates very specifically to this.
We know that the Alliance Atlantis Canadian film distribution library is being sold to Goldman Sachs in a sort of a roundabout way to what is considered to be a Canadian company, but we know that's really a shell.
This is the largest and most comprehensive legacy of Canadian film and television fiction in Canada. It is an essential part of our Canadian heritage. It took 35 years to accumulate. There are 1,200 Canadian films in this library. It was built with $2.5 billion, mostly of taxpayers' money coming from Telefilm Canada, from the Canadian production fund, from federal and provincial tax credits, and SODAC in Quebec. This is taxpayers' money; this is not just another private sale.
This actually violates the 1998 foreign distribution policy that says that foreign ownership in Canadian film and TV distribution cannot exceed 30%. It also violates the regulations, which the minister says she's supporting, that Telefilm Canada can only invest in Canadian productions where the distribution rights must be held by a Canadian distribution company.
We know the distribution is essential to a viable and healthy Canadian film industry. I would like to ask the minister whether she's going to oppose the 1998 foreign distribution policy and the regulations to ensure that this library does not leave Canadian hands and go into a foreign company's distribution library.
I would like the minister's assurance that this will not happen.