Thank you, Madam Chair.
Members of the committee, good afternoon.
Thank you for inviting me to speak before the committee.
Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg.
As you mentioned, I am joined by Ms. Laurendeau and Mr. Francis.
Before we get into the supplementary estimates, I will thank the committee for all your hard work in the last couple of months on Bill , regarding indigenous languages; on the review of the Copyright Act; on Bill , to establish a national day for truth and reconciliation, just name a few. Those are very important issues to Canadians, and your work is making a difference in their lives.
Thank you for all your hard work.
Today I'm honoured to speak to you about the investments we're making in Canadian arts and culture. This year's budget reflects a promise we made to Canadians four years ago, a promise to support the middle class and the people working hard to join it. Canadian Heritage will continue to reinvest in our creators and cultural industries.
Why do we do it? We do it because culture matters. It matters to all Canadians. We all love going to the movies, singing along to a favourite band, or enjoying a great book. Judging from your reactions to a certain Canadian rock icon who recently paid this committee a visit, I think members of the committee can agree that some of our best memories are from concerts we've been to.
I often say that culture is fun, but it is also good for the economy. In fact, culture contributes more than $53 billion to the Canadian economy. The cultural sectors also employ over 650,000 Canadians and create many more jobs in the tourism industry. This means indirect job opportunities in restaurants, transportation and construction, among others. It has a major impact across the board.
Lastly, we've reinvested in culture because diversity and inclusion are important to Canadians. These values are part of our identity, part of who we are. Sadly, we know that Canada is not immune to racism, discrimination and the politics of division. That is why we're investing to celebrate our diversity and promote inclusion.
The investments in budget 2019 will allow us to keep the promise we made to Canadians.
We're supporting our music industry by investing $20 million over two years, or $10 million a year, in the Canada Music Fund. We're supporting our creators, festivals and shows by investing $16 million over two years in the Canada Arts Presentation Fund.
We're also supporting local celebrations, especially those of diverse groups such as pride festivals and powwows, by investing $34 million over two years in the Building Communities through Arts and Heritage Program and in the Celebration and Commemoration Program.
It should be noted that the amount also includes $10 million over two years to mark the new National Truth and Reconciliation Day and to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Through the multiculturalism program, we support projects to eliminate discrimination, racism and prejudice in communities across Canada. In budget 2019, we proposed to provide $45 million over three years, starting this year, for a new anti-racism strategy. We want to find ways to combat racism in all its forms, while focusing on community projects. At the governmental level, these efforts will be coordinated by an anti-racism secretariat.
In terms of reconciliation, our government is taking a decisive step in the right direction by tabling our bill on indigenous languages. Thank you all for doing the pre-study and completing your report on the bill. What you did is so important, because as you know, the situation is urgent. Three-quarters of indigenous languages spoken in Canada are endangered. That is why we will provide adequate, stable and sustainable funding to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen indigenous languages.
In our 2019 budget, we're proposing major investments. You saw it: more than $333 million over five years, starting right now, starting this year, and more than $115 million every year after that.
The bill proposes responsive and flexible mechanisms that will allow us to direct funds to Indigenous communities, namely regional and national Indigenous organizations, and self-governing Indigenous governments.
They are the ones working on the ground, and they know local needs much better than I do, much better than we do. They are, therefore, best placed to define the solutions that will work best for them. They will have the freedom they need to allocate the funds appropriately.
Madam Chair, we look forward to continuing to work with you, members of the committee, and the Senate to pass the bill before the House adjourns for the summer.
In addition to the investments laid out in the budget, we're pleased that the supplementary estimates (B) include the additional funding we requested. It amounts to an increase of $9.34 million.
Allow me to review quickly the main items included in that amount. First, the amount of $5 million will go to the Vancouver Foundation to improve access to Canada's justice system. It's also our government's way of recognizing the enormous contributions of Beverley McLachlin, former chief justice of Canada. These funds are used to support projects that help break down barriers to civil and family justice.
Our government is committed to ensuring that Canadians have the best possible access to the justice system. It's key to having a healthy, democratic and inclusive society.
In honour of the former Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Supplementary Estimates (B) also include a grant of more than $2 million to support a foundation, which mobilizes Canadians around promising projects that contribute to a stronger Canada.
Thirdly, Supplementary Estimates (B) includes more than $1 million for the Canadian Soccer Association to support the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup of Soccer. Those who know me know that I'm very pleased about that.
Finally, I'd also like to mention an investment of more than $500,000 for an initiative of vital importance to all Canadian citizens: ensuring a healthy digital democracy.
The health of our democracy depends on the reliability and diversity of our news and information sources. Every citizen is entitled to develop informed opinions, hold governments and individuals to account, and participate in public discourse. There is a rise in false, misleading and harmful information online and in social media. In this matter, our government takes its role very seriously.
We support projects that equip Canadians with the ability to evaluate online information with a critical eye. In our 2019 budget, we want to strengthen this digital democracy project, so we're proposing an investment of more than $19 million over four years. These funds will create a program that will help us better understand the impacts of misinformation and identify ways to fight it. This investment will also allow Canadians to lead an international initiative to strengthen citizens' resilience to misinformation and promote diversity of online content.
It is in the same perspective that we want to support journalists across Canada. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Professional journalism is one of the pillars of our democracy.
When we see how quickly our newspapers are disappearing, we cannot stand idly by. Our government is playing a major role in that as well. It will continue to play a major role and we will do something about it.
You know that, you saw it in the fall 2018 economic statement: we announced our intention to bring in targeted tax measures in support of Canadian journalism, including through tax credits and tax incentives. I want to assure you that the fundamental principles of an independent and free press will be absolutely upheld in the granting of these credits and incentives.
Madam Chair, arts and culture remain priorities for our government, and we'll continue to support our artists and creators, just as we will continue to create jobs and protect our inclusive diversity.
Madam Chair, honourable colleagues, thank you for your attention.
I also want to thank my parliamentary secretary, Andy Filmore, for his absolutely extraordinary work. We are lucky to have him.
I would be pleased to answer your questions.
I'm going to deal with the business income tax measures referred to a minute ago. One of the comments from the Quebec Community Newspapers Association was this:
Some of our member newspapers do not have the resources to employ more than one journalist and often, the editor also writes news articles.
It's not going to work.
In my riding, I don't have any dailies; I have weeklies. I have the Taber Times, the Vauxhall Advance, the Rocky View Weekly, the Chestermere Anchor, the Bassano Times, the Strathmore Times and the Brooks Bulletin.
If you look at all those papers—and that's not all of them—the owner is usually the editor. The owner has a camera and there's one reporter. However, these are the lifeblood of my communities. They cover the local mayor, the councils, what the hockey team did, and enhancing development in that community.
They are the lifeblood, but under your criterion of “two or more journalists in the production of its content who deal at arm's length with the organization”.... The editor is usually the owner. He's not only the owner; he's the photographer and the writer. All of them that you can list might have one reporter, or maybe two, but usually they're not just a reporter; they're also a photographer.
Therefore, every one of the weeklies in my riding won't get anything out of this, because the criterion eliminates them. These papers, all of the weeklies, are the lifeblood of all the communities in my riding.
I had the Calgary Herald years ago, but I don't take it anymore because it doesn't cover the communities in my riding. That's what most people do. The weeklies are the lifeblood, and the owner is the editor, the photographer and the reporter.
One of the owner-editors I met with said, “You're trying to save print media. The federal government used to advertise in print media, but now they don't. It's all social media. Give us back our print media advertising from the federal government. You've pulled that all from the weekly newspapers.” He said, “If we had that as a source of income, that would make a difference.”
On the one hand, you want to support the production of newspapers, the big newspaper chains, which maybe are dying, but you said you need to support them. However, on the other hand, you've pulled that support from the weekly newspapers that are the lifeblood of the communities.
You say they have to have two separate reporters. If you look through every one of my weeklies here, the Brooks Bulletin included, they won't qualify because of that piece. These are owned by the editors. The editors are the owners of these weekly papers. They can't be separated; they're part of it.
That's an ask when I meet with the weekly newspapers in my riding. They say, “Give us back the print ads that the feds were doing. You're going to support the large newspapers in print form, but you've pulled the support and advertising from the weeklies.” That's a challenge.
We do, and thank you very much for that question. It's something that is a priority, not only for me but for all of us, for the government and the people in the department. If you will allow me, I will concentrate for just a couple of minutes on fighting racism.
As you know, there was an anti-racism strategy in the past that was cut by the previous government. We thought that it was necessary to have one again. Why? It's because we feel that there is more racism, discrimination, than before. Social media carries a lot of things that shouldn't be there. We need to stop that. We need to fight racism. Fighting racism is not something that you do just like that. It's short-term, mid-term and long-term, but you have to start somewhere, and this is what we're doing.
To build a strategy, we've had 22 sessions across the country in the last few months. I participated in the majority of them. My parliamentary secretaries were there, and there were many MPs and ministers. There were 600 participants from 400 different groups. We were in your province a couple of times.
This allowed us to build this national anti-racism strategy, for which we got $45 million in the budget, which is pretty much $15 million a year for three years. Now, I will be able.... I'm not in a position now to share all the details of the strategy, but I can tell you that fighting racism in all its forms, fighting systemic racism, needs different types of actions, and this is what the strategy will include.
It will also include—I can mention it because it was in the budget—a secretariat that will be in Heritage and will coordinate everything that is done across government. More than “coordinate”, the word I always use and want to use is “leadership”. We want to be very proactive on this. We want to show leadership and make sure that all departments are complying and things are changing, because we have to do it for our country and for our children and our grandchildren.
I'm very proud of all the work that brought us here, and I'm really looking forward to presenting the national anti-racism strategy.