June 8, 1993 (34th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Joy Langan (Deputy Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Ms. Joy Langan (Mission-Coquitlam):

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting the hon. member for Mount Royal says that it is important the bill go through. We share that view, but we believe very strongly that the bill should only go through if it is markedly strengthened. That is
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the thrust behind the amendments put forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Okanagan-Shuswap.
The hon. member for Mount Royal also talked about the press report that the minister would have to bring the big hammer into the House to ensure that the bill goes through because members of Parliament on this side were filibustering. It has been a long time since the House saw a filibuster. From the time this Parliament began in 1988 it has not been possible to have a filibuster in the House.
If it looks like the debate is getting a bit feisty, a bit meaningful and a bit interesting, the government moves closure yet again so it can ram through its legislation and ensure that meaningful discussion does not take place.
To have the minister reporting to the press that he will have to use the big hammer on the opposition because we are delaying this bill or any other bill in the House is insulting at its very best. The minister could at least have respect for the House by looking a bit embarrassed by those kinds of statements.
With regard to the amendments in Motions Nos. 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11 it is important to look at the five amendments to the clause as objectives for the telecommunications industry. The first amendment would ensure that the telecommunications infrastructure is used to improve and express Canada's cultural identity.
The government failed to define the imminent convergence between telecommunications carriers and broadcasters. It has produced a visionless entrenchment of the status quo.
Cultural groups across the country are outraged that culture has been expunged from the objectives of the bill. Keith Kelly, national director of the Canadian Conference of the Arts, said: "We need to bring telecommunications into the cultural realm and to recognize its increasing importance in the production and delivery of cultural products".
There is no reference in the bill to any responsibility of the telecommunications industry to further the federal government's cultural objectives. The hon. minister is gazing at the ceiling. I might be boring him. These are important points. If the government were to take the opposition as seriously as it takes its friends in the telecommunications industry, we might end up with a good bill.

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Multinational businesses are already exploiting telecommunications to circumvent Canadian rules intended to protect and promote culture. Sports Illustrated is publishing a Canadian edition that has little Canadian content, but because it is being beamed across the border and printed in Canada there is nothing the federal government can do or will do. Sports Illustrated is only one example in the print media.
We in Vancouver enjoy The Globe and Mail because it is beamed across the country. There is nothing to stop a whole flood of American publications being printed in Canada and claiming to be Canadian products with Canadian content.
With the bill we have rigid rules for broadcasters to promote and protect Canadian content but no rules for telecommunication industries. I wonder whether the next step will be a change in broadcast policy so they can compete with telecommunications. Pretty soon we will have no rules. We will have deregulation for the entire broadcast-telecommunications sector. Is that the slippery slope this minister is taking us on?
It is important that just around the comer is the convergence of the broadcasting and telecommunications industries. The bill is silent on the issue. If this bill were passed into law, telecommunications companies would be exempt from the rules which apply to broadcasters to promote culture, but they could well be offering the same products as broadcasters.
The small omission in the bill may have huge ramifications. Ottawa will have relinquished any ability to promote Canadian culture in the future. One might ask why there has been such an omission. Was it to satisfy the needs of Quebec nationalists who argue that the federal government should relinquish all control over culture? It is important to take a look at what that means.
The Alliance of Canada Cinemas says: "Accepting a recommendation to delete references to sovereignty, politics and culture would ignore the long-term implications of convergence. It would be bowing to a deregulation fever that may be premature. Many issues relating to the transport of information through telecommunications pipelines remain unanswered, such as access by programming services and compensation for rights contained in material distributed. Moreover, we submit that those advocating the deletion of social and cultural
clauses in this bill have a narrow view of the potential volume of information and business opportunities available. In short, they are not looking past their bottom line at the expense of the greater public interest".
We are here to be concerned about the greater public interest. We see deregulation in the industry again. The government has not learned from the deregulation of the airline industry, deregulation of the railroad industry, deregulation across the country.
Deregulation brings problems and the destruction of the Canadian milieu. It changes us into something other than what Canadians really believe we want to be, that is a united Canada, a Canada with an identity and a Canada we can all be proud of, not a 51st state.

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