I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 44 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is taking place on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe first nation.
Pursuant to the order of reference adopted by the House on Tuesday, May 31, and the motion adopted by the committee on Tuesday, September 20, the committee is meeting on the study of Bill , an act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House of Commons order of Thursday, June 23. Members are attending in person in the room, and those attending remotely are using the Zoom application.
For those at home using the Zoom application, please remember that, at the bottom of your screen, there is a little globe icon, and that is your interpretation icon. You can just click it to turn it to the language of your choice.
Those of you who are here in the room know how to use the interpretation.
When you're not speaking, you should be on mute. Please wait until I recognize you by name before you speak. Click on the microphone icon to activate your mike and on mute when you're not speaking. All comments should be addressed through the chair.
I am ready to entertain the witnesses who are here today.
For the sake of the witnesses, I would like you to know that you have five minutes for your organization, not per person. You can decide who's going to represent your organization. When we finish listening to the witnesses, we will go to the question and answer period.
The witnesses are, as individuals, Peter Menzies and Hugh Stephens, executive fellow, school of public policy, University of Calgary. We have, from APTN, Monika Ille, chief executive officer. We have, from Digital Content Next, Jason Kint, chief executive officer. We have, from Independent Online News Publishers of Canada, Jeanette Ageson, publisher of The Tyee. From the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association are Chris Ashfield and Steve Nixon.
I will begin with Peter Menzies.
Peter, you have five minutes, please.
Thank you for this opportunity. For the record, I am appearing as a private citizen and I'm not a member of a political party.
I worked in the newspaper business for close to 30 years and served as a CRTC commissioner for almost 10 years. I am familiar with how things work. I care deeply for good journalism, which, unfettered by favours owed to politicians—no offence to present company—the privileged and the powerful, can play a helpful role in a liberal democracy.
Bad journalism doesn't help.
Others have articulated how and why Bill inappropriately places the state squarely in the newsrooms of the nation by giving the CRTC oversight of agreements and directing how the money is spent. Others have mentioned how it may prompt retaliatory trade sanctions. Others have explained or will explain to you why the argument made by news organizations to justify this embarrassing liaison between government and media is, to put it kindly, unproven. Were it otherwise, those promoting it would surely not have felt threatened by open debate.
Still others have detailed the problematic issue—practically and legally—of affixing a value to links and then reserving those only for those of whom the government-appointed panels approve, and you will have heard by now how putting a price on links is likely to incent more gossip and less gravitas.
Today I am here to tell you that Bill is as likely to kill journalism in Canada as it is to save it. The very prospect of it is already perverting news coverage and undermining trust, the commodity upon which the industry depends most. Bill C-18 will permanently entrench the industry's dependency not on the loyalty of citizens, readers and viewers, but upon the good graces of politicians and the ability of offshore, quasi-monopoly tech companies to remain profitable.
As Andrew Coyne, then of the National Post, wrote just four years ago when government was first contemplating financial support for his industry:
The money the government is giving us is not going to solve our problems. It is only going to ensure we put off confronting them. Before long we will be back for more.
And here we are.
The Parliamentary Press Gallery's white paper on values states: “Trust in journalism must be actively earned and maintained”. Yet as illustrated in Edelman's most recent survey, trust in Canada's media has never been lower. Sixty-one per cent of Canadians believe journalists are purposely trying to mislead them while 58% think the same of government. With respect, having those two team up doesn't seem like the best idea.
The more government assistance news media gets, the more broken the relationship with readers becomes. The more that relationship is broken, the more subsidies will be required. And so it goes.
I respectfully submit that it would be a grave error to continue down this path when it is independence that earns and maintains trust. Bill might keep the wolves from the door of a few legacy companies for a few more years but it won't save journalism, and while the amount of money involved may keep some from starving, it will still leave most hungry, needy and assumed to be grateful.
What Canada needs is a policy framework that encourages the innovation required for journalism to sustain itself. An examination needs to ask why, for instance, the CRTC is creating an artificial oversupply by forcing virtually all its broadcasters to dedicate time to news as if we were still living in a 1980s world of limited resources. We need a strategy that values the efforts of the Canadian entrepreneurs who have built close to 100 new news sites. We need to understand the impact of the government subsidizing the CBC to operate the most accessed news site in the country to the detriment of the rest of the industry.
Broadcasters have for decades complained about the unfairness of having their tax dollars used to subsidize a revenue competitor. That perversion of the market now extends to the online world. While a $1.3-billion subsidy allows the CBC—likely Bill 's largest beneficiary—to establish advertising rates that many argue are below market value and offer news for free, others struggle to establish subscriber bases and advertising.
Bill will only perpetuate a market already distorted by subsidy and it will punish independence.
For instance, while newspapers in Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Calgary will benefit from Bill money, not one of them directs its own reporter in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, whereas Western Standard, which has declined to submit to government approval, does. There are other examples.
If Parliament values a free press, it will not approve Bill .
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would firstly like to thank the committee for inviting me to express my point of view on this important topic.
I'm speaking in an individual capacity. In my comments I will be speaking in support of this bill.
In doing so I would like to address three criticisms that have been brought against it.
The first is that the measures proposed by Bill to stem the decline in journalism are taking aim at the wrong target, the large digital intermediaries, on the grounds that they do not benefit financially from including news content on their platforms and even if they do, they are already providing some financial support to some media.
The second is that the ambit of the bill is too broad because its definition of “making available” includes some content that would normally be considered fair dealing under the Copyright Act such as links, headlines and snippets.
The third is that if implemented in its current form Bill would violate Canada's international trade obligations under the Berne Convention and/or the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement, CUSMA.
I believe all of these criticisms are inaccurate.
I write a weekly blog on international copyright issues and have noted that a number of governments, in the face of fierce opposition from the platforms, had to resort to legislation in order to level the playing field between news media publishers and the larger intermediaries.
In 2014 both Germany and Spain passed laws requiring Google to pay news producers for use of their content. Google's response in Spain was simply to close down Google News, its news aggregation platform, and in Germany to delist any publisher who refused to give Google access to its content without payment. The EU tackled this issue through the creation of a limited two-year press publishers' right. Google and Facebook have since come to the table and struck deals with publishers for access to news. France has been particularly successful in this regard.
We know that when Australia decided to bell this cat, Google and Facebook mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign and threatened to pull out of Australia. Google also tried, unsuccessfully, to get the U.S. government to intervene. In the face of the legislation, however, the platforms backed down and managed to conclude revenue-sharing agreements with most Australian media outlets.
In the United States, Congress is currently debating the bipartisan journalism competition and preservation act, which seeks to do much of what Bill is aiming to accomplish. I mention these examples to underline that Bill C-18's objective of helping to preserve a viable professional journalism sector by requiring negotiations for compensation for use of news content by the large digital intermediaries is not unique. In fact, it's very much in the mainstream of what's taking place in a number of western democracies.
Another criticism is that Bill 's definition of “making available” is too broad because it includes some actions such as linking to content or featuring headlines or snippets that are normally considered fair dealing under the Copyright Act. It's also been argued that posting hyperlinks provides a benefit to news outlets so why should platforms pay? Indeed, news outlets do derive some benefit from the referral just as the platforms derive benefit from using news content to attract more users and thus sell more ads.
Under Bill the balance of respective benefits will be worked out in negotiations between the parties. But Bill C-18 does not deny digital platforms their fair dealing rights. Putting it another way, their rights under the Copyright Act are not diminished or changed by Bill C-18. However, it will be a violation of the new act if they do not bargain in good faith with respect to making content available. Use of fair dealing exceptions is not a licence to ignore other laws, whether it be the online news act, defamation laws or any other legislation.
Finally, the criticisms that Bill will violate Canada's international trade obligations, including the Berne copyright convention and CUSMA, leading to potential trade retaliation from the United States, do not stand up to scrutiny. The legislation is drafted in such a way that it does not target U.S. companies but, rather, companies with certain market characteristics of size and dominance. Likewise, it does not seek to protect Canadian digital intermediaries that compete directly with Google or Facebook. In addition, the section on non-discrimination does not impose any must-carry requirements that could violate CUSMA. In the case of Berne, which contains a right to quotation, nothing in Bill C-18 derogates from the quotation right although, of course, use of quotations from news content providers could be a factor in the bargaining process.
Quite apart from not having a strong legal argument to challenge the bill under either CUSMA or Berne, it is highly unlikely that any government, including the U.S. government, would take up a trade challenge under either CUSMA or the WTO. I would be happy to elaborate on why that is the case, if people are interested.
Let me end my comments there, Madam Chair. I look forward to questions.
Good morning, Madam Chairperson and members of the committee.
[Witness spoke in Abenaki and provided the following text:]
Kwaï! Nd'aliwizi Monika Ille. Aln8ba Sqwa nia odzi Odanak m8wkaw8gan.
Hello, my name is Monika Ille. I'm an Abenaki from the community of Odanak.
I would add that I am talking to you from Tiohtiá:ke, i.e., Montreal, on the unceded territory of the Kanien'kehá:ka and the Anishinabe peoples, which was traditionally a meeting and trading hub for numerous nations.
I am the chief executive officer of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, APTN.
APTN was launched in 1999 and was the world's first indigenous national television network. Our work has amplified indigenous peoples' voices and has changed the Canadian broadcasting landscape.
APTN is made available to all Canadians in the basic package of most cable and satellite services. Each year, we offer hundreds of hours of indigenous programming in English, French and 15 indigenous languages.
In April 2000, APTN launched its first national indigenous newscast. In August 2022, we celebrated the third year of Nouvelles nationales d'APTN, our French-language national newscast.
Our journalists encourage Canadians to have an open dialogue on Canada's history with indigenous peoples. APTN News brings the voices of indigenous peoples to the forefront, conveying stories on climate change, economic development, indigenous language revitalization, indigenous athletes, sports, art, music and how indigenous youth are leading the way to reclaiming their place on our lands. Our newscast covers the stories that others won't.
In the last few years APTN has received numerous journalism awards such as a Michener Award, Canadian Screen Awards and Canadian Association of Journalists awards.
In 2021, for the first time in Canada's history, production of the federal leaders' debate included indigenous media representation. APTN's journalist, Melissa Ridgen, became the first indigenous journalist to represent a national indigenous broadcaster at the televised federal debate. If it wasn't for APTN and other indigenous media, indigenous peoples would be severely under-represented in mainstream media. By bringing these voices to the forefront, indigenous media teaches the public about what it means to be indigenous by sharing our stories of struggle and also of success.
As viewership is migrating to online and as online news consumption is increasing, it is essential that APTN and other indigenous news outlets receive support from dominant digital news intermediaries and that we receive fair compensation for our news content. We support the principle and intent of Bill .
To the extent that we have a concern, it is to ensure that indigenous news media is properly reflected in the bill. For example, clause 11(1) of the bill deals with the types of agreements digital news intermediaries need to reach with the news sector to be exempt from the more formal final offer process. Intentionally or not, it creates a kind of hierarchy of Canadian news services. Diverse news outlets, including those serving indigenous communities, are last.
I suggest we need language in the bill to ensure that any agreements with digital news intermediaries involve a significant portion of indigenous news outlets and meaningfully support their sustainability in the same way the bill supports local news outlets.
Kchi wliwni. Thank you. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Good morning, Chair Fry.
I'm here on behalf of DCN.
DCN is the only trade organization exclusively focused on the digital future, and dedicated to serving the unique and diverse needs of high-quality digital content companies that manage trusted, direct relationships with consumers and advertisers. Our members include more than 60 media companies and thousands of brands, including news organizations, ranging from local to national to international, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Financial Times.
I am pleased to express our full support for Bill , the online news act. As you know, the online news act follows enactment in 2021 of a very similar bill in Australia, the news media bargaining code, which DCN also strongly supported. I closely followed your hearing on Friday, including the testimony of former chair of the Australian competition and consumer commission, Mr. Rod Sims. I believe there's no greater witness in evidence as to the strength of your bill than the experience that's already happened in Australia. At a time when parliaments from around the globe are investigating, and learning from each other on how the duopoly of Google and Facebook have captured nearly all growth in digital advertising, draining the lifeblood of the local news press, it's critical we learn, and then build and improve on each other's work, as you will be doing here by passing Bill C-18.
Recognizing you're already familiar with the details of the bill, I will briefly list what I see as the most important elements, and I'm happy to take any questions on the broader market.
As background, I have nearly 30 years of technical and operating experience in digital media, having spent nearly two decades running highly trusted digital content businesses, even writing code in the early nineties at the advent of the web, before transitioning into my current role, advancing the future for trusted content brands.
I'll now go to Bill .
First, the law will help rebalance bargaining power. Publishers' brands are proxies for trust in value. The inclusion of news content from premium publishers has certainly played a large part in developing the daily search and social media habits of Canadians, allowing Google and Facebook to become dominant gatekeepers. The lack of protection and negotiating rights for the content, coupled with, importantly, nearly unlimited access to the data of the web for microtargeting advertising, has led to a market where publishers and their content have become interchangeable commodities. An expensive and vitally important news report can be reduced to the same value as a copy piece of amateur work or aggregated content.
The online news act will protect a publishers' intellectual property rights, and provide balance in negotiations with online platforms to receive fair compensation, and thus promote a free and plural press.
Second, the bill under consideration relies primarily on the market to determine how and how much publishers should be compensated for their content. This flexible approach allows for diverse publishers to seek deal terms specifically tailored to their business needs. Some start-up publishers may want to forgo revenue in favour of audience reach, while established publishers may want to ensure maximum return for their high-value brands. Thus, we do not support a government role in setting rates for content. The bill's final offer arbitration is an elegant solution to accelerate negotiation towards a fair deal at a time when it may likely determine how many journalists can be employed for the coming year.
Third, the bill applies only to a situation in which there's a significant power imbalance between the news publisher and the intermediary platform. Importantly, the news publisher retains the option of whether it even wants to participate. The dominant platform does not.
Fourth, in no way, shape, or form does this change the structure of the web, or in any way demand payment for links. This is, frankly, misinformation that we spent many late hours rebutting in Australia, as Google and Facebook's favourite advocates suggested the law would break the Internet. Two of these advocates shared commentary to this committee on Friday. Nevertheless, the Internet is still working as well as ever in Australia.
Fifth, this is important, the bill permits publishers to bargain as a group. As I was pleased to learn from Mr. Sims on Friday, the small publishers who collectively bargained in Australia received more payment per journalist than the larger publishers. That's exactly the framework we seek to bring new resources to the local and emerging press media.
In summary, the bill creates a new duty to bargain for intermediary platforms, and it permits publishers to bargain as a group. These two provisions form the linchpin of this bill. We've already seen this work in Australia.
The ability for trusted and valued premium publishers to have an equal playing field is critical to the permanence of Canada's news marketplace, and we at DCN urge the House of Commons to advance this bill.
My name is Jeanette Ageson. I am the publisher of the independent online news magazine The Tyee, based in Vancouver. Since 2003, our non-profit newsroom has worked hard to build sustainable revenue to support in-depth public interest journalism. Today, we employ over 20 journalists and media workers.
I am here today not just representing The Tyee, but also to present the concerns of over 100 similar companies.
The independent online news publishers of Canada coalition includes local news outlets, English and French news outlets, indigenous news outlets and news from diverse voices. Collectively, we employ thousands of journalists and reach millions of news readers, viewers and listeners across Canada.
We are the new generation of the online news in Canada, and we have serious concerns about the , a bill that is supposed to exist to benefit organizations just like ours. In May, we came together to publish a joint open letter, which some of you may have read. We are here to ask you to consider amending and strengthening Bill . Our concerns have to do with transparency, fairness, eligibility and the exemption clause.
The first up is transparency. If these deals between big tech and publishers are allowed to remain confidential, it will make it harder for smaller publishers to negotiate fair deals and make worse Canadians’ mistrust in the media.
Canada is facing not one news crisis, but two. One is financial. The other is the crisis of distrust. Canadians are expressing unprecedented distrust towards the news and the reporters who deliver it. Canadians need to know who is funding the news they receive and on what terms. We need to rebuild trust in news, not damage it further.
Allowing deals to remain confidential also puts smaller publishers at a disadvantage in the bargaining process. In the first day of hearings last week, we heard many speakers express concern that smaller publishers who are filling the gaps in communities will be left out. In response, we heard that smaller publishers in Australia are happy with their deals, and that the intention of Canada’s process is to ensure fairness between newsrooms.
While we appreciate the assurances, we see nothing in the legislation that guarantees us the tools we need to achieve and independently verify an equitable outcome. In order to fully participate in this process, we need complete and timely information about the deals between news organizations and tech platforms that they are agreeing to.
Bill also needs to be amended to ensure fairness. As it currently stands, the intervention into Canada’s journalism industry by big tech is already under way, with some publishers having struck secret deals with the platforms. However, if you are not a newsroom that has been hand-picked by these platforms, it is unclear how one would seek such a deal, what the terms are and what is considered fair compared to other organizations, and we do need legislation to address that.
If nothing is done, Google and Meta will continue to strike uneven deals on a case-by-case basis that favours the largest legacy news publishers, based on formulas they don't have to share or deals based on which news publishers lobby the hardest or criticize tech companies the loudest. Over time, these uneven deals will determine which news organizations survive and which ones die.
Google and Meta cannot be allowed to decide the future of Canada’s journalism industry. We believe a universal funding formula should be applied consistently to all qualifying news organizations, based on how much money each organization spends on editorial costs.
We need to amend Bill to prevent barriers to innovation and entrepreneurship. We need to help entrepreneurs who have been risking their own money to serve their communities with news and who otherwise will be excluded and penalized because they risked their own money.
If a journalist starts a news company and they do the work of reporting and/or editing, they should be counted towards qualifying criteria. We should be encouraging hundreds more micro newsrooms to fill our news deserts, not disincentivizing people from launching them. Currently, these newsrooms are shut out of Bill .
Finally, Bill needs to be amended to keep big tech out of our newsrooms. Under Bill C-18, tech companies will receive exemption orders by assuring government that the money they pay to news publishers is being spent properly on news content: on local news, on diverse news and on innovative news. Those are all worthy goals, but let me be clear: Google and Meta should have no role in our newsrooms and no authority to determine or make promises about what kind of news we cover or how we spend the money.
These exemption order conditions represent a fundamental threat to the independence of the Canadian press. They also don't specify whether a tech company must strike deals with three newsrooms or 300 to qualify. Within that uncertainty lies the possibility that hundreds of qualifying news organizations will be shut out. Instead, we ask that exemption orders be removed from Bill or modified to minimize these potential threats.
Our coalition has prepared a detailed brief containing specific language for these amendments, which should be circulated to each committee member. The stakes for the free press in Canada—and our democracy—could not be higher.
Thank you. I'm prepared to answer your questions.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to appear before the committee today.
Here's a bit of background. I'm a fourth-generation newspaper publisher and the publisher of five community newspapers in southeast and south central Saskatchewan, the oldest of which has been publishing since 1893.
In the more than 100 years that my family has been involved in the newspaper industry, never has it been under such peril. Yes, there have been moments throughout history that challenged our industry, but nothing like we are seeing today.
Steve and I are here today speaking on behalf of the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association, SWNA. However, the issues are similar in all three Prairie newspaper associations—AWNA, SWNA and MCNA—that represent almost all community newspapers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That's approximately 200 publications. Our memberships range from small, independent ownership to titles owned by Canada's largest newspaper publishers.
Protecting public interest journalism is critical, probably even more so for our smaller remote and rural communities. The importance of locally generated journalism cannot be underestimated. In western Canada—we are sure it is the same in all rural and remote parts of Canada—it is the local newspaper that protects democracy and reports on the current affairs of the community it serves. It is also important to point out that the community newspapers are, in most cases, the only record of history for most of these communities.
Today, we have come to advocate on behalf of the independent newspapers across the Prairies. We believe that it's important to have a good understanding of the existential crisis facing small, independent community newspaper publishers, and that Bill , the preferred solution for large publishers, may do little to address the financial distress of small publishers. Just like Canada's largest media companies, they too have seen the advertising revenues that once supported their newsrooms steadily diminish as revenues get displaced by digital platforms that focus on target marketing strategy. These are primarily Google and Facebook, now known as Meta.
It is important to understand that we do not believe there's a single solution for media, whether it be community newspapers, mainstream media or legacy media, as some have been labelled. We may all do journalism, but our business models are widely different and based completely on what best serves our individual communities, particularly when you consider the challenges presented by the digital revolution.
It is easy to charge that media has failed to transition to digital platforms. It's exceedingly difficult to pull that off in markets of less than national or global scale. In other words, what may work for The Globe and Mail with its national audience is not going to work for most community publishers. They simply do not have the scale or the population to generate much, or any, revenue in the digital world modelled on using clicks. A clicks and eyeballs method of sustainability will not work for small community media.
We cannot overemphasize how serious the situation has become for community journalism. Advertising revenues have declined to the point where most community newspaper publishers are operating with a skeleton staff, leaving the publisher-owner to absorb the extra hours in workloads themselves.
The quality of journalism is suffering because the revenues are no longer there to pay sustainable wages to our reporting journalists. Pandemic supports made the difference between life and death for many publishers at the time. However, they have now been scaled back or eliminated completely, while advertising revenues remain severely depressed. Communities are on the verge of losing their newspapers and with them the coverage of their municipal councils, school boards, sports and cultural events and all the independent local news coverage residents have relied on for decades.
With respect to Bill , we are encouraged by the success of a similar bill in Australia, especially when it comes to the smaller community media. Community journalism is under threat with the digital revolution, yet there is no model for smaller communities to join that will maintain the level of community journalism that is required to protect local democracy and continue to record the history in hundreds of communities across the Prairies.
In closing, we insist that Bill include provisions that allow for a collective bargaining model for community newspapers, should they deem themselves unable to negotiate on their own.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses for joining us here today. I thought that was a good swath of information presented by each of the six individuals and organizations represented on today's panel.
I want to start with Mr. Menzies appearing here today.
Mr. Menzies, I see that you're wearing your orange shirt. I would note that at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, the sales from those shirts, I believe, go to the traditional knowledge-keepers program that's operated at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. I want to note that and the good work that's being done there.
I want to turn to your expertise—30 years in newspapers, 10 years with the CRTC—and it's that CRTC angle that I want to touch on. You appeared before us on Bill . You talked to some of the unintended consequences that might happen with Bill C-11. I'm wondering if you have similar concerns about Bill , some of the unintended consequences that may flow from a bill such as Bill C-18.
I do. In terms of Bill , the fact that it directs any money from this commercial agreement to have to go to news is certainly well intended, but if this is a commercial transaction between two willing parties, what business does the CRTC or the government have, for that matter, saying how it will be spent? If a news company wants to spend it on new computer equipment or they want to paint the newsroom, they should be free to do that.
The other thing is that the CRTC tends to get bound into certain subject areas that it prefers and it is, again with good intentions perhaps, supposed to promote. If you look at the CBC's recent licence renewal, you can see that in terms of certain designated groups that it's supposed to promote.
All of those have good intentions, but you could end up with companies wishing to please the CRTC or the CRTC feeling pressure to make sure money in newsrooms is spent on certain topics, and they might be good topics, but it's frankly none of their business to have.... An independent press spends its money on whatever it wants.
I appreciate that. And that gives a segue to ask a question of Ms. Ageson.
You mentioned in your commentary, as well as in your open letter of May 31, some of the concerns, some of the changes that you thought ought to be considered, including the idea that the threshold may keep out certain start-ups and the basic role that could be dictated by the tech giants in terms of what the funding could be used for.
Do you think there ought to be a clear indication in this piece of legislation that removes that discretion, that ensures that the government or the CRTC or frankly the tech giants, for that matter, are dictating changes, dictating what could and should and ought to happen?
Do you think there should be that clear prohibition within the piece of legislation?
Absolutely. Thank you for the question.
Especially over the last decade, what we've seen is that increasing strength and market power. We've tracked it from a dollars' perspective. They're getting sometimes 80% to 90% of the incremental growth in digital advertising. Literally for every $5 billion the market grows, $4 billion may be going to Google and Facebook. Then the question becomes why.
The two companies collect more data than any other companies across the web and across our lives, so they have access to our locations, they have pixels and tags across most of the web. They are constantly able to harvest data and use that data to target advertising, which no individual company can do.
Much of that time it's against consumers' expectations. They don't want to be tracked as they're browsing the web, but it gives market power to Google and Facebook in a very unique way. Google is able to extract more value out of that by controlling much of the design of the web. They have the dominant operating system, the dominant browser, and importantly—and they're under lawsuits for this around the world—they have the most dominant buying and selling platforms for advertising, so on both sides of the market they are also extracting power.
That would obviously be a huge concern if that existed, but I don't see that at all in the bill, and I didn't see it in Australia, and it didn't play out that way either.
The role of the CRTC is administrative in terms of if it gets to a certain point. More than likely it won't even get to a final arbitration type of deal if it plays out like it did in Australia. It's the threat that compels them to negotiate and use the market indirectly by laterally negotiating or collectively bargaining with the platforms.
It doesn't give Google and Facebook any more power, which is almost comical to argue; they could have more power than they do right now anyway. On the government side, the government has a pretty limited role, and they are in no way dictating rates, and that's where we would be very concerned. It uses the market, and that's what's so elegant about it.
I just really commend that you've built on Australia here and you've improved a few things.
Yes. We've seen that play out in all those areas.
We've seen Google use their actual gatekeeping power to spread that information. On Search and on Gmail, they'll use their gatekeeper choke points to tell consumers and creators that this is going to break the Internet, or that this is going to be bad legislation. That's a problem. We see private forums, closed-door, and Google has something each year called Newsgeist that uses Chatham House rules and is practically off the record. They will actually have sessions. They had a session about Australia, where they had a professor, like you did on Friday, who spread misinformation that was false. It didn't play out the way he said it would in Australia.
That's powerful, and they use significant money. I mean, in the U.S. we've seen almost $100 million reportedly being spent to try to stop our antitrust legislation that has bipartisan agreement in the U.S. The only thing holding it back is being introduced to the floor. They use their power across the market in all sorts of ways.
In the case of Facebook, I'd even say they've used it to avoid having to have their top executives come and testify in front of parliaments and in front of the public, which they did here in Canada and in the U.K., when they were summonsed to come and testify—Mark Zuckerberg and so on.
Thank you. I think I have only 30 seconds left.
I'm wondering, Ms. Ageson, if I can ask you about your concerns about eligibility. We heard in our last meeting a suggestion that rather than changing the terms of eligibility, the Canadian government should offer more incentives so that more platforms can come online and become eligible and hire more journalists.
From my perspective as a former journalist, we need more boots on the ground. We need people out there at the meetings, talking to people and digging up the information, not just more people publishing their opinions online. It's a lot cheaper to just publish an opinion. I think that's part of why we've seen a decline in people's assessment of journalism.
I'm wondering what you think of this idea: Keep the eligibility the way it is, but offer more incentives so that small or online organizations can qualify eventually.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to say hello to everyone this morning. I am honoured to be replacing my excellent colleague, Martin Champoux.
Thank you to all our witnesses. Your testimony is always relevant and extremely useful. It is a pleasure to hear your points of view which will help us in our work.
My question is for Ms. Ille, the chief executive officer of APTN. Ms. Ille, I would like to congratulate you yet again on the quality of your network's productions and your immeasurable contribution to our understanding of indigenous topics. This also increases Canadians' and Quebeckers' knowledge, and I am grateful.
You mentioned earlier that Bill will also have an impact on broadcasters. That is interesting. The content that you produce is of a wide-ranging nature. Your images, your messages and your content could therefore be found on the platforms of the Internet giants. Actually, this is already happening.
What impact could Bill have on your organization's total budget? Would you see an increase in funds? Could you give us an idea of the amount and tell us how this would help you in terms of content quality and your organization's development?
Thank you so much for your kind words for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. I am most proud. We acknowledge them with pleasure.
It goes without question that we support Bill .
APTN needs money. Our network is included in basic cable packages, but we need more funds, just like everyone else.
I know that our news content is well received and becoming more and more popular. Over the last year and a half, we realized that people were accessing more and more of our news on our website, www.aptn.ca, or on Facebook. They are doing so in order to get an indigenous perspective on news items that are about indigenous peoples.
As to how APTN will benefit from Bill , the answer is we don't know. We don't have an agreement in place at the moment and we have not been contacted on the matter. We still don't know if we will be able to negotiate such an agreement. I find that the necessary information that would allow me to answer your question is lacking.
However, the way that the bill has been written does not lead me to believe that indigenous media is being given a prominent spot. I think this is extremely regrettable, especially given the efforts made to pass Bill , which now recognizes indigenous media. It would be wonderful if Bill also recognized indigenous media and was more inclusive of Indigenous peoples rather than merely mentioning at the end that indigenous points of view should be taken into account.
That is an excellent question.
I have thought about this a lot.
That could be advantageous. I wonder, however, if a formula will be established for companies. I believe that Ms. Ageson spoke earlier of a fair formula for all. It would be great if there was a formula. Otherwise, if everyone has to fight their corner, we wonder what will be the final outcome.
A lot of questions remain, and I can't provide any answers as to how things will play out. One thing is certain, however, and that is if I can get a positive result for APTN, that would be terrific.
I now turn to Mr. Ashfield, whose situation is most interesting.
In my riding, Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix, there are many small local newspapers that have less than two full-time journalists on staff. I think that small newspapers are important because, as Mr. Ashfield stated earlier, they publish news on a more local scale, news that is relevant and meets residents' needs.
Can you tell us about the very real threats that will loom for this type of business if they are not included in Bill ?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
It is so nice to have you with us again.
Thank you to all of our witnesses. It's very compelling testimony.
I'd like to start with you, Mr. Ashfield.
I have two relatively quick questions to start.
First, you mentioned a newspaper in Saskatchewan that's been published since 1893. It would be great to know which paper you are referring to.
Second, you mentioned in your testimony that you are presenting what I understood to be a similar position for the Manitoba Community Newspapers Association and the Alberta community newspaper association. Could you confirm that as well, please?
Thank you. I certainly appreciate that.
I note that with those four community newspaper associations, that represents more than half of all the Conservative members of Parliament. I certainly hope they take that under advisement as well.
My question is for Ms. Ille.
Other committee members have highlighted the importance of APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and of the quality of their shows. I have had the honour on several occasions of being on APTN's shows to discuss issues such as housing and reconciliation. The network offers tremendous quality, and you do fantastic work.
That being said, do you feel that the issues around indigenous people and indigenous communities are fully outlined in Bill , or would you like to see amendments and improvements that ensure that not only APTN but also other indigenous broadcasters and indigenous publications...that there are going to be the supports we're all hoping for to bolster that sector?
Definitely. There needs to be a recognition of indigenous news organizations within the bill. The way it's drafted, we're just included in a large...and the idea of diversity is at the way end.
What we bring is often underestimated in the news industry. By telling the stories our way, we bring stories at another level. We push them further, and we often put them into context so that non-indigenous people understand our struggles and our issues.
We would hope that this bill would be in compliance with UNDRIP, article 16, which says that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish their own media in their own languages..”.
APTN has been consulted, and we've shared our concerns. Canadian Heritage has told us that they are looking into this and they want to find a solution. They definitely want to be more inclusive of indigenous media organizations and that it complies with UNDRIP as well.
I know that's been shared, and I hope to see that.
My first question here goes to Mr. Menzies.
First off, I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us today to shed light on this piece of legislation.
In April, you wrote an article about Bill . You said:
...this is legislation that was initiated at the request of poverty-stricken newspaper publishers and wound up being, to put it kindly, the world's most audacious attempt to pick the deep pockets of online entities.
We often hear the government justify exerting more control over the Canadian media in order to create a level playing field. In your opinion, I would be curious as to whether or not Bill actually creates a level playing field. Or does it pick winners and losers? What would your response be to that?
Thank you, Mr. Menzies.
I want to pick up on something that Mr. Kint said. He said that this will not demand in any way “payment for links”. However, when asked on CTV's Evan Solomon show, the minister, , actually said the following:
Because there's a value to that. If you click on the link and go to the news, there's a value...”.
He was asked with regard to the commodification of links, and the seems to be confirming that in fact there is a value that can be attributed to that.
Now, you've written extensively on this, Mr. Menzies, in terms of the harm or the danger of going in this direction. I'm wondering if you would care to elaborate on that.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Ashfield, I have another question for you, on the topic that we broached earlier.
I want to bring your attention and that of the committee to a phenomenon that concerns Île d'Orléans and a small local newspaper called Autour de l'Île. There is a writer and composer from Île d'Orléans who is quite famous in Europe. I'm talking about Félix Leclerc. He lived on the island and is a local icon. A small newspaper, Autour de l'Île, enjoys an international presence because a large number of Europeans read it because of the link with Île d'Orléans and Félix Leclerc.
Perhaps some of your small newspapers also have such a celebrity following. Are you aware of this phenomenon and the associated concerns? If the newspaper were to fold, the link with the international community would disappear as well.
I'm going to try to speak a bit more slowly for our wonderful interpreters. Perhaps that is the problem.
There is a famous person who lived on Île d'Orléans. A small newspaper, called Autour de l'Île, which only has one reporter on its payroll, might have to fold if we don't bring a small amendment to Bill , to include print media that employ only one editor or reporter.
Because of Félix Leclerc's celebrity status as a writer and composer who is well known in Europe, the newspaper in question is read not only regionally but also internationally. The newspaper might fold if print media who employ only one reporter are not included in the bill. This situation is worrying for us.
Have you witnessed this type of phenomenon over the course of your journalistic career?
All right. I guess that's what we're going to have to do.
Kevin, that did not leave one of your colleagues their five-minute question time, but there you go.
We're going to have to adjourn this portion of the meeting to go in camera to finish discussing that motion.
Mrs. Rachael Thomas: A point of order.
The Chair: I'm also going to want to thank the witnesses for coming—
Mrs. Rachael Thomas: A point of order.
The Chair: —and to dismiss the witnesses right now.
Thank you very much—
Mrs. Rachael Thomas: A point of order.
The Chair: —for your time.
Mrs. Rachael Thomas: A point of order.
The Chair: Yes, Ms. Thomas.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and welcome to Ottawa. It's a good place to be.
I wish to speak to the motion with regard to bringing forward on the hiring of an individual who has now been identified as an anti-Semite. This individual was hired by Canadian Heritage in order to provide anti-racism training specifically to the media.
This individual has made numerous posts on social media with regard to Jews and his belief in terms of their value and how they should be treated within Canadian society—and I daresay worldwide. His comments have been grotesque and altogether inappropriate. This individual was hired, contracted and given public funding through multiple avenues in order to pull off this training. It's hard to believe this individual would have gotten through any sort of vetting process, assuming there was one when this hiring decision was made.
As the of the heritage department, it is up to Minister Rodriguez to answer for that. I understand also had something to do with this, in terms of his responsibilities, but, ultimately, it is the head of the department—the minister—who oversees the entire thing. It is his responsibility to answer for this.
Furthermore, it is my understanding that funding came through the CRTC, which the directly oversees. It's not up to to answer for that funding. It is up to the heritage minister, Minister Rodriguez, to answer for that.
For the reasons I have outlined, I believe it would be appropriate and in the best interest of the Canadian public to hear from the himself, rather than simply . For that reason, I believe the motion my colleague Mr. Waugh brought before the committee today carries great weight and should be given due consideration.
I would reiterate that this ultimately comes down to Canadians. Of course, if you simply google it, you will see that there was outrage when Canadians found out, this summer, that money was handed off to this individual, Mr. Marouf, to conduct this training.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Liberal members were silent. I credit Mr. Housefather for speaking out, having a voice on this issue and advocating for justice. I value his voice and his take. I'm particularly disappointed with the , and, ultimately, , who took more than two weeks to finally offer a comment with regard to this incident. I thought that was altogether inappropriate. More importantly, it's not just me who thought this. Canadians from coast to coast felt that it was super inappropriate and that this government needed to take action far sooner than it did.
Given the mistakes made and their grave impact on a significant portion of the Canadian population.... No, all Canadians were impacted by this, because we should all be held to a high standard in terms of the way we treat one another. That standard should be modelled for us by the government and by anyone the government contracts. All Canadians were done a disservice by this individual being hired. However, one group in particular was at the point of the sword, and that was the Jewish community in Canada. They should never have been put through that—never.
There is only one individual responsible for answering for this decision, and that is . My fellow colleagues from the Liberal side have a choice to make—they can allow this incident to be answered for. They can bring greater clarity to it through the Minister of Heritage, or they can cover for this mistake and not allow light to be shed on it. If so, they're actually—I would argue—participating in the unfortunate incident that took place this summer, because then there's no accountability.
There's actually a shielding of the minister. I do believe that, again, it's in the best interests of Canadians to have him come, and to be able to ask him the questions that Canadians would like answered.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank my friend, Mrs. Thomas, for her comments. I agree with some of what she said, and not with some of the other parts of what she said.
I agree that it was absolutely outrageous that Laith Marouf and CMAC received any contract from the Government of Canada to perform anti-racism training. The man is an abject anti-Semite, and has made horrible comments about indigenous Canadians, racialized Canadians, French Canadians and many other groups, although the bulk of his comments were directed against Jews. As I said before, the contract should have been immediately terminated.
I think there has been a widespread recognition that the minister has come to, acknowledging this contract should never have happened, and has stated that remedies are needed. There needs to be better training, there needs to be better due diligence, and there need to be revisions to the contract and certification declaration. That is why I believe he's going to come to committee. He should be presenting to us, so that the committee can do its due diligence, and can be satisfied with the changes that are made to this process, so that somebody like Mr. Marouf and CMAC never get a contract from the Government of Canada again.
Where I disagree is that the minister accountable here is . The anti-racism strategy falls under Minister Hussen. The contract falls under his ministry. I don't want to allot less time to Minister Hussen than he deserves when he comes and presents the changes he is making. Should the committee, after that, feel that other people need to be heard from then the committee can come to that conclusion, but I don't think that's the case. On this point, is not the minister responsible, Minister Hussen is the minister responsible.
As a Jewish MP, I feel that people from all sides need to speak out against this. It shouldn't be Jewish MPs carrying the ball on an issue that directly impacts the Jewish community. We all need to speak out with respect to anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. I think this was a lesson for all of us that when other groups are impacted, we need to speak out even stronger.
I hope we'll all take lessons from this, but I don't think, as I said before, that is the right minister. is the right minister to come before the committee, and that's the person who should be appearing on Friday. That's what the committee originally had determined.
Thank you so much, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
This issue of the Community Media Advocacy Centre is profoundly disturbing. The anti-Semitism that was expressed was appalling. That's why I called for ending the contract when we became aware of the comments, as you'll recall, Madam Chair.
This is part of a broader trend of increased hate, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Certainly with the convoy occupation earlier this year we saw the most appalling symbols—Nazi symbols—flying on Parliament Hill. We saw blatant anti-Semitism. Anyone who supports the convoy—sadly, we saw some members of Parliament supporting those despicable acts and expressions of hate—are people who should be really examining themselves because that was a low period in Canadian history. Of that there is no doubt.
I support having before this committee and have expressed that repeatedly. I have asked my colleagues to hold off on the idea that we would move immediately to . I want to hear the responses that Mr. Hussen provides. Following that, depending on whether or not we're satisfied with those answers as a committee, I will certainly be more than willing to entertain this motion.
Quite frankly, I feel disrespected that this motion has been put forward today knowing—the member who moved this knew my position on this—that I wanted to get to the first hearing and, after that first hearing, make a judgment and a decision about whether or not to then convene . The fact that this has been put out today in a way that stopped witness testimony that was so vitally important.... The Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba weekly newspapers gave us a cry today for support. They believe that Bill needs to be amended so that they will all be included. I support those amendments. All 56 of the Saskatchewan newspapers should be included in the supports that C-18 provides.
I understand that they were Conservative witnesses. When that contradiction between the Conservative position and the weekly newspapers became clear, we then had an immediate stopping of that testimony, so I am not able, as a member, to then question Saskatchewan community newspapers about the important stand that they have taken. It is a stand that is contradictory to the Conservative Party stand on Bill . I feel like, as with Bill , we are again seeing a stopping of witness testimony because it raises uncomfortable truths that some members around this table don't want to face.
I'm quite frankly frustrated that witness testimony was cut off and that we now are facing a motion that we've already discussed. It's a motion that I've already clearly indicated my stand on. The majority of the committee has already communicated its stand on it. Instead of waiting until next week, hearing the testimony from on this very important subject, and then deciding collectively as a committee where we want to go from there.... That is something that has worked very well in the past, Madam Chair, as you're aware.
I commend Mr. Nater, particularly, because he's always been willing to work together with all parties around this committee so that we can find a consensus. Rather than finding that consensus, we have had witness testimony cut off and we are now dealing again with something that I very clearly indicated I do not want to consider until after I hear from .
Quite frankly, Madam Chair, I'm frustrated. I'll be voting against this motion if it comes to a vote, but it seems to be more of a filibuster tactic. I deplore that because the witnesses we were hearing today had important testimony and information to relate to us. They were cut off because of the moving of the motion for filibuster purposes rather than any sort of attempt to come to an agreement.
That being said, I will be prepared to look at this motion again after 's testimony. That is when I believe we should be having a discussion about whether or not to convene .
Your frustration is duly noted. I think that sometimes when we talk about certain aspects of how our committee functions it should be done on principle and not necessarily on some sort of arbitrary sense of technicality. But here we are. And we're not allowed to speak very much to what went on in the in camera meetings, so I just warn members not to mention that too much. But I do want you to know you have two more minutes left before this meeting comes to an end and I think that—
Mr. John Nater: That clock is fast, Madam Chair.
The Chair: It's fast, all right.
We have two more minutes left and I have two more speakers and we will not be able to come to a vote at all at this meeting if we continue in this vein. I just wanted to give everybody due notice.
The clerk is saying we can go for another two minutes after one o'clock, but that does not give us a lot of time. If everyone is going to want to speak fulsomely to this, we're not going to even come to the vote, and I—
I'll be super brief, Madam Chair.
Just very briefly, no one is saying the needs to come tomorrow, or even next week, but we do believe we need to hear from the Minister of Canadian Heritage on this matter. If it's helpful to find that broader consensus, I would note as well we have invited the minister to appear before us to comment on his mandate letter. That was agreed to by the committee. That was done several months—
The Chair: That is not the gist of this motion.
Mr. John Nater: No, Madam Chair, but I'm saying this in the context of this motion.
That was done many months ago and we haven't yet heard from the minister on his mandate letter, so this is part of it. If there was an opportunity, in an effort to find consensus, that Minister Rodriguez would agree to appear before this committee in the future—and, again, it doesn't have to be tomorrow or next week, but in the nearish future—to comment on his ministerial mandate letter, which is still an open invitation before this committee, I think there might be consensus to see that—
I would just highlight for the committee that under the Heritage Canada website, where you can apply for the anti-racism action program, the application is actually submitted to the Department of Canadian Heritage, to the anti-racism action program, again highlighting that it is under the umbrella of Heritage Canada and the minister of that department is, in fact, . I don't know why there would be any argument as to whether or not this minister should come forward to this committee and be available to answer questions the members here have, again highlighting they're important questions on behalf of Canadians, because, of course, they have many concerns, and those have been highlighted over the months since this story first broke in the summer.