June 29, 1948

PC

Douglas Gooderham Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (St. Paul's):

I do not take up much of the time of the house, and I do not see why my whip should call me to order in the dying days of the session. I am in support of this, but I am referring to the principle. I shall talk on it at some other time, but not this session.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

Is it the intention of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to establish a new outlet in Sydney, Nova Scotia? If so, when does the minister expect to have that station in operation?

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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Mr. McCANN:

The establishment of a new station in Sydney is part of our contemplated program. In our next estimates we shall ask for the money to do the work in Sydney.

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

Radio has been an interesting subject to me throughout the past number of years. I rise to make only one observation, and perhaps ask a question. No radio committee was set up this year, in spite of the fact that last year and every year that the radio committee has met it has recommended that the radio committee of parliament be an annual affair. Because that committee was not set up, we have not had an opportunity to go into the receipts and expenditures of the C.B.C. and the general radio policy as it exists in Canada from time to time.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a tremendous institution. While it is in the commercial field, and is reaping revenues by being in that field, it has not yet been able to stand on its own feet. I am not making any harsh criticism, because I recognize that the corporation is doing a job which requires expenditures over and above what a properly operated radio system might require. Nevertheless, with the operation of the short wave station included, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is becoming a tremendous drain upon the taxpayer. I believe that somewhere along the line we have to call a halt.

I am all in favour of making Canada known to the other nations of the world. I am all for the use of the short-wave system to encourage proper trade relations between Canada and the rest of the world. I am all for letting the rest of the world know something about our Canadian culture. Many of us wish it were of a higher order, but perhaps, in a small nation of 12,000,000 people, we cannot expect too much in too short a time. I am all for these things.

When however we begin to look into the amount of money spent on the Canadian

Broadcasting Corporation I am beginning to think that it is not entirely justified. The C.B.C. and the short-wave station, with its operations, are tied in one with the other. Personally I have not been able to satisfy myself, in reading any of the reports, as to where one ends and the other may begin. There is a general feeling abroad that the short-wave radio station, with its operations, being paid for purely by the taxpayers of Canada, since I understand the short-wave station has no commercial revenues-the minister can correct me on that point-everything the short-wave station does is done at the expense of the people of Canada. Some people who are interested in radio policy in Canada are coming to feel that the shortwave station with its operations is becoming a sort of cow which is fed by the taxpayer but perhaps in the end milked by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

If I am not right on that I would like to be put right, but it will take more than simply an answer of a minute or so to put me right on it, because I do not believe we can get the picture until we are able to go into the entire financial policy, with receipts and expenditures and all that is involved between the C.B.C. on the one hand and the international short wave on the other.

I do not rise to oppose this expenditure, but we have a tremendous capital outlay here, most of which I fancy is for the purchase of the Ford hotel in Montreal. I want to say a word on that-and it is not by way of criticism, because I really do not feel that I am competent to criticize on that particular point. However, I will take it for granted that those who are managing this thing are doing right. I must say that I never did visualize the government taking over the Ford hotel in Montreal. I know that the C.B.C. some years ago had an option to buy a piece of property which at the time they took out the option appeared to be an idle spot. After that there was a readjustment of population, and so on, in Montreal, and they let the option go by the board. This meant that some other arrangement had to be made, but I never expected that- what was going to happen would be the purchase of an old hotel. I visualized, and I recommended years ago, that Canada should have somewhere for its radio operations a sort of young radio city. I rather visualized something unique in architecture, situated perhaps in the middle of an elaborate park or other area of the kind in which art in different forms could be

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exemplified-because after all, radio is to a large extent an art. Instead of that we are getting drab office buildings situated in the midst of a lot of other buildings. Personally I do not like the idea. However, there is nothing I can do about it except to express my thoughts on the subject.

I am surprised at the. location of this building, which now I suppose will have to do the corporation for years to come. I do not like that. Pretty soon the building, situated where it is, will be obsolete, or, if not obsolete, not much of an advertisement for radio in Canada. I rather expected that this young radio city which I visualized in a growing nation would be situated in Toronto. Why it was decided to buy the Ford hotel in Montreal I do not know.

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CCF

John Oliver Probe

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. PROBE:

Why don't you consider*

Regina?

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

The hon. member for Regina City says Regina might be considered. So it might, just as well as any other point. I should think it would have to be in some city, because-

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?

Mr. M. J. COLD WELL@Rosetown-Biggar

Well, Regina is a city.

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PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. PEARKES:

There is a hotel in Victoria. Why not put it there?

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

What I mean is, whatever city is selected, it must be in a fairly large centre, a metropolis, for the reason that its operations are dependent largely on the talent that might be concentrated in a metropolitan area. That is why I suggested Toronto. I have no brief for Toronto. It might just as well be out in the glorious Rocky mountains where it would constitute a tourist attraction as well. At any rate I am disappointed that the government is buying the Ford hotel in Montreal for this purpose.

I would ask the minister to say whether I am right in saying that the Ford hotel, while being bought for the short-wave station, is simply a sort of cover. I do not think anyone will say that the short-wave service is so considerable that a hotel building must be provided. I do not think it is. The shortwave station, while serving a useful purpose, is in my opinion but a small part of our entire radio system in Canada, and I am inclined to think that this is one way of giving the C.B.C. something which it could not otherwise get. I am quite sure that if there were an appropriation of $2,000,000 or $3,000,000 for the C.B.C., even for a national home, there might at this time be some considerable opposition. I would not oppose that, because I am not one to oppose the spending of money. I think that is what money is for, to be spent. On the

other hand, when it is to be taken out of the pockets of the taxpayers, they want to know that they are to get something in return. I believe that this is just a suitable way of asking the people of Canada for two or three million dollars, on the basis of a short-wave service, so that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation may come in on the kill. I may not be right, and my language may be over expressive, but I think perhaps that is the situation.

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LIB

Gordon Benjamin Isnor

Liberal

Mr. ISNOR:

I shall deal with just one item, namely the international short-wave station. In view of the important events taking place in New Brunswick, particularly in the last twenty-four hours-

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

You mean yesterday.

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LIB

Gordon Benjamin Isnor

Liberal

Mr. ISNOR:

Yesterday, yes. In view of

those events I am interested in the station at Sackville.

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An hon. MEMBER:

Good broadcasting was done there.

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LIB

Gordon Benjamin Isnor

Liberal

Mr. ISNOR:

Good work was done there. During the war, and perhaps for twenty-four months afterwards, a good deal of war news of value was broadcast from that station. In his statement yesterday, the minister said that fourteen and a half hours was the average daily time that station was in use. Now that the facilities are not being used in connection with war, I would like to know what portion of the time is devoted to a function that I believe was felt to be important in the creation of that station, namely, the enlargement and development of our export trade. Has the minister a breakdown of the hours devoted to the various programs and subjects, particularly to news about the development of our export business?

While I am on my feet I should like to ask the minister if consideration has been given to the amalgamation of the C.B.C. with the national film board, or of the film board with the C.B.C., whichever way he wishes to put it. I think a merger at this time could well be considered. Whether it would be feasible in view of the coming into effect of television, and its use to a greater extent than ever before, I do not know. I notice that Hollywood is claiming certain privileges in connection with television, linking up the picture program with that of television. Has the minister given any thought to that?

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?

Mr. M. J. COLD WELL@Rosetown-Biggar

If the minister does not intend to answer now, Mr. Chairman, may I make a brief comment? I do not wish to delay the committee; having been away for some time, I feel that I should not now make long speeches.

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I have always been interested in the broadcasting corporation. We have not had a committee on radio this year, and I shall not deal with anything pertaining to the corporation 'but shall confine myself specifically to international broadcasting. The amount of money appropriated appears to be large, and I believe some other hon. members feel that it is large.

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LIB

Gordon Benjamin Isnor

Liberal

Mr. ISNOR:

The hon. member for Rose-town-Biggar answered me rather shortly yesterday, Mr. Chairman, and I do not wish to answer him in the same way. But I should like to have an answer to the two questions I asked, because I might wish to pursue them further before the hon. member enters into a general discussion.

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Mr. M. J. COLD WELL@Rosetown-Biggar

I prefaced my remarks, Mr. Chairman, by saying that I desired to make a few comments if the minister did not intend to answer immediately. If the minister had indicated his intention to answer immediately, I would have at once resumed my seat. I give the minister my assurance of that. I will do whatever the minister wishes me to do.

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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Mr. McCANN:

I had thought of attempting to answer all the questions after there had been general discussion. If we were to answer them in rotation, then the hon. member for Macleod should have his answered first.

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Mr. M. J. COLD WELL@Rosetown-Biggar

Very well; I shall continue. What I started to say was this. While the amount may appear to be large, and it is a large amount, I believe the expenditure on the international broadcasting station is warranted. Those of us who have followed the activities of this station know that it is giving to the people of the world an idea of Canadian life and culture; but I feel that it has rendered a more valuable service even than that during the last couple of years.

Our international radio station is one which is heard over a larger part of Europe than any other station in North America. For instance, I know from evidence that was given before the radio committee last year that in Czechoslovakia we have the largest group of listeners of any radio station that penetrates into eastern Europe. At this time, without indulging in propaganda of the type to which we are sometimes subjected, the fact that we are able to penetrate into countries behind what is sometimes called the iron curtain is all to the good. In doing that I think the station is rendering a useful service, not only to Canada but to the democratic cause throughout the world. To the extent that we are able to do that we are keeping in touch with people behind the iron curtain who are our friends and who feel that they are plowing somewhat

of a lonely furrow. Consequently anything we can do, through our culture programs and so on, in eastern Europe, indeed all of Europe, will be a valuable service to democracy the world over.

I am glad that several years ago, after a great deal of discussion in the radio committee, the government built the station and the corporation assumed the responsibility for its programs. I am quite sure that if we had a radio committee this year and the members of the corporation appeared before it, they would be able to tell us again the reaction throughout Europe and the rest of the world where the station is heard, and could give us an impressive list of persons who had been engaged and who, because they are refugees to a large extent, must be remunerated. It is one way of doing what I think we should try to do: we should endeavour to assist people in our country who have suffered for the common cause by enabling them to perform a useful function to Canada and to their native land. For that reason alone, if for no other, we should support the international broadcasting station.

Someone suggests that we might get some commercial revenue. I do not think that is possible with an international station. For one thing, in many countries a good example was set in not permitting commercial advertising over the radio. Those countries would resent it if a North American station advertised for sponsors in their countries. I regret exceedingly that the broadcasting corporation this year has changed its policy in that respect, by allowing prices to be mentioned under certain circumstances. I think that is a backward step; had there been a radio committee this year we should have reported adversely upon it. It is unfair to the small merchants, because it places them more and more in the hands of the big companies which can buy advertising in considerable quantities.

So far as short wave is concerned, from what I know and what I have learned from persons who have spoken to their own countries after certain things have happened there, I am convinced that this radio station is rendering a valuable service and that we should support it-if we are anxious, as I am sure hon. members are, to do all we can to encourage and to support the friends of democracy who today are under dictatorships in various parts of the world.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

If we had known earlier in the session that this program of expansion in connection with short-wave facilities was contemplated, we would certainly have pressed for the setting up of the committee on radio broadcasting. But we did not know about it. The matter has come to the attention of the

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house only in recent days. The question of the purchase of the Ford hotel in Montreal was scouted in this chamber only about two weeks ago. I asked a question about it, based upon some information which had appeared in the press, and I was told that the information was not correct. Further information has appeared subsequently in driblets, and it is only now, within the last several days, that we have had a statement as to the details of the purchase.

A matter of this magnitude, involving the policy of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and of the government with respect to short-wave broadcasting, warranted the setting up of the radio committee. Certainly many of the members who had been on radio committees in previous sessions, were pressed with a multitude of other duties, and were not aware of any extensive change in policy on the part of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Under these circumstances it perhaps did not seem necessary that the committee be convened to meet again this year. Had we been told at an earlier stage of the session that expenditures of this magnitude were contemplated, that changes in policy were involved, or that an expensive building in Montreal was to be purchased, certainly it would have been the duty of the house to press the government to set up the radio committee.

I am not commenting in detail upon the terms of the purchase. Without more information I would not feel competent to express an opinion, although I am inclined to share many of the views expressed this morning by the hon. member for Macleod. But I do say that a transaction of this magnitude should not be permitted without having first a review by the radio committee.

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June 29, 1948