The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak today on Bill , an act to amend the Broadcasting Act.
While this bill has some serious technical aspects, which I will get into in a moment, I would like to begin by highlighting the fact that at the end of the day, even though we are talking about regulations and broadcasting rules, we are ultimately talking about Canadian jobs. Today we can even look at some of the job losses. This morning we heard of the additional 213,000 job losses in Canada in the month of January, which once again has increased our unemployment rate, so while we are having this discussion we have to also focus on what this is all about, which ultimately is about people working here in Canada.
I also want to look back for a moment at what we have seen here in my own riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London and highlight some of the work that was being done here prior to the pandemic.
I remember the excitement in the community of St. Thomas when it was announced that Jason Momoa—and I probably said that wrong, as I am one of the few people who has not watched Aquaman—was coming to our area and that Apple TV was going to produce a show right in our own backyard at the psychiatric hospital here in St. Thomas, or actually in central Elgin, for those who are from here.
These are really important things to our community. Sean Dyke, who is our economic development agent for the City of St. Thomas, had talked about other companies coming to our area. Most recently, the Amazon movie The Boys was being filmed here, and Guillermo del Toro did Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Many people are choosing locations right here in our own backyard in the City of St. Thomas, and also in the community of Port Stanley. I know the village of Port Stanley has been used for sites, and I can think of Bayham in the Port Burwell area as well.
These are really important parts when we talk about productions. We have to look at what is being done in our communities and how talent is being drawn to our communities, whether through production or acting, and how that is highlighting some of the great things we have in our own communities.
I talk about this with a lot of excitement because my son, who is an actor, has been part of multiple productions for Netflix, and this is an opportunity for actors to get their foot in the door. Many other companies are now coming in and producing well-connected dramas and shows in our areas, and we are receiving economic development from them.
I am not going to speak specifically on the infrastructure of the bill and what that looks like. The reason I am not is basically because of its lack of clarity. I am finding it very difficult to understand, so I have to just look at the impacts of Bill here in Elgin—Middlesex—London and how we can move forward from this.
I know that conversations about economic growth have unfortunately been falling on the deaf ears of the government for a while, and we know that many of these productions will not be able to get back in order until there are rapid tests, vaccines and the tools needed to get people back to work so they can resume the great work that is being done.
I am not trying to advertise for any of these movies or shows, but Bill will have a tangible impact on how the content will be classified. Filming movies and TV shows in the heart of my riding, within the Canadian economy and with Canadian actors, actresses and crew members, cannot be classified as Canadian content, because all of the financing and production is handled by American companies. That is why I talk about the clarity of this bill, the idea of Canadian content and what CanCon actually looks like. I will tell members that every single cheque my son brought home in 2020 was from an American company, yet he was a Canadian actor acting in Toronto, so what is happening in our own communities has to be looked at as well.
These massive companies are also not contributing back into the Canada Media Fund and are not being taxed in the same way as Canadian corporations. This is inherently unfair for local producers, small papers and broadcasters working to highlight Canadian content and provide reliable content for Canadians.
I want clarity in this bill so that I can read it and understand the impacts of what the Liberals are putting forward. There have been barriers in the past, and this is why it is really important to have this conversation.
While it is definitely important that we modernize the Broadcasting Act and introduce some fairness to the industry, including requiring web giants and social media to pay their fair share, we have to remember that getting this wrong can directly impact Canadian jobs and that over-regulation or lack of clarity in the rules will ultimately lead companies to film elsewhere, causing Canadians to lose out on these new opportunities. The more barriers we have, the more likely it is that people will wonder if it is worth doing in Canada.
I am not saying that there should not be some fair ground here; I absolutely believe that there needs to be, but I do want to put into this debate today the fact that the clarity just is not there.
Another worry I have from Bill is that it has placed limited abilities on parliamentary committees to oversee the directives and regulations that are being adopted by the CRTC. I do not have to remind everyone of the government's dismal record on accountability. I know I speak for many of my colleagues when I say that it seems that the government's overwhelming priority, even in the middle of this pandemic, is to avoid accountability.
Without even getting into the political reasons for its completely unnecessary prorogation, we have seen by time and time again the government running from accountability, filibustering committees, covering its tracks on things such as the WE Charity and covering for a who would rather hide at Rideau Cottage than face the music. The fact that there is not going to be accountability here in Parliament for these powers being given to the CRTC is an issue. We do not want to see the unintended consequences without a thorough debate.
The government has not earned the trust of Canadians when it comes to broadcasting. Let us not forget that this is the same who seems to have no problem in demanding that news organizations be licensed. I want to talk about that because I can share my own concerns on this issue.
There was a situation that happened here in Elgin—Middlesex—London with a person I know who is a journalist in our region. His concern is whether putting online publishers under the same type of broadcast regulations lays the groundwork to regulate online news content in the same way that television and radio content is being governed by broadcast regulations.
The government says news publishers will not be affected by these changes, but the problem is that the government has a limited definition of who qualifies as news and as media. According to the legislation, paragraph (i) specifies that “a person shall not carry on a broadcasting undertaking, other than an online undertaking, unless they do so in accordance with a licence or they are exempt from the requirement to hold a licence.” Once again we are establishing so many unknowns, and once again we need clarity on this aspect.
Just prior to when this legislation came out, Andrew Coyne, a writer with The Globe and Mail, wrote:
If that sounds paranoid, consider the weight the government puts on its assurances that online broadcasters would not have to be “licensed”. That's true, as far as it goes. They would just be obliged to “register” with the CRTC, subject to certain “conditions of service,” enforced by “fines.”
We can talk about the fact that there will not be these limitations, but we have to look at some of the other language being used. This is very concerning, because at this time right now, it is really important that we have proper news agencies and proper news reporting and that we are ensuring that we are getting all sides of the story.
Finally, the bill does not provide any benchmarks to legislate the percentage of French content. We have heard from many of our members today, specifically from Quebec. I have been working on my French recently and I hope to one day enjoy the bounty of wonderful content filmed and produced in Quebec in French, but this bill does nothing to help French language content.
I know some serious modernizations are needed to help our Broadcasting Act here in Canada, but I do not believe that the bill exactly does this. I am very concerned with the bill, as I said, and I hope there will be much more clarity in it. I believe we do need to find a balance between our big corporations and our smaller corporations, the new players on the field and the players that have been there for years, but let us make sure that we are doing it with all players on board, because I believe we are missing out.
I am now happy to take any questions.
Madam Speaker, in my past life before politics, I was an independent recording artist. I was inspired by the music of Dan Hill, Anne Murray, David Foster, Céline Dion and Shania Twain. I discovered them on radio and television. I do not think it is a coincidence that most of my favourite musicians are Canadian; we have a lot of talent here, but the stars whom I mentioned found their big break in the U.S. instead of Canada. I shared this story because I want to affirm the symbiosis of Canadian content creators and Canadian broadcasters in the lives of Canadians and the value of protecting these institutions to allow Canada's cultural and artistic identity to thrive.
Bill is important in spirit because it seeks to modernize a 28-year-old law that does not take into account diversified broadcasting platforms with the arrival of the digital world, including Internet, social media and streaming. It is critical to acknowledge the reality of new and growing digital platforms and the implications of a global market and of foreign players entering our system, and we must do so with consideration for the long-term sustainability of Canadian content and Canadian broadcasting platforms. This requires adapting the CRTC's mandates to maximize the success of Canadian entities in the broadcasting ecosystem for the furtherance of Canada's heritage and economic prosperity.
We cannot ignore the impact of the broadcasting, film and music sectors on the Canadian economy. Based on a November 2020 report on Canadian Heritage's website, the GDP impact of broadcasting was $9.1 billion, with $16.9 billion in revenues and 41,901 jobs; the GDP impact of film and video was $4.3 billion, with $13.39 billion in revenues and 71,027 jobs; and the GDP impact of music and sound recording was $637 million, with $577 million in revenues and 8,986 jobs.
The trend is also clear. Over the last 10 years, Canadians have increasingly moved toward Internet streaming services for programs, while moving away from paid-subscription TV. These are both viable avenues for viewers today. The implications of these trends plead for a modernized Broadcasting Act. That is the intent of Bill , but I am not fully convinced that the proposed amendments would accomplish what the bill purports to do. I hope to address these issues today.
Canadian content producers and broadcasters have a vital role in the production of quality Canadian drama, reality shows and news. Property Brothers, Schitt's Creek, Kim's Convenience and Wall of Chefs are top-notch Canadian shows that have garnered global attention. We are living in an exciting time for Canadian content, but content requires funding.
Canadian content creators have expressed concern that the proposed amendment to paragraph 3(1)(f) of the Broadcasting Act reflects a weakening of the crucial position of Canadian creative resources in the act. As the act currently stands without amendments, it does so under the assumption of a closed system wherein Canadian controlled and owned broadcasters hold a monopoly. Paragraph 3(1)(f) currently reads:
(f) each broadcasting undertaking shall make maximum use, and in no case less than predominant use, of Canadian creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of programming,
Bill excludes the phrase “maximum use, and in no case less than predominant” and other conditions. The amendment reads:
(f) each broadcasting undertaking shall make use of Canadian creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of programming to the extent that is appropriate for the nature of the undertaking;
Canadian content creators are concerned that this amendment would diminish the critical position of Canadian creators in the Broadcasting Act. My concern about proposed amendment to paragraph 3(1)(f) is its overall lack of clarity and accountability on the role of all broadcasters, whether traditional or modern, in contributing to the creation and presentation of Canadian content. I agree with Canadian creators that the amendment would undermine the value of Canadian content in the Broadcasting Act. In a time when Canadian stories are beginning to find larger audiences and are defining our artistic identity, the amendment to paragraph 3(1)(f) is a little disappointing.
I would like to add that the lack of copyright and intellectual property safeguards in the amendments in the midst of the current international environment does not reflect modernization. Writers, composers, publishers and other copyright holders depend on royalties for their livelihoods. It is already difficult for Canadians with artistic vocations to make ends meet. Many domestic talents move to the U.S., Europe or Asia to find a viable path. The lack of intellectual property protection in the growing and complex digital world and globalized markets is unacceptable in this age. The Broadcasting Act needs to include a modernized copyright law. If Canada does not work toward optimizing the environment for creators to thrive, our cultural identity suffers. Canadian content is not just a means to help Canadian works to reach audiences; Canadian content should be protected and supported to help our arts and culture sectors help establish our heritage and Canadian identity.
Bill is important in spirit because it seeks to safeguard equitable programming. Bill C-10 amends the Broadcasting Act to, among other things, update the Canadian broadcasting policies set out in sections throughout the act by providing, among other things, that the Canadian broadcasting system should provide opportunities for aboriginal peoples to provide programming in aboriginal languages that reflect aboriginal cultures, and to provide programming that is accessible to persons with disabilities and free of barriers while serving the needs and the interests of Canadians, including Canadians from racialized communities and ethno culturally diverse backgrounds.
The bill amends the CRTC's mandate to require more content in aboriginal, disabled, racialized and LGBTQ2 people. However, the bill does not address any guidelines to regulate French content. There is no provision of a benchmark to legislate the percentage of French language content. Equitable programming needs to also modernize the Broadcasting Act to ensure that French and Quebec culture content are given adequate opportunities to thrive.
Broadcasters are critical to fostering Canadian identity in the role they have with Canadian content. Whether they deliver Canadian news, reality shows and drama, or contribute to the Canada Media Fund to produce Canadian content, they are critical to our cultural identity, everyday life and our economy. However, in the current Broadcasting Act there are obligations and content regulations that mean well to safeguard Canadian content creators, but inadvertently put them at risk of losing in their competition with foreign digital players who have access to Canadian consumers with little regulation at this time. If Canadian broadcasters fall down, then their support for Canadian content also falters.
The broadcasting system is a delicate realm that requires a delicate balance for all to thrive. Providing an even playing field with foreign Internet broadcasters like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney, Apple TV+ will certainly help alleviate the unfair competition. Foreign companies should also contribute to Canadian content, but with that should also come the right balance of regulations so that all players, domestic and foreign, can flourish. If they thrive, their investment in Canadian content creation and presentation will inadvertently benefit the fostering of Canada's cultural identity and economy.
In an age when many entities are competing for audiences in the digital world, Canadian news broadcasters are suffering from the added drop in ad sales caused by the economic downturn from COVID-19. A fair and modernized Broadcasting Act would benefit Canada's broadcasting sector. However, Bill is too vague and does not ensure that web giants like Google and Facebook are obligated to compete under the same rules as Canadian companies. That does not explain how digital platforms and conventional players will compete on an even playing field. It does not explain the guidelines that will be put in place for the production of Canadian content and contributions to the Canada Media Fund.
It would be incumbent on the CRTC to enforce regulations to reflect a modernized act. However, the role of the CRTC is vague. The lack of clarity raises concerns for all stakeholders as to how the CRTC will interpret its role. Will the CRTC over-regulate and stifle Canadian broadcasters among foreign digital counterparts? Will it over-regulate foreign players and shut them out of the system and thereby lessen opportunities for the relaying of Canadian content?
Based on the way the bill is written, it feels like the Liberal government is passing the buck to the CRTC for all decisions. They will then need at least nine months to undertake the first regulatory phase. In this COVID environment we need broadcasters and Canadian creators to have an assurance that they will survive and hope to thrive among international players.
I would like to refer to a conversation I had with one of my constituents, Rob, who owns Gearforce, a pro audio company that supports live concerts. He said that many of his technician friends in the entertainment industry are struggling not only because they are financially hurting because of shutdowns, but also because they are not putting their skills to work. They are afraid they will lose all of the skills they honed over their lifetime. There is a certain standard of excellence that circulates in the arts and culture sector, whether among writers, composers, artists, artisans or technical workers, who have had to work hard to get where they are in a sector where opportunities are very competitive.
A Broadcasting Act that is modernized with the right amendments is a small step forward to helping Canadian arts and culture sector workers and artists find their place in life. However, an ambiguous bill can be more damaging because of potential misinterpretations. If Bill passes second reading, I hope there will be fulsome discussions at committee to amend the bill.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise virtually today to speak to Bill .
Like many of my colleagues, I appreciate this opportunity to speak to this bill. I am an Acadian, and this bill will have a profound effect on the survival of our wonderful Acadian culture and community, which is very important to me. It deserves being promoted and protected.
Digital media is bigger than ever, and the 28-year-old Broadcasting Act is in urgent need of modernization to address the evolution of the Internet and the overwhelming emergence of social networks and online services like Facebook, Google, Netflix, Crave and Spotify, among others.
Modernizing the act does not necessarily mean erasing the past, forgetting how it has shaped our history to this day or failing to take it into account in the future. We need to ensure the continuity of our past and our Acadian culture and preserve them for always.
In its brief to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission during the CBC/Radio-Canada licence renewal process, the Société nationale de l'Acadie, the SNA, noted that it has had to intervene repeatedly to get Radio-Canada to support Acadian culture and to remind the broadcaster about the obligations in its mandate.
As a proud Acadian, and on behalf of all Acadians, I want to point out that all Acadians, just like all Canadians, help fund CBC/Radio-Canada. That funding, together with the broadcaster's mandate, are all that guarantee these services, which must be not only preserved at all costs but also respected. To make that happen, we need effective enforcement measures to be very clearly indicated in Bill C-10, which is not the case.
The SNA is the official representative of all Acadian people. It promotes the rights and interests of Atlantic Acadians. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the SNA for its hard work and its efforts to preserve our magnificent Acadian culture.
The bill seeks to amend the Broadcasting Act in several ways, such as by adding websites that broadcast or rebroadcast programs as a separate category of broadcasting undertaking. It also seeks to update Canada's broadcasting policy set out in section 3 to, for example, provide indigenous-language programming for indigenous people that reflects their culture.
I believe that Bill C-10 needs to go even further to ensure the presence and preservation of certain cultures, such as Acadian culture. I absolutely agree that the act needs to be modernized, just as the Official Languages Act needs to be modernized. On this side of the House, we want to be able to vote on a bill that will be fair for Canadian producers and broadcasters.
For several years now, Canadians have been expressing concerns about how unfair it is that Netflix does not pay any taxes in Canada. The goal is to find a balance between conventional media and digital media, as well as with content.
I completely agree with that goal. The francophone population of Nova Scotia, which listens to the Radio-Canada station out of Halifax, is upset about the fact that they hear more updates on traffic jams in Montreal and on the Samuel de Champlain Bridge than they do content from Nova Scotia artists.
It is important to point out that the case of the Atlantic provinces is unique. There is only one television production centre, supported by three radio production centres, to serve the four provinces. We want more local content to reflect the unique nature of Acadia and to promote and protect Acadian culture.
Unfortunately, when the CBC does not keep its commitments, even when complaints are filed with the CRTC, it is generally not penalized because it is not subject to the same rules as other Canadian broadcasters.
In 2021, it is unacceptable that this exemption still exists. It needs to be removed through Bill . It is vital that the percentage of Canadian content is respected to the letter and that each region of Canada can enforce its local cultural content quotas.
The Conservatives want an equitable regulatory framework for digital media and conventional broadcasters. My Conservative colleagues and I will only be able to support the modernization of the Broadcasting Act if it includes additional, clear, non-negotiable francophone content requirements.
During the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's licence renewal process, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse noted in its brief presented on January 13 to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that Acadians in Nova Scotia did not get access to a French-language elementary school education until 1981. It took a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada for them to finally, in 2003, get access to a French-language education in a system of homogenous secondary schools. Without that education in French, Acadians in Nova Scotia became assimilated at an alarming rate. Between 1981 and 1996, the number of French-speaking Acadians in Nova Scotia went from 80,000 to 42,000,
In the spring and fall of 2019, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse consulted extensively throughout the province on linguistic insecurity. Participants all reported experiencing language insecurity, discomfort or reluctance to express themselves in French, or even a feeling of inadequacy in French. I am quite saddened by these results. The lack of familiarity on the part of the broader Canadian public when it comes to Nova Scotia's Acadian community contributes to this linguistic insecurity.
Local content must be created so people can see themselves reflected in the media. The one and only measure to improve the place of French is to replace the reference in section 3 that weakens it further. This step backwards is completely unacceptable. It represents a much more vague and, more importantly, a much weaker approach than the act provides for indigenous content, for example.
This is another example of the Liberal government's contradictions. The government is further weakening an essential piece of legislation that is already weak, while making francophone communities across Canada believe that it will introduce a bill to modernize the Official Languages Act, which would focus on the promotion and protection of the French language for all minority francophone communities. That is nonsense.
In light of all these points, there is no way I can vote in favour of this bill without a firm commitment from the government to thoroughly review all the amendments needed to improve it in order to ensure that Acadian and francophone Canadian content has the kind of future it deserves.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
This has to be one of the most enjoyable debates I have had the opportunity to participate in this chamber. With such a vast and diverse country like ours, it is interesting to see the different local content from the far corners of our country.
This is near and dear to my heart, not just because of the content on the screen but because of the experiences of the persons who are involved in creating the content. That includes the background extras.
I had the very good fortune of being a background extra in several productions in my hometown in Regina, in the surrounding area. It all came about by chance, but it really did open my eyes to the so-called gig economy that has been in the news much more lately during the pandemic.
I was walking through the mall one day in Regina and I saw a guy, who has since become a good friend of mine, sitting at a table and a sign that said, “Sign up here to be in TV shows”. I asked him what it was all about. He was the casting director for a local company called Partners in Motion, which makes movies and TV shows in Regina and in southern Saskatchewan. He told me that I looked like a police officer and he had a spot for me in the documentary series called Crime Stories. They needed background extras to re-enact these crimes and they could cast me in the role of a police officer to arrest some criminal for the documentary series. It sounded like fun and a good way to make minimum wage on the side, so that is what I did. It really opened my eyes to how many people in my community had hobbies or gig jobs being background extras in TV shows.
Over the course of the following months and years, I arrested many different people in that crime series. I got to be a soldier in war. In a particularly memorable experience, I got to be a background extra in Corner Gas: The Movie. People tend to talk about Corner Gas, the TV show, but there was a major motion picture a few years ago, based on all the characters in Dog River, Corner Gas. It was certainly very memorable to walk up and down Main Street in Rouleau, Saskatchewan. I played towns person number seven in that movie. Much to my dismay, I was not nominated for an Oscar that year, but in the sequel perhaps my name will come up.
I have not seen anything in the bill to address the gig economy and people who work in the industry on a casual basis. I strongly suspect that this is something not specific to Regina, Saskatchewan, but specific to people who work in the industry all across our great country.
I think we could do Canadians a lot of good by withdrawing this bill and rewriting it from scratch to ensure that everyone is included in it and to ensure we have the best legislation we can for Canadians.
Therefore, I would like to move the following amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That'"and substituting the following: “Bill C-10, An act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be not now read a second time but that the order be discharged, the bill withdrawn and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.”
Madam Speaker, I have been very impressed with the 's openness to listen, his demeanour and his tone. A more partisan person than I might say that he could share that message with the member for , but I would never say that.
I am honoured to speak on a subject I am very passionate about: the update to the Broadcasting Act. Before I get into my content, I will tell the directly that he seems very open, and I congratulate him on his tone. He has been great to work with. I want to put another plug in for the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, if he could please help us out there.
My big ask, in terms of an amendment, would be protecting those smaller operators. We need tighter rules. We cannot leave this up to the CRTC. There are fabulous professionals working there doing the best they can, but we need to make sure there are solid protections.
There are some great arguments, and this act desperately needs to be updated because it has not been in 28 years. In that very long time, we have seen the evolution of the Internet, and the introduction of big players such as Facebook, Google, Netflix and Spotify. In light of this innovation, it is important that we upgrade the bill. However, as I said, I have serious concerns that the bill may inflict harm more than do good.
One of the fundamental changes in the communications sector in the last 28 years has been the democratization of access. Canadians are no longer limited to a couple of voices coming through their televisions. They can now listen and express themselves through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other platforms. In many ways, these platforms are closer to going out to the public square in the 1800s and expressing oneself, and anyone who wants to listen, can.
Many of the individuals who participate through YouTube or other platforms contribute a lot to our national discourse on matters like politics, philosophy, culinary arts and health. Having this cacophony of voices that brings with it life experience and perspective not only enriches our lives, but makes our society better. Combatants enter the arena of ideas and have the opportunity to put their theories and ideas out there, and our society decides whether they are enlightened or maybe missing the point.
I am thankful for those who share their great ideas, because they make our country better. Those who lose in the battlefield of ideas can look at the Republic, and what Socrates says. He said those who lose an argument are the better for it because they walk away with knowledge, which often happens to the member for . He should be particularly thankful.
Just like everything, there are bad actors in the world, and there are bad actors in the broadcasting sector. There are individuals who spread hate, lies and conspiracy theories. This behaviour is reprehensible, abhorrent and disgusting. The legislation has the laudable objective of curating online content to protect Canadians against hate and promote quality Canadian programming.