The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill
be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, we are here today to speak at second reading stage of Bill .
Let me begin by saying that we have some serious reservations about this bill. I will have the chance to talk later in greater detail about the major powers being given to the CRTC, the lack of definition on certain important issues, as well as the fact that it does not fix essential problems that directly affect the broadcast of information and the current more modern context of web giants and social media. I will also come back to the lack of consideration given to French in this new legislation, which was surprising and disappointing coming from the .
First, let's be clear. It goes without saying that we are in favour of reviewing the Broadcasting Act. The last review occurred 28 years ago. The Internet was available on some university campuses and in some spheres such as the Department of National Defence, but it was not part of our daily lives like it is now.
Twenty-eight years ago, anyone who knew a little English may have known what the word “Google” referred to, but that was about it. If, 28 years ago, we had mentioned Facebook to our children, neighbours or friends, they would have given us a weird look and asked what we were talking about. It makes sense, then, for the Broadcasting Act to be reviewed after 28 years.
However, it is disappointing to see that the government is not going deeper on important issues like the web giants and social media platforms. That is disappointing, because we are already going through the bill 28 years later, so we might as well do it right and not put off regulating certain issues, like these ones in particular.
Now, 28 years later, the Broadcasting Act is in need of updating, meaning that it needs to be reviewed and then amended. Furthermore, the Conservatives agree on the principle of fairness regarding the web giants and social media platforms. We need to ensure that people who pay for and use these online services and people who pay for and use so-called traditional services, such as cable, are treated the same way. We need to ensure this process is fair and that taxes are collected fairly.
We are guided by these two principles: The Broadcasting Act must be reviewed and we must address the new realities and respect the principle of fairness. I will now speak to the matters that concern us.
First, let us talk about the French language. Even though the and I may have serious differences of opinion on certain matters, I am in complete agreement with him on one thing: the importance of French. At our request, the House had a take-note debate on this and the minister asked us out of the love we all have for the French language, to defend it and preserve it in Canada. This applies in particular to Montreal where, by its very nature and the fact that there are seven to eight million francophones in a sea of almost 350 million anglophones in North America, it is only natural that French be deemed worthy of always being preserved.
If ever there were a vehicle to help protect the French language, goodness knows it would be broadcasting, the web and communications, and yet, French is somewhat neglected in this bill, which is disappointing. French is specifically mentioned twice in this bill. Before reading it out, however, I will put on my glasses, because no matter how much I speak, I still need to know how to read, and if I am going to read, I might as well read properly. I am 56 years old and I fully accept what that entails. I have white hair, I have wrinkles, and that also comes with glasses. I am going to stop talking nonsense and get serious again.
The one and only measure to improve the place of French can be found in the proposed amended version of paragraph 3(1)(k) of the act, which states that “a range of broadcasting services in English and in French shall be progressively extended to all Canadians” as resources become available. That wording is nothing more than wishful thinking, although the government boasts that it is doing everything it can to protect the French language. It can hardly be said in this case that it is written in black and white and backed by concrete actions.
We think this situation is unacceptable, and it represents a far too vague approach to protecting French.
This is no small thing, given that the debate on the importance of French is currently under way in Quebec and Canada and we are waiting for this government to finally introduce a new version of the Official Languages Act. Rather than honouring and respecting its commitments under the act, the government has decided to publish a white paper. We know what a white paper is: When we read it, there are only blank pages, because it does not propose any concrete measures on the subject at hand.
We would have liked this bill to have a little more muscle. Unfortunately, it is not what we expected. However, we acknowledge and applaud the fact that there are proactive measures regarding indigenous people, racialized individuals and members of the LGBTQ2 community. We agree with all of that.
However, we believe that French would have been entitled to the same attention that was given to indigenous communities. For the benefit of members who might not know my story, in 1984, I started my radio career at CIHW-FM 100.3, in Wendake, so I am fully aware of the importance of radio and broadcasting for indigenous communities.
Therefore, we believe that this does not solve the issue of social media and web giants. Quite frankly, we would have expected some basic guidelines, frameworks and fairness with respect to social media and web giants.
As I said at the outset, and everyone recognizes this, 28 years ago, when someone talked about “the web”, you had to know a little bit of English to know that they were referring to an actual web. The word was not commonly understood in everyday speech. So while the Broadcasting Act needs to be refreshed, the government needs to directly address the issue of social media and web giants.
In this case, we do not feel that this bill resolves the major problems this new reality created. It goes without saying that we agree on what is happening. We have to pay attention and not fool ourselves. We are in no way suggesting that this reality does not exist. We are not against it. It exists, and all we have to do is regulate things properly.
Often, the best regulations are those that create an equitable framework that allows and protects freedom of expression. The rules must apply to each and every one of us. We must not create two classes of news media where some broadcasters have certain obligations while others, like online outlets, are subject to different kinds of regulations. Fairness is important here, but unfortunately, the government came up short in that department.
Earlier, I was talking about the CRTC's inherent powers. We have very serious reservations about that because it gives the CRTC considerable discretionary authority to define what constitutes an online enterprise and to force such enterprises to spend money producing and broadcasting Canadian content.
Of course, we recognize that the CRTC has a role to play in making sure that everything is done properly, but the way the current bill is drafted, we think it has been given far too much power. We have nothing against the CRTC, but if you give the CRTC all the powers, you have to give it the means to do what it wants to do. Also, this provides a structure that means that it takes a long time before results can be implemented. As a result, the common good is not very well served in all of this.
Following this second stage of the bill, a parliamentary committee will study it and propose amendments. Our critic in this area will make proposals to move in the direction we are interested in, which is to freshen up the Broadcasting Act.
We are obviously in favour of fairness, but these two elements still need to be included in the bill. That is not quite what we are seeing right now. We hope that the improvements and amendments that we will bring forward in committee will be accepted by the government.
Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to be able to speak on the modernization of this act. As my colleague, the member for , said earlier, it is an act that absolutely needs to be modernized.
As we have heard, this act has effectively been in place since 1991. It has not been modernized up to this point. With all of the changes that have gone on in the digital world, and I think the list is as long as the day in terms of the digital changes that have occurred, there is no question that the Broadcasting Act needs to be modernized to meet the standard of 2020. I had to laugh at the comment of my colleague from earlier that this bill brings a 1995 solution to a 2020 problem.
There are some concerns that we have—
Mr. Charlie Angus: You didn't mention the King of Kensington part.
Mr. John Brassard: And the King of Kensington part, too.
Madam Speaker, we have some concerns with the legislation. There are some good things, like all pieces of legislation, but there are certainly things that provide some inequity that need to be addressed. There have been numerous studies done over the years about upgrading the Broadcasting Act.
In fact, just recently there was a recommendation from the broadcasting and telecommunications legislative review, which published a report in 2020. It was appointed a few years ago, and its purpose was to look at the key pieces of legislation that govern our communications sector. In that report, there were 97 recommendations based on the objectives of supporting the creation, production and discoverability of Canadian content, and improving the rights of the digital consumer, amongst other things.
In the report, it spoke specifically, and of course Bill speaks specifically, to online platforms. It speaks to financial contributions by broadcasters and online undertakings, and an update to Canada's broadcasting and regulation policy. It also gives the CRTC increasing powers.
For us, that is probably one of the most concerning parts of the bill, among some others, the fact that it can impose an administrative monetary policy for violations of certain provisions of the act, such as contraventions of regulations or orders made under the act, broadcasting when prohibited to do so and failing to submit information. There are numerous things that the CRTC will gain power on with respect to this. It also provides for oversight of the Canadian broadcasting landscape.
There are things within the bill that definitely need to be worked on. Here is one of the things that the bill does not address, and I want to spend a considerable amount of time on this. Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Metroland newspapers, which is part of the Torstar group. They were advocating on behalf of online digital content.
As members know, the inequity that is created, the disparity of online digital content is significant for those content producers. Oftentimes many of those stories will end up on Facebook or even Google, and a lot of the ad revenue that is being created does not go back to the content providers. That means there has been a significant change in the landscape of digital content in this country as a result of players like Facebook and Google. Facebook and Google profit significantly from that content that is being provided, but those content producers do not. It is causing a significant problem.
In meeting with Metroland, Shaun and Elise brought to my attention some of those concerns. My hope is, and I am writing a letter in support of their ask, that some of what they are suggesting to level the playing field is actually adopted by the government fairly soon. What the bill would not do is address the concerns of the digital content providers.
Their concern, of course, is preserving a functioning journalism industry. They said at the time that citizens around the globe are demanding high-quality journalism and investigative reporting. Nonetheless, the ability of news publishers to continue providing such critical information is under threat by the market power and preferential regulatory treatment of dominant platforms in digital information. Democratic governments are recognizing market failures in the market for news, and they are now working to implement policies to address them.
Just the other day, I was in a conference Zoom call with the new owners of Torstar, who own Metroland Media. Overwhelmingly, the consensus of the community leaders who were on that call spoke about the role of journalism, the role of truth and the role of providing balance, particularly in the case of local journalism. We had quite an interesting discussion about that because, as we see the evolution of social media platforms, there is a level of disinformation. Therefore, it comes back to a matter of trust in the content being provided by these digital producers.
France, Spain, the U.K. and Australia have already passed regulations. In fact, I am told that just today Australia passed legislation to level the playing field. Again, in the context of Bill , none of this is addressed in this piece of legislation. What the Australian legislation is designed to do is to reduce the effects of the platforms' market power and to restore balance and fairness in the market for digital advertising and digital news distribution, which is exactly what I heard from Metroland representatives when I met with them.
Other countries, including the U.S., are now analyzing how the market is dominated through those digital platforms, and they are developing regulatory reforms and legislation and beginning antitrust proceedings to rectify the platforms' market dominance. The hope is to continue that discussion here in Canada and end up with either regulation or legislation that solves that inequity in the country. When many of our allies, and I do not mean that in a war context but in regard to the countries that we are aligned with digitally, are engaging in that process, we need to start doing that as a country as well.
Consumer demand for news obviously remains high, not just in the local and national content but also digital content. That speaks to the need for more credible and professional news as a result of that increased demand. There was a time when there was no social media, obviously, and as Canadians we received our news from reputable sources and reputable news people. There is an online demand for that news to continue, but in some cases it is not indicative of what is important or what is factual in a lot of cases.
Therefore, supporting that level playing field for the digital content and the producers of it becomes critical in protecting the truth, and that is what the Metroland representatives are talking about. They are, in their words, approaching market failure because of the inequity that is happening. They reminded me that market failure occurs when participants in a market do not produce an economically and socially optimal outcome because of non-market factors. Examples might be the inclusion of regulatory barriers to enter or market power.
Market failures can take several forms and several of them are applicable to the market for digital ads and news in Canada. The most pressing failure that they indicated was the result of the market power of both Google and Facebook, which I referenced earlier. Google and Facebook, they say, are in an effective duopoly over the market for digital advertising in Canada and its peer nations. Those platforms have segmented the market between search, which is Google, and Facebook for social media, which limits the direct competition between the two.
I know I have spent a lot of time on levelling the digital playing field in support of local content producers, but the concern that I have and the hope that I have is that the government will recognize this inequity and will work toward regulation or legislation that allows for these local content producers and the individuals who work for them to be paid fairly, not just from a monetary standpoint in terms of income but also from advertising as well, because that becomes important to the viability, the sustainability and the legitimacy of the news business in this country, going forward.
I would be glad to answer any questions.
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to engage in this debate, which really does affect Canadian culture, how we see ourselves in the global marketplace and our identity as Canadians.
The Broadcasting Act has not been renewed or reviewed for 28 years, so it is time that we get this done. The problem is that, as is so typical with the Liberal government, it has brought forward legislation that is so deeply flawed that we, as Conservatives in the House who want to get it right, just cannot support it. I am going to go through some of those flaws, because they are significant, but the reason we are even talking about reviewing the Broadcasting Act is because the whole environment in which broadcasting takes place has changed.
We have moved from an environment in which digital forms of communication were mostly unknown to an environment in which we have digital platforms that are, in fact, challenging the role of conventional broadcasters in Canada. We have to get this right, because there is a lot at stake. What is at stake is Canadian content and making sure that we, as Canadians, see ourselves in the products we see on television, on streaming services and in the movies. It is also important that we recognize that there are individuals and companies within Canada that are producing content, really good and in most cases Canadian content, that are actually not being reimbursed and compensated for that content.
I will start by highlighting that this bill, and this is one of the positives in it, will effectively add online businesses to our broadcasting regime. This is to make sure that we capture everything that is happening online of a broadcasting nature, and we include it in the regulations and the legislative regimes that we put in place. We do not want conventional broadcasters, which already operate within a set of rules, to be placed at a disadvantage when we have a whole set of other online content providers that operate either under a different set of rules or, in most cases, in the absence of rules. We want to get this right.
One of the challenges of this bill is that it does not address the monetization of content on some of the largest online content providers, the Facebooks and the Googles of the world. Recently, I met with Ken Goudswaard and Carly Ferguson from the Abbotsford News, our local newspaper. It is an excellent newspaper focused on the local issues that matter to our residents.
I met with them and the first thing they raised with me was the Broadcasting Act and the fact that they operate in an environment where the big players, such as Facebook and Google, take advantage of them. I asked how that happens, although I had an inkling of what they were going to say. They said they are producing 100% Canadian content within our community, the city of Abbotsford. They are the ones who pay the reporters, the layout people and everybody else who works in the newspaper office. They are the ones who pay for all of it. They then put that content online, and Facebook and Google get to then advertise off of that content without compensating the Abbotsford News for any of it. It is, in fact, a freebie.
These are the largest corporations in the world. They are also among the most profitable corporations in the world. They are not sharing their wealth and the income that our local content producers rightfully deserve. That is one of the failings of this legislation. It does not adequately address that challenge.
To Ken and to Carly, I say I am advocating for them. We Conservatives are advocating for them in the House. We want to make sure that those who deliver content, Canadian content, in Canada are also properly compensated for it, and that others do not get rich off their backs.
One of the other considerations is that the bill has a lack of clarity when it comes to the powers that would be granted to the CRTC. My colleague rightfully raised this challenge earlier in that much of the decision-making is vested in the Governor in Council. For Canadians who are wondering who the Governor in Council is, it is effectively the and the cabinet, who can simply, by fiat, say that this is what we are going to do and this is how much will be committed to Canadian content.
As members know, in Canada our broadcasters have to invest in Canadian content. They have no choice. We want to make sure that we, as Canadians, see ourselves in the products of online content, as well as in our broadcast media. They are committed to taking anywhere from 25% to 40% of their content and ensuring that it is Canadian. They also have to contribute 5% to the Canada Media Fund, which is a separate fund that helps Canadian content producers deliver Canadian content in a way that does not bankrupt them.
These support mechanisms are in place for Canadian broadcasters, the conventional broadcasters, but we have this whole other realm of content producers and content streaming services, the online platforms that are not part of that broadcasting regime. We want to make sure that they also play by the same set of rules that our domestic broadcasters have to play by.
Unfortunately, the powers to direct this are vested in the cabinet and the CRTC, but those powers are not clear on exactly what kind of requirements would be imposed upon our online streaming services when they deliver content to Canadians. There is no certainty, and if I were someone who was leading one of these streaming services, I would think that, until I had clarity from the Canadian authorities as to exactly how much I had to invest in Canadian content and how much it was going to cost me, I would probably hold off on any further investments, and that is not good for Canada.
To their credit, companies such as Netflix, Crave and Amazon Prime and others like them do invest in Canadian content already, but they are not subject to the same rules as our Canadian broadcasters and content providers, and that needs to change. What we are doing is levelling the playing field. Unfortunately, we do not know what the rules are for that level playing field.
Effectively, the government is saying to trust it. When have we heard that before from the ? The irony here is that we have a Liberal government that is bringing forward Bill with changes to the Broadcasting Act that are supposed to enhance Canadian content. This is to drive home the fact that we are Canadian, we have a Canadian identity and we want to see ourselves in that content.
However, this is the same who publicly said that Canada has no core identity. Do members remember when he said that? We have no core identity but we want Canadian content. Members can see that there are so many flaws in this proposed legislation. Step by step, we need to deal with the Broadcasting Act in a manner that actually delivers exactly what Canadians need.
The last point I will make is that there is no reference at all to taxing the big boys. The Facebooks and Googles of this world are still not paying taxes in Canada. Are Netflix, Crave, Amazon Prime, Spotify and the others paying taxes in Canada? No, but they are driving major revenue growth from delivering their content here in Canada.
This is all about fairness. Bill does not deliver fairness, and for that reason we, as Conservatives, will be voting against the legislation.
Madam Speaker, how does one follow on the comments made by the member for ? I congratulate her relative for getting a role in Star Trek: Discovery
. I am sure there are a lot of Trekkies out there who appreciate that and will watch with bated breath to see who she is portraying.
It is an honour for me to rise in the House today to join in the discussion of Bill , an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
As the member for put on the table, there are some fundamental flaws with it, one of which relates to the Governor in Council. When we go through the bill, one thing that jumps out right away is the power the Governor in Council will have. There would be a lot of power situated in the minister's office and cabinet when it comes to making decisions regarding Canadian content and broadcasting services, and that is a fundamental flaw in the bill.
What also pops out when reading the bill is the pretty broad definition of “online business”. I think that is what people were looking for.
Another issue my constituents have brought forward to me, which we will have time to talk about more, is the issue of giving more power to the CRTC. When we talk about the availability of online services, broadcasting and the news, most Canadians would like to see less power in the Ottawa bubble and the CRTC and more power throughout the country, as people would like to have more options.
I agree, and I think many members of the House would agree, that waiting 28 years to update a bill is a substantial length of time. The member for mentioned he was three years old when this act was introduced, and he talked about some of the great music then. Times have changed, and a lot of conversations need to be had now about how we are going to do business using online services with Facebook and Netflix.
What are we going to do? How are we going to do it? The members across the way have talked about what taxes should look like for very big corporations, and the member for brought it up very well when he said that when businesses come to Canada they expect to be treated fairly. That is something we need to keep in mind when we are looking at this legislation.
We talked about having Canadian content and making sure there is a level playing field when it comes to news services. I think the other issue we need to talk about is how smaller online businesses and news services are competing with the bigger online services. That needs to be levelled as well.
Some smaller businesses are trying to compete against taxpayer dollars. The member for said, very correctly, that some of these small local publications are trying to compete with the CBC online, and the CBC has a good online paper. The member for talked about how it just updated its online presence, which is wonderful, but that online presence is now competing with smaller online papers. It is very hard for them to compete, because they do not have the resources that bigger companies like CBC, CTV or Global have. We need to take that into consideration as well when we are looking at how we will be able to ensure that smaller publications have the ability to compete. A lot of Canadians across the country want to see competition in the online broadcasting field and the ability to have more selection and options when looking at online news and broadcasting.
We also need to have a discussion about how we are going to ensure there is correct information online. That conversation is important in this day and age. Some of the members across the way have brought up fake news, or whatever they like to call it, but I think it is also incumbent upon us to make sure we hold ourselves to a higher level of decorum in the House when debating bills. Let us not bring up issues that are not related to Bill , nor have personal attacks back and forth during these speeches. That is below parliamentarians and below the level that our constituents expect from us. We need a higher level of discourse in this chamber.
I expect that to continue and expect us to raise the bar of decorum in the House to ensure that when we have debates about important legislation, we stick to the facts and the debate at hand. We must leave personal and partisan feelings away from the table when we have these conversations. I will do my best to ensure that there is good decorum in this chamber whenever I am on my feet to talk about important bills.
When we have conversations on Bill , possible situations could arise that are interesting. The long-awaited legislation is the result of the Yale report on the framework for communications in Canada tabled in February 2020. The 97 recommendations of the report deal with social media, copyright, taxation of web giants and advertising fees to ensure the sustainability of traditional media. Bill is limited to the modernization of the Broadcasting Act, which essentially consists of introducing, as I said earlier, a very broad definition of online business, broadcasting cultural content and giving the CRTC broad discretion to regulate them where it does require a percentage of Canadian content, requires financial contributions and imposes fines to investigate compliance.
There are a lot of recommendations from the Yale report, which Bill is based on, that have not been implemented, and I think we should take some time to step back. That is why on this side we think Bill misses the mark in a few areas, especially regarding centralizing the discretion within the CRTC and within the 's office, which we think is a big concern. Many of my colleagues have talked about that concern. We need to ensure there are broader consultations about where Canadians would like to see the ability to regulate and where our online business and our broadcasting ideas would come from.
We want more news available, and we want Canadian content within our broadcasting. However, the bill misses the mark on creating some fairness within the broadcasting sector and ensuring that we have space for smaller and start-up publications. There are a couple back home I can think of that would be hurt from not having a level playing field when starting up and competing with the larger companies, such as CBC, Global and CTV. They need to start with an online presence, because that helps.
I know, as do the young staff in my office, that there are not a lot of newspapers in the office anymore. We have our phones and PressReader, and we get much of our information from online sources.
I know the Regina Leader Post and The Star Phoenix have dropping publication numbers in Saskatchewan. They are working hard to make sure they have a large online presence because they realize that more and more people are getting their news from websites and through online services.
We need to allow for room in online businesses so they have the ability to compete. It is not as fair at this point as we would like to see it, and we wish there would have been the ability within Bill to create a more level playing field.
When it comes to online services, companies such as Netflix and Facebook should pay their fair share, as my colleagues across the way like to say. I think that is a good point, but they need to have certainty so that before they come to Canada, they know what the taxes or fees are going to be when they bring their businesses to Canada. Without certainty, it is very hard to attract new businesses and new tech companies to Canada if they do not know what the fees will be.
Given the uncertainty reasons and the power that is going to be situated within the CRTC and the minister's office, we have issues and concerns. That is why we will not be supporting this piece of legislation at this time.
Madam Speaker, before we begin discussions on regulating content on the Internet, let us recognize that Canada has 38 million regulators. They are called customers. They are the people who decide what they watch. With the click of a mouse, they can choose the content that serves their interests. For the same reason, the ability to produce unique and diverse content is greater today than ever before. The advent of the Internet, far from limiting the production of Canadian content, has vastly expanded it by dramatically reducing the cost of production and distribution.
If members really think about it, the cost of producing and distributing content today is probably 99% lower than it was just 25 years ago. There are 14-year-old kids who can produce their own movie trailers on their laptop computers and broadcast them before as many eyes as want to see them, without spending a single dollar beyond the purchase of a bit of software and a laptop on which to design them, and the quality is probably superior to what Hollywood would have been able to create just a few decades ago.
This has democratized and expanded the scope of content. It has allowed minorities, and people with particular interests not held by the majority, to reach audiences. Back in the old days, people had to compete for real estate in HMV, the local record store or the local Blockbuster, and if someone was not among the top 50, they did not get that real estate. Even if their product was interesting to 3% of the public, they could not sell it to anybody, because they had no means of getting it to the public and they could not generate the capital to produce it in the first place.
I will acknowledge that the changes to which this bill proposes to respond are actually good changes. They are democratizing changes. They spread out power and diversity, which is something we should allow and that freedom provides.
The current government seeks to extend its reach and broaden its tentacles into the Internet.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Hear, hear.
Hon. Pierre Poilievre: “Hear, hear,” says the Liberal member across the way. Every once in a while the veil falls, and they reveal their true selves. I say they want to extend their tentacles into the Internet, and one of the most prominent Liberal MPs says, “Hear, hear.” I thank him for his temporary and accidental honesty.
I will quote Andrew Coyne, who is far from a Conservative, who says in The Globe and Mail, which is far from a Conservative publication, “The Canadian government's Bill C-10 has opened the door to serious state regulation of the Internet.” The has expressed his admiration for Fidel Castro and for the basic dictatorship of communist China; has attempted to use this pandemic to extend to himself the unmitigated power to raise any tax at any time by any amount, until 2022; has used a debate commission to put Craig Kielburger, and other Liberal insiders, in control of how the leaders' debate would go; and has extended a taxpayer subsidy to the media and then put the head of Unifor, a Liberal-backed organization, in charge of how the money is given out. Whenever such a Prime Minister introduces a bill to extend the power of the state over the Internet, we should be very suspicious.
I will quote Mr. Coyne, who says:
While the government claims it would not empower the CRTC to regulate smaller services such as Britbox, social media sites such as Youtube or online news content, the bill contains no specific provisions that would prohibit it, and includes provisions that seem to allow it. For example, the bill exempts “programs that are uploaded to an online undertaking” by its users and “online undertakings whose broadcasting consist of only such programs.” It leaves the way open for the CRTC to regulate services that show both user-generated and curated content. Like Youtube.
That means we would be opening the door for the CRTC to regulate the kinds of things that everyday Canadians produce and upload onto the Internet.
We are allowing the CRTC, which is an already overly powerful bureaucracy of nameless, faceless government authorities, to potentially extend its regulation into what content people put on the Internet. It is no surprise the would want to limit and regulate that kind of content. Often the kind of independent material uploaded to the Internet by everyday Canadians is the only place outside of the House where he faces real criticism. He is not protected by the adoring glow of his supporters in the press gallery. Therefore, he has to contend with the scrutiny of everyday Canadians who dare criticize him or his ideological direction, or dare produce content that might contradict his world view.
The government refuses to clearly circumscribe the power of the CRTC, and it opens the door for that power to be extended. We can only assume it was designed for the very purpose of extending more control over what Canadians watch, read, hear and produce. That is further compounded by the fact that the bill allows the cabinet to have order-making power over the CRTC, and to direct how it will apply these brand new powers: powers that the member across the way is salivating over right now. Powers that he said, “Hear, hear” to, as soon as I suggested that he might have them.
We live in a free country. Everyday, ordinary Canadians should be allowed their own megaphones and the only limit on how loud and how vast their voices are should be whether people choose to listen to them. Everyday Canadians should be able to decide what they like by voting with their clicks. That is the kind of liberty we should extend to the Canadian people. In the marketplace of ideas, there is no role for state coercion and intimidation. There is no role for nameless, faceless government bureaucrats to decide who is heard and who is not. Everyday Canadian people should have the freedom to do that for themselves.
If we, on this side of the House of Commons, are the only ones to stand up for free speech, then there a lot of Canadians who will stand with us. We know that we have, in the , someone who does not believe in free speech. After a French newspaper was the victim of a terrorist attack, he was asked about free speech and whether that publication should have freedom of expression. He said, “Freedom of expression is not unlimited”, as if to suggest that the attack against the publication was somehow justified on the grounds that the publication had improperly exercised freedom of expression, and that the state ought to have the ability to limit that expression. He then backed down, by the way. He came to the House of Commons and reversed himself completely, swallowed himself whole and realized how much he had humiliated himself by revealing his real thoughts to the Canadian people.
Every time the attempts to extend control over what we see, hear, read and produce, we ought to view the proposal through the lens of a man who believes in strong state control over its citizens. We on this side of the House will stand for the ancient liberties we have inherited from our ancestors and that we hope to bequeath to those who come after us.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to once again debate in this place, and to debate a bill that takes on a special relevance in the year that we find ourselves in. The dynamics associated with online content have expanded dramatically with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We can look at the last number of decades. I recall back in high school, people were talking about how the speed of a computer was doubling every 90 days, and the next year they would say it was doubling every 45 days. The rate at which technology is advancing is incredible, and along with that come challenges and changing dynamics that definitely need to be addressed in legislation. With the tabling of the Yale report with the 97 recommendations, this is what I would assume is part of that response, being that it addresses only a small number of those challenges.
Having stated the demands that we face and needing to make some of these changes, I would make a couple of observations about the bill.
I think of a few speeches from my colleagues preceding me, including the member for , the member for , the member for , and others, who have articulated very well some of the challenges that we faced. I have some constituents who are real politicos, who do not just follow the news as it is seen on the news channels, but follow when bills are introduced and their responses were striking. When this bill was first tabled, I had a number of constituents who reached out and asked how do they know that this is not the government just trying to take more power, how do they know that this is not the government trying to regulate free thought, and how do they know that there is not a nefarious agenda at work here.
That speaks to some of the greater societal challenges that exist, especially when it comes to the way that the government members opposite conduct themselves and certainly some of the comments that the has made, whether regarding China or other aspects of society and even our country; or comments of the minister who is responsible for bringing forward this bill has made. There was a great deal of concern.
Certainly, my hope is that in the midst of the debate in this House the government members will articulate very clearly those concerns. I have here in front of me 14 pages; and yet, having read it, there is not a whole lot of clarity as to what is actually trying to be accomplished and that poses a problem. That is part of the reason that constituents reach out and ask what this is about. They have concerns because they do not trust the intentions that are brought forward in the preamble. Certainly, that is something that needs to be very much clarified.
There are a few points that need to be addressed, including levelling the playing field with the explosion of digital content. It is interesting that we are having this debate today when just a number of days ago there were some fairly significant conversations happening in the United States surrounding Facebook and whether it is too large and the government in the United States needs to take some antitrust actions. I would hope that the minister is following this carefully, and how it speaks to the larger issues that we face when it comes to addressing the evolving nature that is digital content.
A big part of my concern here is with what this bill would not ensure in regard to those web giants, because they are giants and they touch every part of our life. I have an Android phone and Google touches every part of my life, whether it is talking to my kids as they are tucked into bed at night and I am here in Ottawa or to do with my job as a member of Parliament, whatever the case is.
Facebook as well; what do we not see on Facebook these days? There is certainly a great deal of concern that it is not clearly articulated how some of these things would be addressed. As well, it is not made clear what the standards would be for those multinationals and the rules that domestic content suppliers and producers have here in Canada.
i want to talk about unleashing the private sector. There is a community in my constituency many in this House will know as Drumheller. It is the dinosaur capital of the world, the heart of the Canadian badlands. Not only is it known for the dinosaurs and the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and a big shout-out to everybody there and the challenges they are facing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has been very interesting how that community has benefited greatly in content creation.
In fact, my wife suggested we watch the Netflix series Lost in Space, and I thought to myself that those hills looked familiar. It turns out I had not been to that planet, but rather I had driven through Drumheller. It was filmed there, and of course there was some CGI and whatnot associated with it, but there is incredible work done here in Canada. It is not just solely Canadian content like we see sometimes produced by the CBC, and although there are some aspects of that content a lot of people are very proud of, there is a lot of it that quite frankly I question why tax dollars go toward paying for.
There is a lot shot in Canada, whether it be Vancouver, the Prairies or Toronto. A number of television shows supposedly based in New York are actually shot in downtown Toronto. It is absolutely incredible how much Canadian content there is and to ensure the free market is absolutely unleashed, to ensure Canada is a destination for that investment and the jobs that come along with it.
When the was running for the leadership of the party, I was very pleased he addressed one of these things, which was to eliminate the goods and services tax on Canadian digital platforms as a mechanism to say that it is an equal playing field. It is something that bears mentioning in this place.
I will discuss a couple of other issues and then I will wrap up with a very important one. Nothing in this bill seems to address the issue of royalty sharing to media content shared on digital media. It does not explain how digital platforms would be treated versus more conventional broadcasting. It would give full enforcement powers to the CRTC, and like the member for articulated very well, I certainly have a great deal of concern when enforcement powers are given. Like the member for mentioned before, there is a tremendous amount of hesitation when the minister has the final say on a lot of the governance aspects of how content is done.
There are a number of other concerns, but I do not think I will have time to get to them, so I will finish with simply this. All Canadians should be concerned with The New York Times editorial, and it has been discussed in this House, related to the exploitation of children on the web giants like MindGeek's Pornhub. A tremendous number of issues need to be addressed, which I do not have the time to get into today.
The New York Times exposé and some of the debate that has taken place subsequently here and around the world look to make sure there is a clear understanding of how we can ensure those most vulnerable among us are protected. I simply finish my remarks with that.