February 14, 1985

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

CANADIAN RADIO-TELEVISION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION ACT MEASURE TO AMEND


The House resumed from Wednesday, February 13, 1985, consideration of the motion of Mr. Masse that Bill C-20, an Act to Amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Broadcasting Act and the Radio Act, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Communications and Culture.


LIB

Fernand Robichaud

Liberal

Mr. Fernand Robichaud (Westmorland-Kent):

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased with this opportunity to take part in the debate on Bill C-20, an Act to amend the Canadian Radiotelevision and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Broadcasting Act and the Radio Act.

I must say 1 find it interesting and most gratifying to speak to a Bill initially tabled and introduced in the House of Commons by the Liberal Government in the spring of 1984. The Government at the time and its Minister had worked very hard to promote the development of our communications industry and its specific role in serving Canadians.

Its role is, of course, to promote the development of Canadian culture across the country while considering, and this is very important, Canada's cultural diversity.

On the basis of this experience, the Liberals proposed in Bill C-20 that the Governor in Council have the right to issue certain directives to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. This is in fact repeated by the Minister of Communications (Mr. Masse) in clause 14.1. However, the difference, and there is a vast difference between the former and the present Governments, is that the previous Government had won the confidence of the industry and the CRTC by initiating legislation and bills aimed at expanding communications in Canada. The problem is that today, the Party opposite does not have that expertise in communications, nor does it have the confidence of the communications industry.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is very difficult to win the confidence of the industry when the Government has announced an

unconscionable number of cutbacks, and nothing else. I am thinking of the budgetary cutbacks affecting cultural agencies such as the National Film Board, the CRTC, the National Arts Centre and the Canada Council.

As far as the Canada Council is concerned, the Minister of Communications has decided to close the Council's Atlantic office located in Moncton, New Brunswick. I am sure the Minister must have received, as 1 did, a number of letters from the Conseil de promotion et de diffusion de la culture in New Brunswick, expressing their dissatisfaction. Mr. Speaker, I must explain that this organization regroups 14 associations directly involved in promoting and disseminating culture. 1 would add that our part of the country is relatively sparsely populated and our culture, the Acadian culture, is that of a minority. If we did not have those cultural organizations we would lose contact with other groups in Canada and we would be unable to make our culture known in other parts of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the Minister realized that by closing the office in Moncton, he was in fact cutting off artists in Atlantic Canada from those in the rest of the country. If our Atlantic artists are to make a career in the arts, they must go outside the Atlantic provinces and make a name for themselves in the rest of Canada. By closing the Canada Council office, the Minister is compounding the isolation of the Maritimes and their people. Mr. Speaker, if we consider that the key role of the Department of Communications is to promote Canadian culture across the country, let me tell you that the Government is not going in the right direction.

That is not all, however, since the Minister has decided to proceed with further, equally disastrous, cutbacks. For instance, the new Government slashed $7 million off budgets to promote cultural projects. And, of course, they keep chanting: Hurrah for Canadian culture! Next, we will be asking: What Canadian culture? At the rate it is being stifled, we will soon be hard-pressed to maintain our own culture throughout the country.

As a matter of fact, I am afraid I denote a growing trend towards the isolation of the various cultures. This comment is strengthened by the fact that the party in office has pared the budget of the Crown corporation whose original mandate was to upgrade Canadian culture throughout the country. I wonder how the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will be able to live up to its mandate now that its operations have been curtailed by S85 million. One cannot talk about reduced

February 14, 1985

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funding without mentioning lay-offs in the same breath. Most lays-offs involved the main centres, but the fact remains that back home, in the Maritimes, quite a few employees of the Crown corporation lost their job. Need 1 emphasize that reduced staff in administration and especially in programming has a direct impact on the overall operations of the Crown corporation.

[DOT] (mo)

In a region such as ours, the Acadian region, it is essential that a corporation such as the CBC be in a position to operate without restraints. First, to us the CBC means a Canadian or national presence but, more than that, it maintains the French fact and the French culture in the Maritimes through its French network, Radio-Canada. We do have other francophone media in the region, Mr. Speaker, but not as many as we would wish. The CBC cutbacks gave rise to immediate reaction from organizations such as the Federation des francophones hors Quebec and Nova Scotia's Federation des Aca-diens. Quite rightly, those associations spoke up against the cutbacks.

People have always praised the CBC for its contribution to cultural minorities. It was Radio-Canada that opened the first francophone TV stations in the Maritimes and, to this day, there are still no private television stations broadcasting French programs in the Maritimes-only Radio-Canada does. Most local programs and productions originate from Radio-Canada.

If I may, Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a few words about consultation. They used to say that there would be no cutbacks without consultation first, but I must point out that again those were empty words.

In concluding my remarks, Mr. Speaker, still on the issue of consultation, I happen to have here an interesting note about-

The National Director of the Canada Council, Brian Anthony, told reporters that the arts community was never consulted about the budget reductions.

And finally, Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about the fact that the party across the floor is still busy making further cutbacks in the field of communications, again without consulting the groups involved. I can only decry this unilateral approach and I am firmly convinced that leaders in the communications industry will never have confidence in a Government which shows so little concern for their industry.

[DOT] (ms)

IVIrs. Therese Killens (Saint-Michel-Ahuntsic): Mr. Speaker, I was anxious to speak in the House today because in my riding Saint-Michel-Ahuntsic, we have a very specific problem that concerns the CRTC. About three years ago, a community group came to my office with a community radio project called Radio communautaire du nord de Montreal. In a big city like

Montreal, people who stay home like to hear local news. It is like a local newspaper. In my riding there are four local newspapers, and I know my constituents would rather read these papers than the big Montreal dailies.

With this in mind, I agreed to support the community project I mentioned earlier because it covers about five or six ridings in Montreal North, not just my own. I gave the group a "Canada Works 1983-84" of $17,292. I gave them a "Summer Canada 1984-85" of $6,424. They also received a grant from the Department of the Secretary of State in 1984, for $5,700. 1 also obtained a "Section 38" for the fall of 1984, for $11,000. Mr. Speaker, the point I am trying to make is that it is particularly important to my riding that this project be approved by the CRTC.

Radio communautaire du nord de Montreal has held several neighbourhood meetings. It launched a leadership campaign and received many programming requests. It has concluded its viability study and sent its application to the CRTC. They were ready to submit their brief to the CRTC last fall, but, not surprisingly, considering what happened on September 4 last year, everything was postponed. Last week, I met Mr. Guy Jolicoeur, the project's promoter, who informed me he was very disappointed after receiving a letter from the CRTC advising him that his appointment for submitting his brief had been postponed for one year. This kind of delay is intolerable.

Mr. Speaker, my riding has 10 homes for the elderly, and 12.1 per cent of these people are over 65, while 23.4 per cent are between 45 and 64. I also have disabled people in my riding. Among the 10 per cent that are disabled, many are blind. It is a wellknown fact that people with this kind of disability listen to the radio all day and all evening, since they cannot watch television and few are able to read braille.

When I look at the cuts announced in the paper issued last November by the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. de Cotret), I find that $75 million have been taken away from the CBC's communications department; $7.5 million from the cultural agencies; $7 million from cultural projects, and $10 million from the CBC's high technology equipment budget. Finally, and this affects my own community project, $22 million have been taken away from the broadcasting licensing department.

I have attempted to give a concrete example of the frustration and aggravation experienced by a small community which had already given clear indication of its needs. I hope the Government will reconsider its decision, Mr. Speaker, because I am sure quite a number of other small communities across Canada are just as disappointed as I am.

I feel 1 have a responsibility to speak for the handicapped who will be severely affected by Government cutbacks in the communications area.

I was on the task force which considered the needs of the handicapped during the 32nd Parliament. At that time we had

February 14, 1985

hearings in 18 cities all across Canada; we received 600 briefs and produced the "Obstacle" Report, in which we brought forward 130 recommendations. The fourth chapter dealt with information and communications and contained 14 recommendations having to do with the needs of the handicapped in the area of communications.

Mr. Speaker, one out of ten Canadians is handicapped, and that means 2.4 million Canadians. It would be urgent for the Government to develop a national policy on their needs in the area of communications. One of the recommendations was that community radio stations should allocate time for the broadcasting of regional and local news. This is something altogether different from national news.

Recommendation 54 was that the CRTC should develop programs with subtitles, provided of course that a broadcasting permit be obtained within a reasonable time. Licensing would be conditional on the addition of subtitles.

Will the S10 million cutback in the CBC's high technology equipment allocation hinder the development of the new subtitling system? Present day technology now allows cable viewers using a special decoding device to watch information on the screen.

The spokesmen for the handicapped consider that method of communications as being essential to cope with a wide range of needs of the hard of hearing in the area of information and leisure. We should keep in mind, Mr. Speaker, that all statistics point to the fact that we will have to serve an aging population in the future, and that means an increasing number of persons with hearing problems, our older people being more numerous. In 1985, the average age is said to be 72 for men and 74 for women.

Another recommendation affecting the daily life of all our people with hearing problems is the prohibitive cost of longdistance calls. Because the method for receiving the message is slow, due to the fact that the message must be typed and received on a small screen, the Government should ask provincial governments and telephone companies as a priority to apply a rate reduction as soon as possible. I must say that Bell Canada has already accepted this, but the country is served by other smaller telephone companies.

I should like to touch on the question of the CBC regional service. In 1977, less than 10 years ago, the CBC was allowed to set up facilities in a city of the Lower St. Lawrence called Rimouski. How surprising! The entire population had to get involved beginning with Mrs. Eva Cote, then president of the Liberal Association and former Member for the constituency of Rimouski. She worked in close co-operation with Jeanne Sauve, then Minister of Communications. Some eight years later, the CJBR station in Rimouski is facing cuts and lay-offs. With 45,000 residents, Rimouski is an important city. Indeed,

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it is considered as the economic center of the Lower St. Lawrence.

One has to wonder whether the Government opposite is not moving backwards. I could go on and on but the Speaker is now indicating that I should very soon put an end to my remarks.

Before closing, Mr. Speaker, 1 would like to mention that I am concerned about our Canadian artists. They are also affected by this legislation. Without programs such as Les beaux dimanches, there would have been no opportunity to appreciate the works of Marcel Dube, hear Maureen Forester, or see Karen Kain dance. Some people such as Toller Cranston, Louise Marleau, Anne Murray and many others would be known only abroad. Some 20 years ago, all our Quebec artists had to go into exile in France to launch their career. 1 will not speak of Rich Little nor of Paul Anka and all the others who went to the United States to become famous. We are pleased and very proud to say that all those people are Canadians. They belong to our culture. I think that it is a good reason enough to oppose that Bill.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADIAN RADIO-TELEVISION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Édouard Desrosiers

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Desrosiers:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment if I may.

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PC

Marcel Danis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Unfortunately, comments are not allowed at this stage of the debate on the Bill.

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LIB

Maurice Brydon Foster

Liberal

Mr. Maurice Foster (Algoma):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-20 relating to the CRTC. It will do a number of things. In particular, it will give the Government the power to direct the CRTC to implement government policy. As we are living in a very rapidly changing world in telecommunications, especially as it relates to satellite communications, to the changing role of cable television and of direct broadcast, the Government really needs this power.

When we look at many rural areas in the country, we see a situation developing where local television broadcasting stations have a very difficult time being financially successful. Often they are owned by the local cable network which carries 10 or 12 other channels-American ones, other Canadian ones and so on. Naturally the viewers want to watch these channels. Without a cable fee each month to subscribers, the local television station broadcasting off air would have a very difficult time making it financially. We have to have policies, and the Government has to be in the position to make policies so that we can maintain local television stations and ensure that they have the power to raise money through cable systems.

In the outlying areas of the country we see a twin stick operation in many cases, where local television stations carry CBC and CTV network broadcasting; for example, we see that in Sault Ste. Marie and in places like Sudbury. It took a few years for the CRTC to recognize the necessity for the cable and local television broadcasting facilities being tied together.

February 14, 1985

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In a sense we have that situation because without it local television stations could not be viable economically.

Some people would say that carrying CBC, CTV, Global and the other networks does not matter. However, I think it matters for us to have locally produced programs. They increase Canadian content. They give us local information about the area or district which they serve. It is very important for the Government to continue to adopt policies which ensure strong local broadcasting capacities for our stations.

One of the great concerns of many Hon. Members, at least on this side of the House, is just what policies the Government will adopt. In the recent economic statement of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson), we find serious cut-backs in all manner of the arts. With the new power being provided in this Bill, we have to wonder just what policies the Government will announce. We have already seen the following cut-backs: $75 million in the CBC, $1.5 million in the National Film Board, $1.5 million in the CRTC, $1 million in the NAC, $7.5 million in the Canada Council and $7 million in the communications department.

I am especially conscious of these cut-backs because I had the opportunity to work in the Miscellaneous Estimates Committee last spring on C-24, the Crown Corporations Bill. At that time the Hon. Member for Rosedale (Mr. Crombie) was the critic for culture and the arts. We heard very strong speeches in favour of the arts and in favour of arm's length activity with the arts. We were able to design that Bill so that in the end the independence of the artistic community and the grants to the Canada Council were maintained. However, we have to worry about the strong statements made during the election campaign with regard to arm's length dealings with the arts and with the strong financial support to the arts when we reconcile them with the speeches of the Minister of Communications (Mr. Masse) here in November and the interviews he has given, as well as the cut-backs which took place in the artistic community announced in the economic statement of early November. For example, in August, in response to a question from the Canadian Conference of the Arts, the PC Government replied:

We are committed to maintaning federal funding for the agencies and councils in line with inflation.

It does not say anything about the $75 million cut-back that came about three months later for the CBC, the cut-backs to the National Film Board and National Arts Centre. We wonder what happened between August, 1984 and November, 1984.

In reply to another questionnaire, the PC Government replied:

We are committed to real growth in federal contributions to this sector.

A few months later we saw massive cut-backs taking place in the artistic community totalling $121 million. In response to

another Canadian Conference of the Arts questionnaire in August, 1984, the Government stated:

Our commitment to improving the quality as well as the quantity of employment in the cultural sector is firm.

After the economic statement of November 8, we found that the CBC was forced to lay off 1,100 people Therefore, we have to wonder whether these commitments mean anything.

We were very impressed with the interventions of the Hon. Member for Rosedale at the Miscellaneous Estimates Committee meetings last year in support of the arts and its independence. How that had changed by November of this year! In an interview with The Globe and Mail on November 29, the Minister of Communications said that he wanted to rethink the arm's length principle and that his Government was moving rapidly to apply direct political hands in the affairs of the CBC.

It is interesting that when the plans were being made for cuts in the CBC of some $75 million, that was not done by the CBC alone. Three outside consultants were hired to decide the fate of the CBC. We are very concerned about where the Government's policy is now compared to before it came to power.

The CBC provides a unique service, not only to the country at large but to various regions. The CBC broadcast out of Sudbury covers all the communities in north-eastern Ontario. Even though those communities are all considered to be in one geographical area, they have very little ties except through the CBC. They receive feeds from the Canadian Press, Broadcast News or whatever, but the CBC is the only organization which ties all of these communities together in a regular CBC radio broadcast mechanism.

I hope the Government will take these concerns into account and develop policies for the future, not undercut and slash the artistic communities and essential services like the CBC as was done in November last.

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Subtopic:   CANADIAN RADIO-TELEVISION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Édouard Desrosiers

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Edouard Desrosiers (Hochelaga-Maisonneuve):

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, Bill C-20 will help us to make things better.

Hon. Members opposite criticize the Progressive Conservative Party for the cut-backs of $75 million at the CBC, but we must point out, and all Canadians should know this, the rationale for these cut-backs was to put an end to the shameful waste of money at the CBC. This is the truth, Mr. Speaker. We should not be afraid to say so.

People today want to defend the artists. I have been a member of the Union des artistes for over 25 years, Mr. Speaker, and I can tell those who want to defend the artists today that these people have been penalized for over 20 years by the CBC. This corporation helps about 40 people. All Canadians watch television! Where are our young musicians? Where are our young dancers? Where are our great Canadian singers? They have to leave Canada to earn a living.

February 14, 1985

They now say that they want to defend the great Canadian culture. Shame on them! Shame on the Members opposite who weakened this great culture for 20 years to help their friends, who have always been the same people. You also watch television, Mr. Speaker. You will agree with me that it resembles a game of musical chairs. The programs may change, but the people remain the same. Our old actors are no longer working, Mr. Speaker. It is always the same guy, who is given a wig and told: You will play this old man. At the same time, our old actors, who have a lot of experience, are completely forgotten. And what about the young musicians coming out of our academies of music, Mr. Speaker? What will they do? They will do what they have been doing for the last 20 years: They will play their instruments in their own kitchens.

Such is the result of the former administration under the Liberal Party.

Fortunately, Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservative Party is in charge now and we want to correct the situation and recognize the true worth of our artists. We also want to give them a chance to really come out and to develop and promote our great Canadian culture in this country. This is the truth, Mr. Speaker. We have seen many strange things in the past. Some people today for the sake of a cause are describing the Progressive Conservative Party as terrible and sleazy because CBC's budget was cut by $75 million. Flowever, the truth must come out. We have no jurisdiction over the CBC. You know that, Mr. Speaker. There is a man at the helm called Mr. Juneau and he is the one who decided to snap off radio antennas across Canada. Fie asked no one for permission. He does not want to follow instructions. He was told to stop wasting money. There are people at the CBC who have been there for 20 years. They have never produced anything and they have five or six people working for them. They are producers who have never produced anything. It is in such instances that we have asked that expenses be trimmed by $75 million.

I can give you another example. At one time, it was decided to produce a program called La course au bonheur at a cost of $1.5 million but this program was never shown. Strangely enough, Mr. Juneau made a statement and said: Well, we were wrong, we made a mistake; it was a miscalculation. We shall try to improve the situation.

Even the Auditor General of Canada has said that CBC had the worst management. This is a fact, and I think that it is important to support legislation such as Bill C-20 to correct the situation and to restore, in the interests of our Canadian artists and all the Canadian people, the true cultural role of the CBC.

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LIB

Alfonso Gagliano

Liberal

Mr. Alfonso Gagliano (Saint-Leonard-Anjou):

Considering the enthusiasm shown by my colleague the Hon. Member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Mr. Desrosiers), Mr. Speaker, I

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could not keep silent; I should like, therefore, to deal for a few minutes with Bill C-20.

Mr. Speaker, this Bill C-20 is essentially the same as the one the Hon. Francis Fox, the previous Minister of Communications, had introduced on February 8, 1984. At the time, Mr. Francis Fox, the previous Minister stated, and 1 quote: "This bill would provide more definite guidelines for the regulations the CRTC might implement in order to ensure that the broadcasting system contributes to an affirmative representation of women and other groups".

I have no major objections to the measure which the Minister of Communications (Mr. Masse) has introduced, and I hope, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister will come forward at a later date with the other measures which were part of Hon. Francis Fox' Bill C-20.

I warn the Minister that he must keep his promise of holding consultations. He should really hold consultations, not merely announce them . . . We hear the Chairman of the Canada Council is experiencing much difficulty trying to set up a meeting with the Minister.

My colleague the Hon. Member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve has launched an attack against the CBC and its Chairman, but he has forgotten a very important thing, namely, that the Hon. Minister of Communications had appointed a troika to carry out a study and investigate the affairs of the CBC, and that it was that troika which suggested or decided not to make cutbacks. I think Mr. Juneau has administered the CBC well and it is thanks to the CBC if some groups are well represented in the French Canadian culture.

In a modern society such as ours, communications are of utmost importance. The impact of a televised broadcast can be assessed. Very positive programs have a positive impact. As evidence of this, I should like to refer to the visit John Paul II paid to Canada. All those who wanted to see the Holy Father were able to do so, just as they were able to see Her Majesty the Queen and witness major events. I will never forget Prince Charles and Lady Diana's televised wedding; it was a major event indeed, the like of which we could only expect to see in movies. Yet, it was for real. The impact of such great events is positive. But disturbing events can have a major impact too. In that context, Mr. Speaker, control over our system of communications becomes all the more important. My colleague who acts as critic for the Liberal Party in the field of communications has already pledged our support for this Bill, but we hope that in future the Government will continue the work already begun by the Liberal Party. Mr. Speaker, I thank you for letting me say a few words at the last minute.

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PC

Marcel Danis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Is the House ready for the question?

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?

Some Hon. Members:

Question.

February 14, 1985

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PC

Marcel Danis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

The Hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Communications (Mr. Scott)?

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?

George Albert Proud

Mr. Prud'homme:

We will have more speakers.

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PC

Marcel Danis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I know the Parliamentary Secretary is aware of the fact that he could speak and close the debate. Is that what he wishes? If so, he would have to have the unanimous consent of the House. If not, I will recognize other speakers after his speech.

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?

George Albert Proud

Mr. Prud'homme:

Mr. Speaker, there does not seem to be general agreement to give unanimous consent-

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?

Some Hon. Members:

Oh, oh!

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?

George Albert Proud

Mr. Prud'homme:

Please!

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PC

Paul Wyatt Dick (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Government House Leader))

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dick:

There is on this side. Trying to stall again?

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?

George Albert Proud

Mr. Prud'homme:

May I kindly remind my counterpart that the Bill would have passed last night if it had not been for the rudeness of some of his colleagues. May I put that on the record?

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PC

Paul Wyatt Dick (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Government House Leader))

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dick:

You broke an agreement.

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February 14, 1985