I would commend that particular view to members of the press gallery.
How can we in this context hope to understand or improve the bill before us unless we have an opportunity to hear the full story as it should be placed before members of the standing committee on broadcasting? It is for this reason I have moved my amendment and I urge the house to give it consideration realizing that on this side we are totally sincere in our efforts to expand and improve the legislation before us. I repeat that by this manoeuvre we have no intention of trying to kill the bill. But we cannot do a proper job until we know what the facts are, and this will be one of the results of bringing the bill before the committee prior to second reading.
While hon. members are studying the amendment, perhaps I may make a few of the remarks I had intended to make prior to the occurrences of the last few days. When the Prime Minister finally answered my question regarding C.B.C. coverage in Saskatoon the reaction of the citizens of that city was entirely predictable. The Saskatoon Board of Trade, through its commissioner, Mr. Bert Saltoum, said it was inconceivable that the federal government should shelve the plans and expressed extreme disappointment about the decision.
* (5:10 p.m.)
As reported in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix of November 2 he said:
In the light of all the facts, the board cannot understand the government decision. It notes that the longer the project is delayed the more it will cost when eventually built.
The report continued:
Mr. Salloum said a cut-back on government spending was carried on on this project until the freeze was lifted last year and the C.B.C. applied to the Board of Broadcast Governors for the Saskatoon station. "The B.B.G. approved the application and since then the matter has been awaiting cabinet approval."
"Saskatoon, it was said, would have a second television outlet by the fall of 1968?
The article went on to quote a statement made by the minister in charge of the C.B.C. in which she said:
I concur that a proposed C.B.C. television outlet for Saskatoon is of critical importance and I can assure you that utmost consideration is being given to it.
Commissioner Salloum added:
In the light of all the facts, we cannot understand the government decision.
The mayor of our city, Sidney Buckwold, also got into the act and, as reported in the
November 6, 1967
article, termed the postponement of the C.B.C. station "shameful." He said:
I fully appreciate the financial problems of the federal government, but I believe it is shameful that this project, promised by the C.B.C. to the citizens of Saskatoon for several years, should be postponed.
The report continued:
He said a second television station in the city is urgently needed and the general reaction of the public has indicated a preference for a full C.B.C. station.
There are many other comments by people from my city. There is no question but that the people of Saskatoon want alternative service. When we consider that they pay the same amount of taxes as any other region of Canada for support of the C.B.C., we believe they should be entitled to alternative coverage, the same as is now being received by many other cities of comparable size in Canada.
We believe it is mandatory that the government should reconsider its decision and at least as a temporary measure provide alternative service by a C.B.C. transmitter without studio facilities or allow private broadcasting to fill the void that will be left by this decision of the government. The decision to cancel the station is another example of how the leader of the government has frustrated the wishes of the minister in charge. It flies in the face of the recommendation in the white paper on broadcasting, and in the report of the committee on broadcasting which on page 9 reads as follows:
We recommend ... wherever practical, in areas now receiving only one Canadian service, if the service is through a private outlet, the alternative should be provided by C.B.C. If C.B.C. is now the sole service, the second service should be private.
Then there appears this significant sentence:
Where there are serious obstacles to such parallel development, however, these should not prohibit the extension of alternate service by other means, at least on a temporary basis.
This is the recommendation of the committee that we would like to see invoked.
At present there are rumours going around in the city of Saskatoon about the premier of Saskatchewan having visited the Prime Minister just before this announcement was made. It is being said that he discussed and made some sort of arrangement to allow a private station in Saskatchewan, incidentally a station which has some feeling for the present government, to put a satellite in the
Canadian Policy on Broadcasting Saskatoon area, thus helping the private station out of an uneconomic situation. It is up to the government to kill this type of rumour before it gains too much credence in the minds of the people in the city I represent.
Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I could be permitted to make a few general remarks about some other facets of the bill before us. The white paper issued in 1966 stated one of the objectives of the C.B.C. as follows:
The determination to develop and maintain a national system of radio and t.v. broadcasting in Canada as an essential part of the continuing resolve for Canadian identity and Canadian unity.
The report of the broadcasting committee in March, 1967, put it similarly but in different words which I quoted earlier, namely:
A distinctively Canadian broadcasting system is essential to our national identity, unity and vitality in our second century.
Speaking personally, I am happy to see that the bill before us agrees with these two proposals, but I say that I will support this concept only as long as the private sector of broadcasting is also fully available to every Canadian. I will support it so long as those areas not presently covered by the C.B.C. will receive C.B.C. service. I will support it so long as the provisions in this bill are meaningful so far as the full and varied use of Canadian talent-writers, producers, actors and so on-is concerned. I will support it so long as it is truly Canadian and so long as its prime objective is the fostering not only of a distinctive Canadianism but also the encouragement of those Canadians involved in the arts.
The C.B.C. should be an instrument not of propaganda but of education. I must confess that I share the deep concern of the hon. member for Yukon when he referred to that clause in the bill which gives the cabinet power to pre-empt any program and broadcast any other program that either the executive committee or the governor in council deems to be of special significance to Canadians generally. The minister has said, and I note that the distinguished advocate from York South has also said, that the government would never take advantage of this provision for propaganda purposes. If that is the case, Mr. Speaker, then this clause should not be in the bill at all.
A truly distinctive Canadian broadcasting system should be an instrument not only of entertainment but of enlightenment. It should be a means of communication between various regions to promote better understanding between them. It should not become the agent of
November 6, 1967
Canadian Policy on Broadcasting any one group seeking to promote its views and its views alone. Rather, it should be the means to provide stimulating and thought-provoking discussion.
It should be a cohesive factor in Canadian life. Earlier I quoted the aim of a national system of radio and television, and in this regard may I say that unity should be the result of a good broadcasting policy on the part of a viable C.B.C. and should not be a means to an end. The C.B.C. should not be used as an instrument to forge unity. Rather, as it helps one region of Canada to understand the others better, as it helps one racial group to understand and appreciate others, it will have done its work well and will have helped immeasurably in forging a united Canada, proud of its different origins and confident despite its diversity.
Presuming that we accept the above premises, certain other consequences become apparent. I have mentioned some of them previously. First, to achieve such lofty aims C.B.C. radio and television must reach every citizen in our country and, as I pointed out before, this is not yet a reality. Consequently the C.B.C. must have sufficient funds in order to provide the kind of service required. It is meaningless to put these words on paper and then not provide the means to give the type of service we hope to see.
The C.B.C. must also have sufficient flexibility and stability in regard to the moneys appropriated to allow meaningful, long-range planning. But it must also be responsible to the people of Canada and the parliament of Canada who provide the money with which it operates. At the same time authority must be permitted to allow good corporate management with the proviso that artistic freedom be given prominence, because only in this way can the C.B.C. mature and its influence increase. As I said before, allowing the C.B.C. to be used as an instrument of propaganda for any pressure group is to be mentioned only to be condemned.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer once more to the amendment I have placed before the house. Once again I ask hon. members on both sides to consider how we in the official opposition view this amendment. Certain allegations have been made by the minister. Counter-charges have been hurled back by the C.B.C. This unseemly situation must not be allowed to continue.
[DOT] (5:20 p.m.)
As I have said before, it is the right of every taxpayer in this country to know
exactly how the money provided to the C.B.C. is being spent by it. If the minister feels that her responsibility is to the management of the C.B.C. only, then I must in all honesty say that I disagree most heartily with this concept. It is the members of this house and the people of Canada who should know what is rotten in the management of the C.B.C. As parliamentarians, before we discuss the bill and before we propose amendments as the minister has invited us to do, we must know what is going on.
In the last few weeks factors have come to light which we did not have an opportunity to discuss in the committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts. In many ways this is a new kettle of fish. We must have an opportunity to hear what these charges are. The Canadian people must know what the charges are. When we have this information we would hope to be able to come up then with a bill that will provide for the Canadian nation the type of guidance and control that all of us would like to see in this vital area of broadcasting which affects every facet of Canadian life.
Subtopic: IMPLEMENTATION OF CANADIAN POLICY