Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP)
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to address Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act.
I had an opportunity to review some of the debate in which I took part earlier in the week and I want to make a few points.
First, I want to focus on and at least highlight the bill in terms of what it does for consumers and the telecommunications industry. The government rationale behind the bill is to protect investments made by the broadcasting industry and the integrity of the broadcasting system as a whole by fighting satellite piracy. To do so, the bill will target unauthorized dealers and the pirating of signals.
In particular, the government wants current changes it deems necessary to stop the sale and distribution of devices used to decode encrypted direct to home satellite signals without authorization. It is an excellent example of the government not taking the proper steps on an issue that is going to lead to confrontation in Canadian society and is the reason I do not support the bill being moved to committee at this time.
To be specific, the problem is that the bill is coming forward without dealing with the issue of satellite access to many cultural and other programs that are currently available abroad to different communities out there, providing those opportunities for people to purchase into the systems. They will now be further criminalized by the bill if they are accessing products and services that are not available legally in this country. I think the government should have been honest and should have actually worked on producing those access points for Canadians, be it for cultural or other types of programming for which people have been clamouring and which keeps them in connection with the community.
A report that came out of the Canadian heritage committee identified this issue. It was a report about the black and grey satellite market: “Maintaining a Single System”. In chapter 16 the committee recommended:
--that the CRTC permit Canadian broadcasting distribution undertakings to offer a wider range of international programming, while being respectful of Canadian content regulations.
Now the government has come forward with this bill, which will further criminalize people for keeping in touch with their cultural communities.
I noticed in Hansard that previous supporters of the bill seem to be falling back on the whole issue of protecting artists and broadcasting integrity in Canada to ensure that those individuals receive funds and the proper recognition they deserve for their products, and to encourage our Canadian culture to flourish. That is very suspect, with the government's past.
I want to be very clear about this. If a person is in the black market system and is stealing a signal that is legally available in Canada, we should stop that. We should have punishment for those individuals. Whether it is Bell ExpressVu, Shaw or whatever is currently available in Canada, it should not be an option for people to steal the signal and they should be punished accordingly for that. The problem is in that grey market where the services are not available. This also provides a good connection for individuals and communities to reach back to their former homelands, to have education and entertainment and that connection. Those individuals will now be further criminalized into that black market. I cannot support the bill for that reason.
The government is falling back on the whole notion that the bill will improve the access for artists to be able to receive funds and to make sure Canadian content prospers, but it is not really an improvement on its past practices. We recently had a motion put forward by the member for Dartmouth from our party which called for a tax deduction for artists. That would have been far better for those artists. The government voted against that and stopped the motion from going forward.
One of the main issues that we have to identify is how to provide people with the actual access to those cultural programs. In my community of Windsor, we have many people accessing programs which they would access in a legal way if they were provided the opportunity to do so. They could do so and pay into a system that supports Canadian culture. They would all be happy to do that and would support it.
We have to wonder where this issue is going. We look at the fact that Bell ExpressVu Canada and Shaw Communications have contributed over $320,000 to the Liberal Party and Paul Martin's leadership campaign--
Subtopic: Act to amend the Radiocommunication Act