Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):
I should like to call the attention of the house, Mr. Speaker, for three or four minutes to this report, concurrence in which was moved in the house last Wednesday. The motion made by the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot) is one of the most important that we have had before us since the last war started. In the first place, may I point out to the house that the people back home in the constituencies know very little-in fact, almost nothing-about what goes on here. They rely on three agencies for their information. The first is printed Hansard. I am glad to see that a large number of public men and businessmen in the district from which I come read it. But at the present time when we are voting large sums of the people's money- nearly two billion dollars in the present estimates-the people have little knowledge of what goes on in the house.
In our city we used to have three morning newspapers and three evening newspapers. No one could criticize them. They have been doing a great work. Those who represent them in the press gallery are discharging a great public duty. During the war an information bureau, which I strongly opposed, was set up.
I always contended that that was a reflection on the press, and a suggestion that they were not doing their duty in letting the public know what was going on. At that time
the newspapers were under censorship. Today there is no censorship. We see the result of it in the debates in the house.
I do not care whether members are given one copy, five copies or ten copies. That is not the point I wish to make. My point is that the public are not getting the information they should be getting about public affairs, when we are voting, in the civil estimates, sums running into two billion dollars of their money. They are not getting the news they should be getting back home in the constituencies. The result is that the people have little or no knowledge of what is going on in public affairs. For instance, with regard to external affairs, days after these matters are discussed here some statement is given out, and the public know absolutely nothing about that particular department. We are dependent on the press and on the radio. The radio is like the tower of Babel, if you ask me. Some people turn it off a moment after they turn it on. Nevertheless they must pay for it. The public has very little advantage from it because the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been turned into a department of propaganda. .
It is necessary to see the cause and effect of this lack of information back home in the constituencies. You find it in the halls when you attend meetings. Questions are asked on matters which the predecessors of those who are voters today knew all about. I remember meetings when I was head of the city of Toronto. Some of these were attended by three or four thousand people; the subject under discussion w'as the taking over of the street railway. In provincial and dominion election campaigns these meetings have been superseded by the radio and all that kind of thing. No one can criticize the newspapers, because they always have the last word.
In conclusion I should like to say this. We must see the cause and effect if the public are not kept informed of what is going on. In Toronto, as I say, we used to have six newspapers. Now we only have one in the morning and two in the evening. The two in the evening are the only two I know of that have not increased their rates, and they have been doing splendid work. But they have instituted here what they call the columnist system, and when you read the various columns you find that some have the tendency to write about what is said by leaders and ignore the others. As for myself I do not care. I do not need that kind of publicity. I have never depended on it. I will say, however, that the people are
Report oj Debates Committee
entitled to more information than they are getting today. What the solution is, I do not know.
I am glad the hon. member who introduced this motion has called the attention of the house to this matter. He has been an able chairman. He has called attention to one of the weaknesses in our democratic system, and the agencies we have for making it work. In the last few years I have noticed in the newspapers pages and pages of sporting news and other matters in which a great many of the people may or may not be interested. We cannot criticize the press. They know their own business best. With the high cost of printing, and with the newsprint situation as it is, I do not know how the newspapers are carrying on at all. I wish to say a word of appreciation of their services to the public. I hope that appropriate measures will be introduced to give the public the information to which they are entitled.
I think the hon. gentleman deserves a great deal of credit for having brought this matter to the attention of the house.