Heritage Minister Josée Verner “hates” Bill C-10, a Conservative senator was caught on tape saying in committee Apr 10.
Senator David Angus’ comments were recorded by C-PAC at the Senate’s banking committee, which is studying a controversial clause within Bill C-10 that would revoke tax credits for films that are “contrary to public policy.”
Angus called for a two-minute break between hearings around noon Apr 10, but for a short time after he adjourned the meeting, Angus’ microphone was left on. His conversation with an unidentified man was broadcast over the Senate’s live internet audio feed.
“The government has to bite the bullet,” he was heard saying. “The minister agrees, she told me she hates the law.” (Watch the video below)
Angus was heard on the internet audio feed for another few seconds before his microphone was cut off, but his comments were hard to make out.
Representatives from Verner and Angus’ offices were quick to downplay the claims.
“He’s wrong,” says a spokesperson for Verner, reached at the minister’s office. The minister herself had no comment when contacted by xtra.ca.
A representative for Angus defended the senator.
“The context is that I don’t think that anyone realized it was going to cause such a controversy,” he says. “Probably the minister is just tired of dealing with the bill.”
Bill C-10 passed through the House of Commons last fall in one day, with unanimous support from all parties. But when news broke in February that the bill contained a clause that amounts to censorship, arts groups and opposition MPs were outraged.
The Ministry of Canadian Heritage has been on the defensive since then. Verner appeared before the Senate committee Apr 2 to defend the bill, saying that it would close “a loophole” that theoretically would allow illegal material like hate speech and kiddie porn to qualify for the credit.
She repeatedly tried to pass the buck to the Liberals, since an earlier version of the film clause appeared in several bills between 2002 and 2006.
Witnesses at the Senate committee Apr 10 said the bill would discourage banks from financing edgy film and television productions, because tax credits are awarded late in the production process.
“The very existence of such provisions creates financial uncertainty,” said Sandra Cunningham of the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association.
Most witnesses have called on senators to remove the “contrary to public policy” section of the bill, or at least establish the guidelines before the bill is passed. As it stands, the specific guidelines are not contained in C-10, and would be open for change at the whim of the ministry of heritage.
“We have already seen that there has been enormous controversy and censure of some of the most important Canadian films ever made,” said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Apr 9. “There were calls not to fund films about abortion and gay youth. Should these too have been suppressed in the name of public policy?”
“If we give the government a free hand to pick off certain movies and chill our artists, how many more innovative films on controversial topics will get made?”
The Senate committee will hear two more days of witnesses’ testimony Apr 16-17. Among them is Charles McVety, the founder of rightwing group Canada Family Action Coalition, which promotes the idea that homosexuality can be “cured.” Last month, McVety took credit for the clause, saying it represents conservative values.
— with files from Marcus McCann
(note: xtra.ca has combined the committee’s internet audio feed with the television video feed. The version broadcast on television did not include Angus’ comments; they were only audible through the internet audio feed and to people listening through headsets in the committee room. )