James Sydney Clark FLEMING

FLEMING, The Hon. James Sydney Clark, P.C., B.A.

Personal Data

York West (Ontario)
Birth Date
October 30, 1939
commentator, executive assistant, journalist

Parliamentary Career

October 30, 1972 - May 9, 1974
  York West (Ontario)
July 8, 1974 - March 26, 1979
  York West (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Communications (October 10, 1975 - September 30, 1976)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment (October 1, 1976 - September 30, 1977)
May 22, 1979 - December 14, 1979
  York West (Ontario)
February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
  York West (Ontario)
  • Minister of State (Multiculturalism) (March 3, 1980 - August 11, 1983)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 98)

May 28, 1984

Mr. Fleming:

What do you mean it is a fascinating speech? He has said the same thing over 11 times so far.

Full View Permalink

April 17, 1984

Hon. Jim Fleming (York West) moved

that Bill C-226, an Act to ensure, at the national level, competition and independence of the daily press, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health, Welfare and Social Affairs.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity, my first chance to put forward a Bill in Private Members' hour for some years. It is a very important issue for discussion this afternoon. Always the optimist as a Member of the House of Commons for some 11 years, I hope that it might gain support from all sides of the House, or at least go to a vote. I will not

April 17, 1984

waste a lot of time pleading that case, knowing tradition during this hour.

This Bill is entitled "an Act to ensure, at the national level, competition and independence of the daily press". The Bill is essentially a carbon copy of a Cabinet-approved Bill put forward during this Parliament in response to the royal commission on newspapers in Canada. The only exception is the exclusion of the part of the Bill dealing with a national newspaper advisory council, its establishment and the creation of an endowment fund, and within that same section the offering of matching grants of up to $50,000 for up to three years for daily newspapers in Canada which would open up new bureaus outside of the region in which they are located or outside of Canada and reporting back to Canada.

I say that for clarification as I begin to make my presentation on this Bill. First, as we all know, Private Members' Bills are not allowed to put forward the expenditure of money. This removes that possibility. I might say that we do have across Canada, since the report of the royal commission and the proposals by the Government that followed at that time, the development of volunteer press councils across this country. Previously there were only press councils in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. Frankly, in Ontario, less than half the daily newspapers with far less than half the daily circulation belonged at that time. Now almost all daily newspapers in Ontario belong and almost all in Quebec. Indeed, we now have a council for the Maritime provinces, a council for Alberta and Saskatchewan, a new council in Manitoba and a new council in British Columbia.

I am heartened by that, although I am still concerned about the issue of credibility of those press councils. They are largely funded by the publishers. The first set of appointments to those councils are made by the publishers. Often editorials and journalists suggest that we must not show either a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest. Therefore, I see some problem with that credibility. The proof will be in how they perform. I want to be an optimist on that. When so many of our Canadian cities have only one daily newspaper, at least there is a place where individuals can go to vet their grievances.

In the case of the grants, which are not included in this legislation but were in the proposed daily newspaper Bill, there was a great deal of hyperbole from the newspaper industry about how they would not accept money from the federal Government, how that would somehow be government trying to get into the newsrooms of the nations. I found that absurd. There is no excise tax on newspapers. That is an allowance of government which saves newspapers in Canada many millions of dollars. The press facilities on Parliament Hill must cost many tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are used without question. I certainly do not see the press being bought off by having those facilities. There are postal subsidies which are of assistance today, particularly in western Canada, in helping some dailies reach their customers.

The complaint against the grants is a bit hollow. At least as I pass that part and note that it is not included because of the

Daily Newspaper Act

costs involved and therefore not allowed in a Private Members' Bill, I make the point that the Kent Royal Commission found, and I very much agree with it that, sadly, in this country there is very little reporting from one region to another. Out of that comes our continuing lack of understanding of each other as Canadians. When we count so much on our place in the international scene, and certainly 25 per cent of our Gross National Product relates to exports, we should have more Canadians in key centres around the world and experts on Canada reporting back to us.

I now want to move to the two major issues which are included in what is left of this Bill, which is almost word for word the same as the previously proposed Cabinet-approved daily newspaper Act. Those two major issues are the issue of concentration of ownership of daily newspapers in Canada. The second is to establish in principle for future purposes in the starting up of newspapers editorial independence from other interests.

First let me deal with the issue of concentration. In English Canada two chains, Thompson and Southam, now control almost two-thirds of daily newspaper circulation. They have arrived there within the law. That is not my attack. That level of concentration, as I will try to argue over the next few minutes, can have a critical effect upon what a free press must be in a democracy like ours.

Second, in French speaking Canada the concentration level by chains is 90 per cent or more, the difference being that in Quebec most of those chains are in head-to-head competition with each other. In the case of English speaking Canada, those two chains generally have exclusively to themselves, one or the other, a particular daily newspaper marketplace.

I believe at the national level, when we now have a higher level of concentration in this country than in any other democracy in the western world, a level of concentration of ownership four times as large as that in the United States, surely the time has come when we must stop this and encourage more competition.

When we use the famous phrase of free press, some publishers and indeed editorialists believe that it means it is free for them to use as they see fit. Indeed, that is an element, but finally and essentially a free press belongs to individual Canadians. Canadians have a right to a whole diversity of views and expressions of newspapers and information available for them to make their judgment on society at the local, provincial and national levels. A free press is the right of individual Canadians and of our society, not a right of parliamentarians, government or the publishers. It is a right of the people.

The free press must be diverse in order that we will have competing sources. Competing sources of information means a number of things. It means that journalists have mobility. If there are only one or two big bosses to work for, your boss does not like what you are doing, you feel in conscience you are honestly reporting something and you know there are not many other places to get a job, that may well hamper your ability to be an independent and outspoken journalist.


without a phone call from head office saying, "Do not report on our labour disputes" or "Do not report on the criticism of the machines we turn out in another part of this company", just by the very knowledge that head office also has those other interests, the story might not be reported or as well reported. That was a major concern of the Kent Commission.

The proposal in this Bill is that if someone who is largely not in the information business is going to buy a newspaper or start up a newspaper, they would simply have to go to the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission and demonstrate how they would ensure that that editorial room was independent of other interests. The penalties are not great because we only have the right to inquire. But that public focus, that need to be judged so that the public can point the finger and say, "Indeed, that is your intention," the independence that that would give to such an editorial operation seems to me to be very important, and it is totally absent from the proposed new combines legislation.

I also want to note that during my time as Minister responsible for the government reaction to the royal commission, the indignation of most of the publishers, in my view, approached the ridiculous. Concerns about concentration of press ownership have been tackled by most western democracies. I mentioned earlier some detail on that. That includes Britain, Germany, France, Italy and even the United States. Therefore, we quiver and shake and say, "Politicians, keep your hands off newspapers". I agree that no government, no politician, should have the ability to impact on or influence the editorial room, the news room. On the other hand, Parliament should not stand back when concentration of ownership, by the admission of all the publishers I have spoken to, has reached a point when that concentration of ownership can become dangerous, although they would not say exactly what that level was. When concentration endangers the free flow of information, diversity, accuracy, the mobility of reporters, then surely it is the responsibility of parliamentarians to act.

Royal Assent

individual Canadians, in all their diversity and with all their need for and right to diverse information and views.

Parliament works because the system forces us to keep each other on our toes, open to competing views, positions and criticisms. That same pressure of competition and competing views is essential for the maintenance of a free press. Newspapers are special. They set the news agenda. They are more permanent. They are the printed record and have a special credibility. To ignore what has been happening in the Canadian newspaper industry, to bend to the vocal, powerful and largely self-serving few who already dominate, is to invite a weaker and a poorer democracy. I urge you all, my colleagues in this House, each of us as Private Member, to support this Bill and the fundamental freedom it is attempting to protect.


Full View Permalink

April 11, 1984

Hon. Jim Fleming (York West):

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my concern that something must be done to recognize formally the injustice suffered by Canadians of Japanese origin during World War II. I do it in the context of a Government which, over its current term, has made historic and exceptional moves to guarantee human rights and fight prejudice. We have the inclusion in our new Charter of Rights of fundamental laws basic to a nation like our own, built upon diversity. The Charter forbids discrimination on the basis of race, national, or ethnic origin.

This Government has for the first time added social responsibility and equity to its primary policy objectives in multicul-turalism. It has established a race relations unit. It has added millions of dollars for new programs to fight racism. It has, with opposition Party concurrence, sponsored the first ever Canadian parliamentary inquiry into the problems faced by our visible minorities.

Having served as Minister of Multiculturalism when these and other first time initiatives on racial equity took place, I think it will be most regrettable if the Cabinet does not formally recognize the appalling consequences, fear, and hysteria brought to thousands of good and committed Canadians. It is not only for the sake of a single community, but by focusing on a tragedy and injustice of major proportions we can indicate to all that we can redress the wrongs of earlier times, especially when many of those who suffered are still here today, living with their nightmarish memories. A formal admission; the public dedication of some lasting symbol is surely the least we can provide. Otherwise a living shadow lies across the path of hope this Government has set.

Full View Permalink

April 9, 1984

Hon. Jim Fleming (York West):

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. While the new Competition Bill will obviously discourage, and probably stop, either of Canada's two giant daily newspaper chains from taking over each other, could the Minister assure the House, as a Member of a Cabinet which agreed these two chains should not increase their daily newspaper holdings in Canada, that the Bill will stop the two chains from acquiring more Canadian daily newspapers, when they already control almost two-thirds of English-language daily newspaper circu-

April 9, 1984

Oral Questions

lation? Does the Minister not agree that too much in the hands of too few is dangerous?

Subtopic:   THE PRESS
Full View Permalink

December 14, 1983

Mr. Fleming:

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that I would suggest it was the John Thompson in question, if it was not the Hon. Member for Calgary South. I certainly would cast no aspersions on him. I think the content is still very interesting, that a senior organizer for the current Leader of the Opposition said what he said. I simply want to point out, if it does not sound too pious because we all have our warts, that as one member of the House, as one Canadian who has been elected, I think it is in the interests of the Canadian public for political Parties on all sides to do better at bringing forward policies.

Full View Permalink