June 28, 1965 (26th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Douglas Mason Fisher

New Democratic Party

Mr. D. M. Fisher (Port Arthur):

Could the Minister of Finance tell us whether he reacts at all to the proposals which were put forward by Mr. Sifton at the very end of last week with regard to the newspaper part of this legislation? 1 assume there is some distinction to be drawn between those proposals and the earlier ones which were put forward editorially by the newspaper in the hands of this gentleman. I should like to know whether the Minister had considered Mr. Sifton's most recent proposal.
Another question I wish to ask came to my mind on reading Friday's debate. It is this. What studies have the Government made to be sure that effective control of Canadian newspapers can really be maintained by this proposed legislation in the light of experience? It seems obvious to me from the editorial policy of the Fredericton Gleaner over the years, for example, and from the interest which Lord Thomson takes in the fact that ownership of his papers may be vested in Thomson of Canada Limited, or with such people as Brigadier Wardell in the case of the Fredericton Gleaner, this is not something to which too much importance should be attached. The fact remains that Thomson newspapers have continued to be an expression in many ways of the ideas of Lord Thomson, the British citizen operating in Britain-and I am not being terribly critical of this. I would just like to hear from the Minister how sure he feels that this will be a really effective way of controlling ownership and keeping it in Canadian hands; apart, that is, from the theory attaching to corporations.
In other words I am arguing that Lord Thomson still retains effective control of the Thomson newspaper chain in Canada as Lord Beaverbrook retained effective control of the Fredericton Gleaner throughout the years even though legal ownership may have been Canadian. I am not talking now about advertising policy. I am thinking much more about editorial and news policy, and wondering whether the Minister feels the particular legislation proposed will meet this problem.
The other question I wish to ask relates to an argument I put forward here last week concerning the quid pro quo or the balance which was achieved by the Minister accepting the nationalization of Time and Reader's Digest in exchange for the protection of Canadian newspapers. I realize there is no way in which we can dragoon the Minister into telling us whether any kind of swap took

place. What takes place inside the Cabinet and within the party caucus is not for us who are outside to know, although we may guess. But I should like to put a bald question directly to the Minister right now with regard to this Time and Reader's Digest situation. Is the Minister pleased with what is in effect the nationalization of Time and Reader's Digest? My hon. friends say "naturalization". I say "nationalization" in the sense of a reference to nationality, not to public ownership.
I hope the Minister will remember this question. It is a very simple one. I should like to know whether he is pleased with the nationalization or naturalization of Time and Reader's Digest.
[DOT] (4:30 p.m.)
The other bit of information I wanted to give the Minister in connection with this matter, or the suggestion I make to him, is that he look at the Financial Post for last Thursday, where he will find on the rear page, I think it is, of the first or second part a full length ad taken by Reader's Digest setting out the various things it offers the Canadian advertiser. This is a very much itemized account giving all the advantages that advertisers have and the special services that advertisers can get through Reader's Digest in terms of specialization in markets, saturation of markets and all the rest.
I would like to ask the Minister how he can read an advertisement like that and not realize that Canadian magazines which do not have the resources of a parent company in the United States cannot possibly match that kind of appeal and that kind of advertising approach. It seems to me it is just impossible. That is one of the reasons I think the Minister might reconsider this particular clause of the Bill and the amendment that is now before the House.
I would assume that since the hon. Member for Red Deer has given notice of his intention to express by his vote how he feels about this whole question of Time and Reader's Digest, and since spokesmen of other parties in the House on the Opposition side have also given an indication that they support this particular amendment, we are in the position, problematically at least-this has worked out in the past but it may not work out this time-that the Government may be defeated on this particular motion. I am still unclear from what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary and by the Minister on Friday whether they are absolute in their interpretation that a defeat on the amend-
June 28, 1965

ment put forward by the hon. Member for Winnipeg North Centre is in substance, as far as they are concerned, a defeat of the Government that will lead to the dissolution of this House in the face of this lack of confidence in the Government. I feel that we deserve to hear this very clearly. It is certainly not going to affect my vote or, as far as I know, the votes of my colleagues, and I hope it will not affect the votes of any people in this House; but I think we should be completely clear on this point.
I feel that the recommendation both as it applies to Time and Reader's Digest and to newspapers is a reasonable one and should be accepted. It seems to me it is the kind of proposition, particularly in view of the feelings and arguments in the country relating to newspaper legislation, that should be considered by the Government. But if the Government is not prepared to consider an amendment like this and we are going to have the opportunity to vote on it, I think we need to know the answer to this question with complete clarity so we can vote, the Government Members can vote-and particularly those Government Members who are substantially critical of this part of the budget-in all honesty and we can have a real decision on this question. Then we can realize that we are voting on something more than a procedural motion and are voting on the life of this Government itself.

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