Welcome back to the 33rd meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Pursuant to order of reference on February 16, and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, May 10, the committee resumes consideration of Bill , an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format as you can see across the screen. Again, I ask for your patience as we try to deal with this. Please only speak when recognized. Talking over each other under normal circumstances doesn't serve well, and, of course, being in a hybrid situation, or a virtual situation, it makes it even worse.
That being said, there's also one final rule I neglected to mention last time, and that is screenshots or taking photos of your screen are not permitted, please.
One final warning, we are televised today so I hope you are sounding and looking your best as we get on with our meeting.
As you know, thanks to a motion we have appearing before us right now the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage regarding . Also from the Department of Canadian Heritage, we have Thomas Owen Ripley, director general, broadcasting, copyright and creative marketplace; and Drew Olsen, senior director, marketplace and legislative policy.
From the Department of Justice, we invited the. We received correspondence, and we have been advised that Minister Lametti respectfully declines the invitation. However, we do have from the Department of Justice Nathalie Drouin, deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general of Canada; Sarah Geh, director general, human rights law section; and Michael Himsl, legal counsel, also from Canadian Heritage.
That being said, we go back to our original format of witnesses. What we normally do is we allow the chief witness up to 10 minutes to speak, and then we have questions and comments from members of the committee. We follow, based on our old regime, our old order of precedence, when it comes to questions.
Mr. Waugh, I see your hand up.
I want to thank, first of all, the for appearing here today as instructed. I want to thank the justice committee also, but we did have on Monday, May 10, as you know, from the Liberal side, Mr. Housefather's motion, and I subamended it, that we would get the to also attend.
Thank you to the officials of Justice, but all 11 of us agreed in a unanimous motion that the would also appear in this committee.
I'm not going to take up further time, I'm just going to flag it now, but for second hour we certainly would like to discuss this because it was a unanimous motion by all parties. We all agreed that we would get the and the to come before we do the panel.
We have welcomed the here today. Maybe he wants to extend his stay for a few minutes because of my interjection. I want to hear what he has to say, we all want to hear what he has to say, but we are disappointed that the , as you said, turned down our request, and it was a unanimous motion.
I want us to think about this, and how in the second hour we are going to deal with this.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, members of the committee.
I’m joining you from Montréal, on the traditional lands of the Mohawk and other Haudenosaunee peoples.
I am pleased to appear before you to discuss Bill , the explanatory document the Department of Justice drafted in response to your request, and the impact of your committee’s amendments to Bill .
I have with me officials from my department, as you said, Mr. Chair, as well as senior officials from the Department of Justice. I am delighted to contribute to your review of the bill.
I would like to begin by thanking this committee for its important work to date.
Since Bill was introduced, the cultural sector, broadcasters and experts have given us—and you too, I’m sure—much food for thought. They have provided input and support on updating the Broadcasting Act across the country.
Our broadcasters, our production sector and the cultural sector as a whole are counting on this new legislative tool to continue to flourish on digital platforms.
They are counting on this tool to level the playing field between conventional broadcasters and digital platforms. In other words, the bill is about restoring a balance that the arrival of the Web giants has skewed very seriously in their own favour at the expense of local people and businesses.
If we do not modernize the act, within a few years, our creators, artists and musicians risk losing up to a billion dollars annually.
However, if we move forward with Bill , the Department of Canadian Heritage predicts that by 2023, online broadcasters could be contributing up to $830 million per year to Canadian content and creators.
Let's remember that the audiovisual and interactive media industry employs nearly 160,000 Canadians every year. According to the 2016 census, the median annual income for core artist groups, such as musicians, singers, authors, writers, producers and directors, was only $24,300, which is well below the $43,500 median for all workers.
To make matters worse, this industry is still suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the years to come, the positive impacts of Bill will stimulate industry growth and increase the visibility of our stories and our artists.
Canadians also support this initiative. More than seven out of ten Canadians feel that more needs to be done to promote Canadian and Quebec audiovisual content in the country, and almost half say that this content is not easy to find.
Although some have the view that any type of regulation for web giants is too much, most Canadians believe that we must act: 78% of Canadians agree that streamers need the same rules as those of Canadian broadcasters; 81% support the principle that Facebook and Google should pay more for news; and 83% support some form of accountability for these companies for the content shared on their platforms.
The first objective of the bill is to ensure equity between conventional and digital broadcasters and to ensure that social media platforms that act as broadcasters are also contributing to our cultural industry.
Another objective is to promote Canadian cultural expression in all its diversity, including that of indigenous and racialized communities.
The goal is not to regulate content generated by users, such as videos of our children, friends and colleagues. It never was. And it never will be.
However, one thing is clear: more and more Canadians are listening to their favourite music and artists on social media. Right now, YouTube is the most popular online music listening service in the country.
Witnesses who appeared before this committee showed that section 4.1, as drafted in the original version of Bill , could allow social media platforms to get away with just about anything. They also demonstrated that section 4.1 did not take into account how these types of services are used to deliver professional content, such as content put online by record companies.
While other online businesses would be required to contribute to the objectives of the Broadcasting Act, social media platforms would not. How could we justify imposing obligations on Spotify, Apple Music or QUB Musique, but not on YouTube, a Google subsidiary?
Following the constructive debate at second reading of the bill, all opposition parties, including the Conservative Party, deplored the fact that social networks were not covered by the bill.
Let me give you a few examples.
On November 19, the Conservative MP from Saskatoon—Grasswood, Mr. Waugh, told the House of Commons the following:
It is deeply disappointing that the government's proposals are so incredibly lacking. I am going to focus in on four points today. First, the legislation does nothing to address social media companies, such as Facebook and Google, and their various properties, such as YouTube, to pay its fair share.
On March 26, he also added—again, this is the beginning of the quote:
To the Professional Music Publishers' Association, you're right on about YouTube. It is not regulated in Bill C-10, and everybody is using YouTube. We are going to have an issue. As you pointed out, correctly, this should be regulated and it's not.
That’s why it was not surprising that on April 23, a majority of the members of this committee, including those of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party, agreed that first, section 4.1 should be withdrawn, and that the CRTC’s powers should subsequently be restricted with respect to social media platforms.
We know that these platforms are very different from conventional broadcasters. The amendments proposed by my last week limit the CRTC's power to three main requirements: Number one, platforms must provide information about their revenues; number two, they must contribute financially to the Canadian cultural ecosystem and, finally, they must increase the visibility of Canadian creators.
All of this would be done without ever preventing anyone from putting their own content online and sharing it, or forcing anyone to watch anything against their will. In other words, you and I, like all Canadians, would continue to enjoy the same freedom online that we enjoy now.
I've said it before and I will say it again: We're not targeting individuals; we are targeting the web giants, which are almost all American companies. Our goal is simple, to get these multi-billion dollar companies that generate hundreds of millions of dollars in Canada every year to do their part to make sure our creators and artists are better paid and more visible online.
We must remember that Canadian radio, television and cable companies have been subject to similar obligations for more than 50 years. In the spirit of fairness, Bill would extend these obligations to streaming services and social media platforms when they act as broadcasters.
In the spirit of fairness, Bill would extend these obligations to streaming services and social media platforms when they act as broadcasters.
Bill recognizes that there is a large diversity of digital business models. It provides ample flexibility to craft common sense rules that will evolve over time as technology changes and Canadians’ habits for accessing culture change.
Once again, let me be very clear: there is no question of censoring what individuals post on social media.
I would also like to point out that the Department of Justice, in its updated analysis of the bill as amended by the committee, confirms that the bill is still consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Internet is dominated by a few massive American companies whose algorithms dictate what we see, what we hear and what we consume. We are inundated with their information. Many of our artists and creators, especially francophones, indigenous and racialized people, have a hard time being heard.
Far from limiting anyone's freedom of expression, Bill wants to give more visibility to these artists and creators to ensure a greater diversity of voices and perspectives, to counter homogenization and to assert our cultural sovereignty over foreign companies that are only accountable to their shareholders.
I hope the committee will resume its work and quickly move Bill back to the House of Commons. As always, I would be delighted to support you in your work. I look forward to answering your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank all the witnesses who are with us today.
If I may, Minister, I would like to start by setting the record straight a little bit. For some time now, you seem to have had a narrative that the Bloc Québécois and the NDP were in full agreement to delete proposed section 4.1 in Bill . I would just like to put this in context and explain the process by which discussions take place between the parties in an effort to save time and make our committee work as efficiently as possible.
We had amendments to suggest for proposed section 4.1. The Bloc Québécois initially advocated amending proposed section 4.1. We wanted to keep it, but remove the exclusion given to social media, while preserving the exclusion given to social media users.
However, in our discussions, people in your party, Minister, suggested instead that we delete proposed section 4.1 and introduce new amendments to add other provisions in this regard, which we agreed with, I admit. However, it should not be said that this was a collaborative proposal and that we were happy with it right off the bat. We would have preferred to amend proposed section 4.1; that was our original proposal.
So, there is an important nuance here, and I wanted to make that clear.
That being said, we're also hearing a lot lately that the opposition parties as a whole are blocking the clause-by-clause study of Bill .
Now, Minister, I would like to ask you a question, in all candour.
At the very beginning of the impasse that we are in right now, after the first meeting that we had where the Conservative Party members raised the issue of deleting proposed section 4.1, we talked to each other. I told you that a solution that would work for everyone would be to reopen the debate on section 3 of Bill , which proposes the new section 4.1 for the act, that we amend that section, and proceed. I have proposed that.
Do you think that would have been a good idea, Minister?
I'd also like to thank all our witnesses for being with us today. Thank you, Minister, for coming to answer our questions.
Minister, you started your intervention today by stating that the cultural sector is counting on us. I thank you for acknowledging that, though I have to express my disappointment in the way you've managed the creation and the communications around this legislation.
I, for one, am looking forward to continuing to work as hard as we can to get this legislation fixed and get it through this committee. I know that is not the case with all our committee members. We have seen filibustering and all kinds of things being done to delay and impede this committee's work. I think a lot of it, unfortunately, does have to fall to you, Minister. With all due respect, your mishandling of this bill has put all of us in this committee in a very difficult position.
Many Canadians are concerned about the government wanting to regulate the content that they upload on social media. Now, I think we're all clear that the bill would not give the power to the CRTC to regulate users on social media, but experts are saying that the content they upload could be. Even you have said so during some of your interventions with media.
The updated charter review received by the Department of Justice seems to say that the respect of the charter is in the hands of the CRTC, instead of making it clear in the legislation. If we don't get this right, the legislation will be challenged in court and it will not be applied for years, which will put all of our cultural sector at a real disadvantage.
Do you have a plan to address the concern of Canadians that their content will be subject to CRTC regulations?
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I want to thank Mr. Rayes.
I was going to listen to what the justice department had to say, but I think it's important to go back to Monday, May 10, when Mr. Housefather brought the motion out and I made subamendments to that. If possible, Mr. Chair, could we have the clerk read the three sections of our motion, just to get an idea of who we invited?
We did invite, I believe, the , and the department officials, and we do not have the justice minister here. Part of my concern, Mr. Chair, is when I went on the web page of Justice...you know, it's the Broadcasting Act, and to make consequential amendments to other acts, and this is the old one. They're still citing clause 3.
This is why we needed to get the here today. We need a point of clarification. When I see the charter statement on the web page of the justice department and it's an old one, which is it? Are we using the old one?
You sent an email out and this is what we have, so I do believe we need to hear from the . We need a clarification on this because it's my recollection on the Monday that we asked both ministers to come, and we want to thank on behalf of the committee for fulfilling his obligation for one hour. However, we also asked for the Minister of Justice to come.
When I look at the Justice website now, I am totally confused about where we're going on this. They haven't updated it, or if they have, let us know. It is the minister who is responsible for the charter. I appreciate the department officials in the first round of questioning and we're going to question them in a minute, but as a committee, all 11 of us agreed, including the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP, to have both ministers appear before the heritage committee, before we even moved on to our panel.
The clerk has done yeoman service trying to get the panel ready for Monday, but now I would say that we need to hear from the himself before we move on, on Monday.
I would like a clarification on our amendment to the motion by Mr. Housefather, and we all agreed to the subamendment on Monday, so what happened to the today?
I have one last comment. I'm not trying to prolong the meeting. I know the honourable members may have questions for the witnesses, but I need you or the clerk to clarify something for me, please.
On Monday, just before the vote, I asked a question. I checked the transcript to make sure I was remembering correctly, and here's what I said.
I want to make sure that we are all agreeing on the same thing: we are going to hear from the experts after we have heard from the two Ministers. That order is important, because the experts will be reacting to the Ministers' comments.
I just want to make sure that, if, for any particular reason, the Liberals are not able to convince the Ministers to be here on Friday, they will come on Monday and the meeting with the experts will simply be put back.
After that, I said thank you, because I could see members nodding.
Then, Mr. Chair, you said this:
“I don't need to repeat that, correct? I see enough nodding heads around the room. It's a critical mass of nods, if I could use the term, to proceed in that way.”
I just want to make sure that I am clear on what all the members of the committee agreed on.
Once we get the information from you, Mr. Chair, and once all those who wish to comment have, we can proceed and hear from the witnesses who are here today.
Let's, as this committee, agree unanimously to get both ministers here. I think the is showing a lack of consideration for the charter, to be honest with you.
Issuing a charter statement may be fine, but come and explain yourself to the committee of heritage as we study Bill , amending the Broadcasting Act.
I've just talked about this. All committee members unanimously last Monday agreed to bring both ministers to committee. There is a lack of consideration by the .
Mr. Chair, I'll bring up another issue. When Mark Zuckerberg decided not to show up at committee, the biggest uproar in the committee was from Liberal MPs sitting around the table.
I think that, for consideration, we need to hear from the on this. Doing a press release and sending out an update charter statement is fine, but come. We've asked him to come, it was agreed to last Monday, and that's the least the minister can do.
Ms. Drouin, thank you for filling in, but we want to see the . We got that co-operation with the , but we did not get it from the Minister of Justice. Out of consideration, faced with this important bill that has been discussed for months I think he owes it to the committee to come, as we have asked him to come.
We have next week open before we can get to the panel. We need to hear from the first and then go to the panel. As you said, we have three meetings scheduled next week. We can delay until the minister decides whether he wants to come Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, and then we can move ahead with the panel.
Mr. Chair, I'm at a loss. I have to be honest with you. I don't know what's happening. I'm not sure where the dithering is coming from, but apparently someone, somewhere, doesn't really want the study of the bill to continue.
The motion the committee adopted on May 10 is clear. I have been going over it for a while now. It called on the committee to “invite the , the Minister of Canadian Heritage accompanied by relevant department officials”. It doesn't get any clearer than that, Mr. Chair.
The committee has been at an impasse for weeks. We have lost precious time. No one doubts the good faith of the Liberal members on this committee. I know they are all committed to moving this bill forward. I know Mr. Guilbeault is also committed to moving it forward. He cares about the cultural sector. I don't doubt it for a second.
Nevertheless, someone, somewhere, does not appreciate how urgently action is needed or understand what we are asking. We asked for the to appear. Why isn't he here? The request didn't come out of the blue. We have been talking about this for weeks. Surely, he would have been prepared. He must have anticipated that he would have to appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage as part of this study.
I really don't know what the roadblock is. Frankly, the situation is ludicrous.
The was supposed to be here today. I have the utmost respect for Ms. Drouin and her team, and I have no doubts as to their knowledge or ability to answer all of our questions. The fact remains that we asked the minister to appear. That was the condition we had agreed on in order to break the impasse at which we found ourselves.
I don't know what the roadblock is, but there just might be someone, somewhere, who needs to get things straight and realize how urgently we need to deal with this matter.
I have a couple of things.
First of all, I am also disappointed that the is not here.
Second, the motion is not quite as people are saying it is. The motion was to invite them. It was not to not proceed if they didn't attend. Inviting is not the same as forcing someone to attend. That's compelling people to attend, which can't be done in the case of a minister.
In this case, we do have a very competent deputy minister who is here, who can answer the questions. I have heard Madame Drouin on many occasions—I used to be the chair of the justice committee—answer questions very effectively. If we do have questions on this issue, I think the first step is to ask them of Madame Drouin, which I did on my questions related to the charter statement.
We have a panel coming up on Monday. Those people have already been invited. The panel has been set up. I think we should proceed with that panel. If the committee wishes to re-invite the minister and to reiterate its invitation to the minister, I think that's totally reasonable, asking him to come on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
For the most part, my argument is this. What the motion said was that we were to get a charter statement. We got it. We were to invite the and the Minister of Heritage, and their officials. We invited them. The and his officials came. The officials for the came. Now we're at the point where we have people here who could answer questions, and we're not asking them the questions.
I think we should ask the questions. We should proceed with the panel on Monday. Again, if the committee wishes to reiterate an invitation to the , I will support it, as I did on Monday of this week.
Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would have agreed, and I do agree with Mr. Waugh's original motion. I do not agree with Mr. Aitchison's amendment.
We have a panel of four people who are very busy, highly respected, influential people who have put time aside in their schedule to come on Monday. I don't believe that anything justifies delaying that expert panel on Monday.
I am totally comfortable with an invitation that says the should be asked again, re-invited by the committee, to come on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. It is perfectly within the purview of the committee at that point, if the Minister of Justice doesn't come, to not proceed to clause-by-clause. Nothing that we say today binds us next Tuesday. Even if we were to adopt Mr. Aitchison's amendment today, it wouldn't stop anyone from putting forward a motion after the expert panel on Monday to proceed with clause-by-clause.
Let's see what happens. Let's agree to invite the for Tuesday or Wednesday. Let's proceed with the panel on Monday. The chair will tell us on Monday the status of the minister's invitation after the expert panel, and then we'll decide what more we need to do or not do.
I thought we had consensus to proceed with the expert panel on Monday and invite the for Tuesday or Wednesday. Then, it's always up to the committee at that time what they choose to do. Our Conservative colleagues have shown us that they can delay meeting after meeting, anyway, if they don't want to proceed.
I don't think the amendment is necessary. Again, I think there was a consensus on Mr. Waugh's motion.
We're at three o'clock. Mr. Chair, if Mr. Aitchison would perhaps withdraw the amendment, my suggestion is that we adopt Mr. Waugh's motion, we do the expert panel on Monday, and we see then what happens with the 's response to our invitation. If we finish early enough, perhaps the clerk can send it out this afternoon.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.