As Mr. Fantino has already said, this issue is huge in the Italian community, both in my riding of York South—Weston and in Toronto generally, so much so that the Italian consul general called a meeting and brought in 70 representatives of the Italian community to complain about this decision, which had come as a shock to them.
Giuseppe Pastorelli, who is the Italian consul general, Emilio Battaglia, the new president of Comites, and the Honourable Joe Volpe, who publishes Corriere Canadese, all have said that this decision is a shock to the community. Many in the Italian community came to Canada years ago and speak little or no English, so they rely on OMNI to get their news of Canada in Italian.
That is now gone. It's not going to be replaced by anything until this fall, when some kind of lifestyle program is coming that's aimed at younger people. We have abandoned an entire demographic of the Italian community. They will no longer be receiving any news. With an election coming, it is like voter suppression. These people will not be able to be engaged in the electoral process.
At the licence hearings, you committed to adhere to the standard conditions of licence applicable to English language conventional television stations, which expect “the licensee”—I say the word “expect”, and I know that you are going to yell that it is not a condition, but an expectation—“to maintain a local presence”, and a local presence includes “providing seven-day-a-week original local news coverage distinct to the market; employing full-time journalists”, which you don't anymore, and “operating a news bureau or news gathering office in the market”.
That's what you committed to do to live up to those expectations, and I know there is a difference in the words, but with a federal election on the horizon, the Italian community is up in arms. They are fuming. They were talking about boycotting Rogers, which I don't believe you would want them to do. They are concerned that a big part of that community will no longer have access to be engaged in Canadian society in the way they were.
With all respect to all of the dire predictions, you can't take news in isolation and say that news doesn't make money and therefore you are cutting out news. All the broadcasters in Canada would stop producing news if that was the attitude, because nobody makes a ton of money doing news. That's not what the licences are for. The licences are a licence to give Canadians information as per the Broadcasting Act, and I'm sorry, but lifestyle programming for a younger audience doesn't cut it.