Ontario Liberal Senator Jean-Robert is asking the Federal Court of Canada to overturn a controversial decision by the CRTC not to grant TFO-TVOntario the right to distribute its signal in Quebec. Gauthier filed the appeal in mid-September. At the same time, he made a lengthy submission to the CRTC, which had been ordered by Cabinet on April 5 to examine French language minority broadcast services in Canada. Liberals on Parliament Hill are quickly losing confidence in the CRTC, political sources say. Gauthier is one of the country’s most respected senators, having been appointed to the upper chamber in 1994 after a long career as an Ottawa Liberal MP. His daughter, Nathalie, is press secretary to Finance minister Paul Martin. Gauthier questions whether the CRTC is serious about creating a system in which Francophones across the country are well served by broadcasters. As well, he criticizes the commission for preventing a "federalist" service, TFO, from breaking into Quebec. "More than 1,560 letters and interventions were submitted in response to Public Notice 1999-173, of which an overwhelming 99.3% were supportive of TVO’s application," Gauthier writes in his August 30 submission to the CRTC. "Nevertheless, despite this strong support, the Commission announced with Decision CRTC 2000-72 that it was not in the ‘public interest’ to comply with TVO’s request and that it was therefore denying its application. "Of the twenty-six pages in Decision CRTC 2000-72, nine paragraphs, on fewer than three pages, explain the reasoning behind the Commission’s rejection of TVO’s application… (T)here are many illustrations of CRTC Public Notices (e.g, Public Notice CRTC 1998-135, CRTC 1999-117) and decisions (e.g. Decision CRTC 1999-42, CRTC 98-488) that have placed the needs of Canada’s linguistic minorities ahead of market interests." Gauthier blames the opposition from Télé-Québec and the major cablecos in Quebec, for TFO’s rejection. He says the CRTC is inconsistent in the way it deals with Francophone and multicultural broadcast applications. "As can be seen, Decision CRTC 97-573 stands out as another compelling illustration of the Commission’s effective use of tools at its disposal to ensure that the interests of Canada’s linguistic minority communities are well represented by the broadcasting sphere," the Senator writes. "At the same time, (the decision) also provides us with useful insights into the divergent thinking that underlies Decision CRTC 2000-72. Particularly telling is the Commission’s remark in Decision 97-573 that it has ‘consistently encouraged’ TVO to distribute TFO outside Ontario. With this position in mind, one cannot help but wonder why the Commission has now opted with Decision 2000-72 to erect an obstacle to impede such growth? "Interpreted in this sense, Decision CRTC 2000-72 provides compelling evidence that the Commission’s policy on French-language broadcasting is, at the very least, in flux. As Commissioner Stuart Langford argued in his dissenting opinion: ‘I disagree with the majority decision in this matter. To deny this application is neither in the public interest or reflective of the spirit and clear intent underlying long-established Canadian broadcasting policy.’" Members of the Quebec Liberal caucus and francophone MPs from outside Quebec have also voiced their opposition to the ruling to keep TFO off Quebec cable. TFO had the support of more than 1,500 intervenors, including such high-profile federalists as former Quebec Liberal leader Claude Ryan, Quebec Liberal Senator Lise Bacon, Tory Quebec Senator Roch Bolduc, Liberal MP Diane Marleau (Sudbury, ON.), Liberal caucus chair Paul DeVillers (Simcoe North, ON), and Quebec Liberal chair Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds-Dollard, QC). The 12 opponents included the Canadian Cable Television Association, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and Télé-Québec.