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Sauvé discusses priorities, issues in communications

 

Last winter the Hon. Jeanne Sauvé, recently appointed Minister of Communications, discussed the issues and challenges in communications today during a 35-minute interview with 60 days. Excerpts from the interview follow.

 

60 days: What challenges do you see facing the federal government in communications?

 

Sauvé: One challenge is to bring to remote communities and those north of the 60th parallel the telecommunications services available through satellite. This is a difficult time to talk about spending money but I hope this will be considered an important priority within the current fiscal framework.

 

Another challenge is to push forward our space program, to build on the reputation that we have already gained throughout the world by our more­than-successful space achievements. A prime objective is to share in interna­tional markets and to foster Canadian interests in this important industry.

 

Another challenge will be formulating a consensus among the provinces over sharing responsibilities in communications.

 

Yet another is to see how we can link communications technologies to the real needs of people. We have to be mindful of the cultural and social implications of what we do. For instance, when you bring television to people in the North, what impact does that have on these communities? We are bringing them a means of relating to other communities, some of which have a different way of seeing things, different behaviors. This could be a shock or a great service.

 

60 days: Environmental impact assessments are now being made; one might want to consider cultural impact assessments, in effect?

 

Sauvé: Could be. That seems to be a good transposition of something I was doing not long ago.

 

60 days: What about the challenges you see facing you as Minister of Communications?

 

Sauvé: I think my personal challenge will be to become a proper interlocuteur with the provinces so that we can make some progress in the federal-provincial sharing of responsibilities in telecom­munications.

 

60 days: In your speech at Joliette on Jan. 25, you spoke of cultural decen­tralization in the domain of art. Does this imply a degree of acceptance of the cultural sovereignty concept postulated by some members of the Quebec gov­ernment as it relates, for example, to their desire for control over licensing cable companies?

 

Sauvé: I challenged that concept of cultural sovereignty last summer and again in Joliette. I think cultural identity is a proper concept and I said the sovereignty that I see as legitimate is the sovereignty of the artist, of the creator, of the writer. Some ministers of the Quebec government inferred from the cultural sovereignty concept that the provincial government must control the licensing of cable. I don't accept that at all. The responsibility of the federal government for cable has to be pre­served and of course this whole ques­tion in Rimouski is presently before the courts. But my position is very clear: the federal government does have the jurisdiction and I am going to do every­thing I can to make that very clear to everyone concerned.

 

60 days: Have you had the opportun­ity to discuss issues of mutual inter with your provincial counterparts? Do you intend to meet with each minister individually?

 

Sauvé: I haven't seen and talked with my provincial counterparts yet but I intend to begin a series of visits and hope to cover all the provinces as soon as possible. -

 

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