Tories promise $25M for French-language TV funding
Stephen Harper's Conservatives tried to shore up support from Quebec and the arts community Thursday by promising $25 million for French-language television programming if re-elected.
Speaking in Drummondville, Que., Thursday evening, Harper said $15 million will go to TV5MONDE, the global French-language television network.
The other $10-million will go to TV5 Quebec Canada, which manages the network's local signal from Montreal.
"TV5 is a success story for French-speaking Canada," said Harper. "This new funding demonstrates our commitment to supporting high-quality, French-language TV programming across Canada and the world."
The funds for the parent company would be allocated to increase Canadian content to nine per cent from six and to secure a spot for Canadian francophones in senior management positions to promote the country's interests.
Money proposed for the Montreal-based TV5 would go toward providing Canadian programming in high-definition to the global network and developing new platforms such as video on demand.
"Our government has increased funding for the arts," said Harper in a press release. "But we have set priorities and made choices."
The Conservative government came under fire in August for nearly $45 million in cuts to arts funding. Cultural groups and opposition MPs criticized the cuts, suggesting they resulted in censorship of certain artistic initiatives.
Pledge for more influence in CRTC
The Conservatives made another pledge Wednesday night aimed at Quebec, a vote-rich province where a number of tight races could determine whether the party wins a majority.
Speaking in Chicoutimi, Harper promised to increase Quebec's influence in the CRTC, Canada's broadcasting and telecommunications regulating body.
The Conservatives' proposal includes ensuring the chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rotates between English and French speakers; splitting the vice-chair positions between a francophone and an anglophone; and guaranteeing that 25 per cent of commissioners are francophone.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the CRTC board is already more than a quarter French, and Harper's promise would not help Quebec.
"We think this is not sufficient," Duceppe said. "He's talking about less than what is the situation right now."
Never fulfilled UNESCO promise: Bloc
Duceppe said Quebec should get what it has long demanded: provincial control of broadcasting.
The Bloc leader also cast doubt on Harper's willingness to help promote Quebec cultural institutions, saying he never fulfilled a promise to give the province its own seat at UNESCO.
The prime minister gave special status to Quebec as part of Canada's delegation to the international body.
Earlier Thursday, Harper made another campaign announcement in Trois-Rivières, Que., promising a tax credit for seniors and a reduction in taxes on U.S. Social Security benefits paid to Canadian residents.
Both announcements fell largely to the wayside as apologies by two Tory ministers dominated headlines: Agriculture Minister Gary Ritz issued a mea culpa for joking about the deadly listeriosis outbreak, and Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon apologized for racist comments made by his assistant.