Meeting of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution, Communications, Statement by the Honourable Jean Chretien (8-11 July 1980)
By: Jean Chrétien
Citation: Meeting of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution, Communications, Statement by the Honourable Jean Chretien, Doc 830-81/008 (Montreal: 8-11 July 1980).
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MEETING OF THE CONTINUING COMMITTEE
OF MINISTERS ON THE CONSTITUTION
Statement by the Honourable Jean Chrétien
July 8-11, 1980
Statement by the Honourable Jean Chrétien
(he of the questions before us in communications
is, how should we adjust the present framework of
responsibilities in order to guarantee the continued
successful development of our communications system to
meet the challenges of tomorrow? Another is, how can
we strengthen our relationships to achieve our objectives
I think it is important for us to work within
a framework of objectives for communications, to assist
us in considering practical and workable proposals to
change the present jurisdictional arrangement. The
Honourable Marc Lalonde tabled such a statement of
objectives in Toronto in December 1978 and I am taking
this opportunity to re-table those objectives as an
annex to this statement.
In our deliberations, we must be mindful of
Canada’s communications achievements. Over the last 100
years, Canada’s communications system has grown to become
a world leader in quality and sophistication. I hasten
to emphasize that we all have a right to be proud of
these accomplishments – the federal government, the
provinces and industry. A second annex highlighting
some of these achievements is attached. I am sure it
will be of interest to Ministers.
Evolving out of discussions with the provinces
between October 1978 and February 1979, various proposals
for constitutional change were advanced with regard to
cable distribution and telecommunications carriers, and
it was agreed to give further attention to accommodating
provincial concerns respecting local elements in off-air
broadcasting. The objective of the cable draft that was
before First Ministers in February 1979 was in part to
accommodate provincial concerns for a rational development
of intra-provincial communication systems, as well as to
ensure that the federal government’s national objectives
remained achievable. Specifically, the 1979 cable proposal
entailed a transfer to provinces of some jurisdiction over
cable which is now exclusively federal, taking into account
the federal government’s responsibility for the Canadian
character of broadcasting and for safeguarding technical
standards, as well as federal jurisdiction over closed-
circuit programming services to the same extent that the
federal government would control off-air services.
While at first, there appeared to be fairly general
agreement on that draft, in later discussions it became
clear that provinces had serious concerns with it. If we
can now find consensus on that proposal then that is
commendable. If not, we are willing to consider any other
proposals on cable, while always keeping in mind fundamental
_ 2 _
On broadcasting, the previous federal government
said in Halifax in 1979 that if there was sufficient
progress on cable, attention could be given to early
discussions of provincial concerns respecting local
elements in broadcasting. We are not sure what the views
of provinces are but we are sure that you share our desire
to look at every way to improve the system, with an open
mind and the necessary flexibility. We on the federal side
want to work with you and make progress on this communi-
cations issue. We are willing to consider your views on
broadcasting keeping in mind the achievements to date and
the needs of the future.
With respect to telecommunication carriers, the
federal government is prepared to transfer to the provinces
of Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia the
intra-provincial aspects of certain carriers now wholly
regulated by the CRTC, namely Terra Nova Tel in Newfoundland,
Bell Canada and BC Tel. This new arrangement must of course
recognize federal jurisdiction in all parts of Canada over
all interprovincial and international aspects of tele-
communications, technical standards, interconnection of
systems and the continuing federal regulation of national
carriers, CNCPT, Telesat and Teleglobe.
Any changes should also reaffirm Parliament’s
jurisdiction over the radio frequency spectrum.
In conclusion, I reiterate how important it is to
consider all of these elements in the light of a set of
fundamental Canadian communications objectives. Without
such objectives I am concerned that discussions of all
communication issue areas suggested for constitutional
change will suffer from a lack of common purpose and I
would urge Ministers to give these objectives full
We would wish to ensure that progress is made
in each area so that the resultant package is a coherent, .
practical arrangement given that these elements are so
fundamentally interrelated. I would hope we can work
towards agreement on objectives and will bear them in ‘
mind throughout the scrutiny of federal/provincial roles.
Let me emphasize that any system that can be implemented
that fulfills these objectives will be a good system.
We are prepared to consider change in communi-
cations that will result in a rational system and an
improvement on our present arrangements, beneficial to
the people of Canada in every region.
December 14, 1978
DRAFT – FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES ONLY
Federal Response to Nova Scotia’s Proposal on Communications, Submitted
at Mont Ste Marie on November 23-25, 1978
The following principles with regard to the distribution of
the field of telecommunications are advanced for discussion:
1. The orderly development of efficient telecommunications
systems is essential to Canada’s security, as well as to its
continued economic growth; efficient telecommunications
systems are also an essential ingredient of the economic
prosperity of each province.
2. Services and production resources associated with
telecommunications should be developed and administered so as
to be a factor of enrichment for all individual Canadians for
every part of the country and so as to safeguard, enrich and
strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic
fabric of Canada as a whole and of every province. To this
end, there should continue to be both nationally-available
networks to distribute programming from coast to coast, and
local, provincial and regional programing outlets as well.
Such undertakings should constitute an integrated Canadian
system. Furthermore, the various elements of the programming
system, regardless of the means used by broadcasters and
undertakings to distribute their programing, should act in
ways which will stimulate Canadian program production and the
interchange of views among the various regions of Canada.
3. Telecommunications must be subject to effective Canadian
control. Canadian ownership and control of undertakings in
the area of broadcasting should be maintained.
4. Government involvement in the regulation of the content of
telecommunications should allow freedom of expression.
5. Freedom of access to telecommunications carriage services
should be recognized.
6. Federally authorized undertakings must have access to the
facilities of provincially-regulated carriers.
7. All Canadians are entitled to broadcasting service in both
official languages as public funds become available.
8. The field of telecommunications is one in which both orders
of government have reasonable and legitimate interests, which
should be recognized in any new distribution of legislative
or regulatory powers.
9. Any preliminary agreement on the new distribution of powers
must be followed by full and frank discussions with the
affected industry members, by both levels of government.
Canadian Communications Achievements
When looking at Canada’s achievements it must be kept in mind that these
achievements of which we have reason to be very proud are a consequence of
federal, provincial and industry efforts. While the federal government has
exercised jurisdiction over the broadcasting industry, including cable
television, the regulation of the telecommunications industry is, like the
ownership, a mixture of federal and provincial jurisdiction. Thus, one way or
another, through ownership and/or regulation, both levels of government have
made significant contributions towards creating the environment wherein the
industry has been able to reach its current stage of development.
Canada’s communications infrastructure is the envy of most countries. Just
about every Canadian has access to telephone and telecommunications services.
Businesses are served by two national data communications networks. An
extensive network of microwave radio systems links large and small communities
across the nation. Canada was also the first country to establish its own
domestic communications satellite system which complements the microwave
facilities, particularly in the North.
The extensive network of microwave and satellite has enabled the CBC to
bring television programming in both official languages to 99 percent of
Canadians, while a second television service in either official language reaches
97 percent of Canadians. Cable television, offering a wide range of domestic
and foreign stations, as well as community programming, is available to 70
percent of our homes. The net result is that Canadians have more programming
choice than any other country in the world. There is a wide choice of private
and public AM and FM radio programming available. Our film and recording
industries are also very active.
In most developed countries, the telecommunications and broadcasting
industries are owned and operated by agencies of the national government. In
Canada these vital sectors have evolved from a pattern of mixed ownership. The
broadcasting sector comprises the CBC, and a large number of private
broadcasters. Several provincial governments have produced significant
educational programming some of which has received international acclaim. The
telecommunications sector comprises federal and provincial Crown corporations
and a nuber of investor-owned corporations. Canada’s satellite communications
carrier is a mixed corporation, owned jointly by the federal government and the
major telecommunications carriers, including the provincially-owned carriers.