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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call this meeting to order. Welcome to meeting 70 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, the committee is meeting to proceed with the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-32, an act to implement certain provisions of the fall economic statement tabled in Parliament on November 3, 2022 and certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 7, 2022.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.
I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of the witnesses and the members.
Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your microphone, and please mute yourself when you are not speaking.
There is interpretation for those on Zoom. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of either floor, English or French audio. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.
I remind everyone that all comments should be addressed through the chair. For members in the room, if you wish to speak, please raise your hand. For members on Zoom, please use the “raise hand” function. The clerk and I will manage the speaking order as well as we can. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this regard.
Members, before we go to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-32, you will have received the budget for the Bill C-228 study from the clerk on Tuesday. Everybody should have received it at 11:03 a.m.
I'm looking around for confirmation that everybody is good with that budget.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: The budget is approved.
Today, to help with our clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-32, we have officials from the Canadian Space Agency, the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, the Department of Employment and Social Development, the Department of Finance and the Department of Justice.
On behalf of the committee, I thank all our officials. I wish to inform the committee that all witnesses have been audio tested for today's meeting and have passed the test.
We now move to the bill. Pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), consideration of clause 1, the short title, is postponed.
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View Philip Lawrence Profile
CPC (ON)
On a point of order, Mr. Chair, as brevity is the soul of wit, I will be quick. I'm renowned in this committee for my brevity. In all seriousness, I just want to put a couple of comments onto the record, if the other members will indulge me.
Conservatives will not be supporting Bill C-32, the legislative implementation of the fall economic statement.
Prior to the announcement of the fall economic update, Conservatives stated that they had two requirements for the upcoming legislation: one, that there be no new taxes; and two, that there be no new spending. Conservatives put these requirements in place because we are acutely aware of the struggles that Canadians are facing in the midst of one of Canada's largest affordability crises.
Food bank usage has climbed to record highs, with 1.5 million Canadians using food banks in a single month. A third of those were children, so that's 500,000 children who had to go to food banks just to eat in one month.
Nearly half of Canadians are within $200 of insolvency, and with rising interest rates, many Canadians are now on the brink of losing their homes. The pain that has been inflicted is the responsibility of the failed Liberal tax-and-spend agenda.
In the fall economic statement the greedy government refused to give up even $1 of revenue while adding to Canadians' suffering. Instead, it is stubbornly refusing to relent on its plan to raise the carbon tax, which, according to the Bank of Canada, is inflationary, so this represents a double hit for Canadians. One is the direct impact on gas, groceries and home heating, but then there's also the impact of inflation, which, at its low rate of $40 per tonne, was estimated by the Bank of Canada to be 0.4% and very well could be over 1% when we get our numbers back from the PBO.
On January 1, the greedy Liberals will take yet more money from Canadians, and for what sin? What travesty have Canadians committed? They have gone to work. In one of Canada's worst labour shortages in recent history, the Liberals are actively disincentivizing work. They're punishing workers by increasing the payroll tax.
In addition to direct taxation, the government is indirectly increasing the burden on workers through inflationary spending. As Tiff Macklem said at this very committee in response to my colleague's question, more spending equals more inflation. The more the Liberals spend, the harder life gets for Canadians.
We have also heard comments, not just by the current Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem but also by former Bank of Canada governor and future Liberal leader Mark Carney that inflation is actually a homegrown problem that is a direct result of this government's tax-and-spend policies.
The government has had the opportunity to provide hope by reducing the burden through reductions in the carbon tax or the payroll tax, or even by cancelling the planned tax hikes on Canada's sacrosanct tradition of drinking beer. Unfortunately, the only thing it had to offer Canadians was more taxes and more inflation. At a time when Canadians needed a hand up, the Liberals dropped an anchor on them.
For these reasons and many more, Conservatives cannot support Bill C-32.
Thank you.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Lawrence.
I saw Mr. Ste-Marie. You had your hand up.
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View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2022-11-30 16:35
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I, too, have a point of order, as well as a comment that will hopefully be as brief as Mr. Lawrence's.
First, I had informed the committee that I still had a lot of questions for the officials from the various departments that will have a hand in Bill C‑32. At a previous meeting, I had requested the committee's unanimous consent to ask those officials to provide written answers to the questions suggested by the House of Commons analysts, but there wasn't unanimous support for that request.
In the spirit of co‑operation, Terry Beech, the parliamentary secretary, suggested I give him the list of questions I was most interested in having the answers for, and in hardly any time at all, the officials had answered all of my questions in a document that was sent to me. I asked the clerk to share the document with the committee so that members would have the excellent information I received, which was in both official languages.
I realize how much work that was, so I want to express my sincere thanks to Terry Beech for his help, as well as to the finance officials for their comprehensive answers. Thanks to them, I won't have any technical questions today, since I already have the answers I was looking for.
It is clear to those of us in the Bloc Québécois that Bill C‑32 does not address the financial priorities of the people of Quebec. However, as always, we will vote on what is in the bill, not on what isn't. We don't have a problem with any of the measures proposed in this omnibus bill, and that is why I, as the Bloc Québécois's representative today, will be voting in favour of the bill and each of its clauses. We don't have any amendments to propose.
Before I wrap up, though, I would like to point something out to the members of the committee. The Canadian Bar Association sent a letter to the chair to express its concern that some of the proposed amendments would undermine solicitor-client privilege. I know that the government is very mindful of the rules in place and has read the letter, as I have. For that reason, I am not so concerned that I feel the need to propose an amendment.
Speaking of solicitor-client privilege, I would also remind the members of the committee of our study into the whole Isle of Man affair and the use of trusts for the purposes of tax avoidance and tax evasion. That was a case in which KPMG invoked solicitor-client privilege to refuse to disclose the names of its fraudster clients to the government. We must bear in mind that solicitor-client privilege is not absolute, because it does not apply when a lawyer advises their client to do something illegal.
The Canada Revenue Agency's American counterpart, the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, gave KPMG an ultimatum when it tried to pull the same thing in the U.S. The company could either hand over the list of clients with whom it had conspired to defraud the IRS or it would face criminal prosecution and risk dissolution. The matter was resolved pretty quickly. Here, an out-of-court settlement was reached.
I welcome the measures in Bill C‑32. Solicitor-client privilege is obviously very important, but so is the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Ste‑Marie.
I saw Mr. Blaikie's hand up.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
In the spirit of offering some reflections at the outset for our position with respect to the bill, I thought I would make my own contribution.
Similarly to Mr. Ste-Marie, I think some of the cracking down on tax avoidant measures in Bill C-32 is certainly welcome. There's more work to do, but these are steps in the right direction.
I would highlight in this bill, as well, the elimination of interest on student loans, something New Democrats have long championed and are glad to see a government finally proceed with. It is also under-reported.
I think the headline item for this is actually something New Democrats have been calling for, for some time, which we made sure was part of our understanding with the government in the supply and confidence agreement, and that is the Canada recovery dividend. It means that big banks and insurance companies that did very well during the pandemic, including because of the generous support of the federal government, are going to have to pay some of that money back, and that's important so that there are resources to do the things we need to do in order to support Canadians through a very difficult time.
New Democrats think the Canada recovery dividend is an important step alongside a permanent increase of 1.5% in the corporate tax rate for banks and insurance companies.
These are some of the reasons we're supporting Bill C-32, and I thank you for the time to put that on the record.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Blaikie.
I'm looking around the room. I don't see any other hands.
Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Beech. Go ahead.
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View Terry Beech Profile
Lib. (BC)
I want to thank all the members for their input, and committee for finding a path forward for this piece of legislation.
Obviously, it's no surprise that the government is in favour of this legislation. I will do my best to keep my comments the shortest.
Thank you.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you for the brevity, Mr. Beech, and for helping to bring people together. It was good to hear some really nice comments.
Members, we are at clause 2, as read.
Shall clause 2 carry?
Go ahead, Mr. Hallan.
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View Jasraj Singh Hallan Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask for a recorded vote for the first one, if that's okay with you.
(Clause 2 agreed to: yeas 7; nays 4)
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Now, members, 'tis the season and, as I understand it, everybody seems to be in agreement on looking at clauses 3 through 168.
Go ahead, Mr. Hallan.
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View Jasraj Singh Hallan Profile
CPC (AB)
The Conservatives would like to apply our previous vote to all the future ones, as well.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay, it looks as if they would like the previous vote applied to clauses 3 through 168.
Do I see agreement?
(Clauses 3 to 168 inclusive agreed to)
The Chair: That takes us to the title.
Shall the short title carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
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View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2022-11-30 16:44
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On division.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Shall the title carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: Shall the bill carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the chair report the bill to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: We are done. Congratulations, members. I'm glad everybody is doing so well.
Members, I want to bring this to your attention: We talked about our next meeting on Monday around Bill C-241. On Wednesday we are looking at fiscal federalism. The clerk has some witnesses from you, but if you want to put forward more witnesses for the clerk to invite.... This would be for next Wednesday's meeting on fiscal federalism.
Is that correct, Mr. Clerk? Perhaps you can let the members know where we are, in terms of witnesses.
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Alexandre Roger
View Alexandre Roger Profile
Alexandre Roger
2022-11-30 16:45
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Yes. I have enough witnesses on the Liberal side, unless you want to add more and change the priority. That's fine, too.
I have one witness on the Conservative side.
The Bloc Québécois does not have any witnesses to propose.
I don't have any for the NDP, either.
I was speaking with the analysts at the back of the room, who told me they would be happy to suggest witnesses as well. They could send me a list of suggested witnesses for tomorrow, perhaps, and I can send that to you tomorrow, during the day—before the evening. Then you could get back to me by Friday on who you'd like to invite for next Wednesday.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
I see two hands up. I'm sure Mr. Blaikie...yes, because it's on fiscal federalism.
Go ahead, Mr. Blaikie.
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
I was going to say that we have some names, and we'd be happy to get those to you as soon as possible—probably by the end of the day tomorrow, at the latest.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's great.
I have Mr. Chambers, then Mr. Ste-Marie, or rather, Mr. Ste-Marie first.
Go ahead, please.
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View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2022-11-30 16:46
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Like Mr. Blaikie, we have witnesses to propose. I discussed it briefly with the clerk before the meeting began, and I will be sending him our list.
Thank you.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Mr. Chambers.
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View Adam Chambers Profile
CPC (ON)
View Adam Chambers Profile
2022-11-30 16:46
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just want to flag for members that next Tuesday the Auditor General is releasing her report, which was a request from this committee. There's a lock-up at seven in the morning, for those of you who are interested.
I'm just flagging that for the committee. Of course, I would not want to ask anybody until we see the report, but there has been the precedent in the past, when the Auditor General has done a study at the request of the committee, that we have heard from that office following it.
I'm not asking for that consent here, I'm just flagging that it's coming up next week. If anybody is interested in going, that will be public on Tuesday. As we're managing the calendar, that may be a request, should that be the will of the committee, but obviously we'll wait to see what the report says next week.
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View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thanks for that update, Mr. Chambers.
Looking around, I think we're good.
Shall we adjourn, members?
An hon. member: Yes.
The Chair: We're adjourned.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:02
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I call the meeting to order.
Good afternoon, everyone.
I'm filling in for our chair, Dr. Fry, who is not with us this Friday. For the next two hours, you're stuck with me as the vice-chair. Thank you very much, everyone.
Welcome to meeting number 56 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. First off, I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is, in fact, taking place on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
Pursuant to the order of reference adopted by the House on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, the committee is resuming clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-18, 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 order of Thursday, June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely, as we see them on the Zoom application.
I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of witnesses and members. Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking if you can. For those participating by video conference here this afternoon, as you know, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike, and please mute yourself when you're not speaking.
Interpretation is available for those on Zoom. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of either “floor”, “English” or “French”. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.
I remind everyone that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
In accordance with our routine motion, I am informing the committee that all witnesses are present here this afternoon; therefore, no connection tests in advance of the meeting were required.
I would now like to welcome the witnesses, who are present to answer any technical questions we have about our Bill C-18 today.
I'd like to welcome, from the Department of Canadian Heritage, as always, Owen Ripley; Joelle Paré, acting director; and Pierre-Marc Lauzon. Thank you very much for joining us.
With us, as usual, is the committee clerk, Ms. Belmore. We also have the legislative clerks today. They are Philippe Méla and Jean-François Pagé.
That's everyone in the room.
Marion, you're at the back there. Thank you for also joining us here today.
We were waiting for Mr. Shields. He is on now.
We'll start where we left off on Tuesday, which was at amendment CPC-12. That's by Mrs. Thomas. Perhaps she could lead us. That's on page 18 for everybody. It's clause 7 on page 4.
Mrs. Thomas, lead us off on amendment CPC-12.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:05
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I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, but I need just one moment here.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:05
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While you're taking a moment, is there French translation? We've had some issues in the past. Are we okay on the French translation? Is everybody good if I keep talking? In some of our meetings, we have started and then we have had an issue. I just want to make sure.
Go ahead, Mr. Champoux.
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View Martin Champoux Profile
BQ (QC)
View Martin Champoux Profile
2022-11-25 13:06
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We need to ask our interpreters to ensure that the equipment and sound quality are adequate. I can hear the interpretation right now, so I assume everything is working.
The interpreters are signalling to us that everything is in order.
Thank you.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:06
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Yes, that's good.
Mrs. Thomas, are you ready for amendment CPC-12?
Go ahead.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:06
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Sure. Thank you for giving me a moment, Mr. Chair.
With regard to amendment CPC-12, really what we're trying to do here is to ensure that individual privacy is respected.
A DNI—a digital news intermediary—such as Facebook, for example, collects individual user data, and that is used and held within the confines of existing legislation within the jurisdiction in which they operate.
This amendment, CPC-12, would simply be asking for further clarification with respect to privacy protection. It's basically making sure that when a DNI has to provide information to the commission, that information will be disclosed with the exception of individual information. In other words, privacy will still be respected. Data ownership will still be protected in accordance with any other act of Parliament or any other law. It's simply for the sake of further clarity and protection for everyday online users. That's ultimately what we're going for there.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:07
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Mr. Bittle, go ahead.
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:07
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Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
Ultimately, restricting the ability of the CRTC to collect information only benefits the platforms and foreign technology giants. They could easily withhold necessary information. That's with regard to the purposes of the legislative objectives.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:08
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Go ahead, Mrs. Thomas.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:08
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Thank you.
I would ask the officials for some further information.
The legislation as it's currently written doesn't offer this confinement as to what information could be demanded of these DNIs.
In your estimation, then, is that quite a wide berth? Is there anything in there that would protect the privacy rights of individuals and make sure the information of an individual user—let's say, of Facebook—would in fact be protected and not called for by the commission?
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Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:09
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Thank you for the question and the comments, MP Thomas.
I have a couple of observations.
With respect to the first part of your question, the CRTC has the authority to ask for information it requires in the administration of the act. Its authority is bound by information that it needs to administer the act. The CRTC would be acting outside of its authority if it tried to request information not related to the administration of the act.
There are, indeed, other federal frameworks governing privacy—the PIPEDA legislation, and the Privacy Act with respect to the public sector—so the CRTC remains bound by those frameworks and those obligations.
With respect to what would be characterized as more confidential business information, as you may know, the act does provide for an opportunity at clause 55 for information that is submitted to the commission to be classified as confidential. There's a framework in place for how that information could be managed.
From my perspective, that's the lay of the land with respect to privacy.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:10
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Thank you. I appreciate that.
My follow-up question would be this: Currently, as it stands, are there limitations as to what the CRTC can request? If it considers information to be pertinent to this act, can it ask for it, or are there any limitations on the request that can be made?
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Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:10
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Again, it's as long as the CRTC is of the opinion that it is necessary for the administration of the act.
A reasonable hypothetical in this kind of situation might be about the number of Canadian users that a digital news intermediary has in Canada. The digital news intermediary remains bound by PIPEDA and any obligations in that respect, and then the CRTC would remain bound by the legislation governing the public sector. In that instance, for example, I would see no reason that you would have individual personal information submitted to the CRTC. Maybe you would at the aggregate level, but regardless, the CRTC remains bound by the broader framework governing privacy.
The department did have the opportunity to do some consultations on the privacy questions. The assessment was that there were minimal implications with respect to personal information.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:12
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You used the phrase “minimal implications”, which means there are still some. Can you expand on that? What are the privacy infringements within this?
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Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:12
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Again, Mrs. Thomas, for the purposes of administering the act, from where we sit, the information that would be provided to the CRTC would be in the aggregate. I see no reason that there would be the submission of personal information.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:13
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Ms. Gladu, go ahead, please.
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View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2022-11-25 13:13
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Thank you, Chair. I'm not sure if our witnesses can answer this question.
I haven't had a lot of involvement with the CRTC. Do they have any history of data privacy breaches? I know there have been thousands of them in government, but I don't know anything about the CRTC. Are they fairly secure?
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Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:13
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Thank you, Ms. Gladu.
Offhand, I am not aware. That would be a question you would have to ask the CRTC in particular.
What I would say is that the mechanism that's provided for in this piece of legislation is modelled on existing mechanisms in the Broadcasting Act as well as the Telecommunications Act, in which it is recognized that sensitive information is sometimes provided to the CRTC as the regulator to enable it to carry out its functions, and that this information should be protected accordingly. Only in very limited situations should there be any kind of public disclosure about it, subject to a public interest test.
Again, it's clause 55 of this bill. You see that framework set out, which again is modelled on existing frameworks under the Broadcasting Act as well as the Telecommunications Act.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:14
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Are there any other questions?
Seeing no other hands, can we proceed to the vote?
Shall CPC-12 carry?
(Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Kevin Waugh): Shall clause 7 carry?
(Clause 7 agreed to: yeas 7; nays 3)
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Kevin Waugh): Shall clause 8 carry?
(Clause 8 agreed to: yeas 7; nays 3)
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Kevin Waugh): Shall clause 9 carry?
(Clause 9 agreed to: yeas 7; nays 3)
Shall clause 10 carry?
An hon. member: On division.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Kevin Waugh):: Could we have another recorded vote, please?
(Clause 10 agreed to: yeas 7; nays 3)
(On clause 11)
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Kevin Waugh):: We'll move now to amendment CPC-12.1.
Go ahead, Mrs. Thomas.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:20
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Thank you so much, Chair.
Essentially what amendment CPC-12.1 attempts to do is bring about some further clarification or simplification within the definition. Clause 11, of course, has to do with the exemption order. It's essentially trying to—
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:21
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On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I apologize to Mrs. Thomas, but is amendment CPC-12.1 before clause 11?
We just passed clause 10.
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Philippe Méla
View Philippe Méla Profile
Philippe Méla
2022-11-25 13:21
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We're on amendment CPC-12.1 to clause 11.
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:21
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It's clause 11. My apologies.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:21
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Okay.
Continue, Mrs. Thomas.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:21
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Thank you.
All right. We are on clause 11, to be clear. Clause 11 has to do with granting an exemption order. It establishes criteria that have to be met by the DNIs in order to be exempt from having this legislation further apply to them. Here we see a number of criteria established. Our attempt here, then, is to clarify and simplify. It is also to, I suppose you could say, set some parameters with regard to this exemption order or these criteria.
I'll draw people's attention particularly to paragraph (b), which is to delete lines 16 and 17 on page 5. Those lines were about any condition being set out in regulations made by the Governor in Council. As Mr. Ripley pointed out a number of meetings ago, the Governor in Council essentially refers to cabinet, so what this is saying is that if there are any conditions whatsoever that are set out by cabinet in regulation, then those can be used in order to grant an exemption.
Stakeholders have said that this is quite vague. It's leaving them with significant uncertainty. There are concerns on both sides, from DNIs and from eligible news businesses. They want to know those terms up front. Obviously news businesses are interested because they want to make sure that they get a fair shake. DNIs are interested because they want to know to what extent they have to bargain and at what point they can reasonably apply for an exemption.
There's clarity desired on all fronts. Further, from us, clarity is desired just because we believe it's good public policy.
To leave this so vague with regard to any condition set out in regulation made by the Governor in Council just seems far too open-ended and therefore problematic for stakeholders. It's very difficult then for them to form a business model or any sort of anticipation with regard to this legislation and what it would fully mean for them.
We are looking to bring about further clarity there. I can probably leave that there for now.
Thank you, Chair.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:24
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Go ahead, Mr. Bittle.
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:24
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I'll pass it over to Mr. Housefather.
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2022-11-25 13:24
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Thank you so much, Mr. Bittle.
I have just a couple of questions. I'm having a bit of trouble following this. As I read the amendment, it says:
(a) by replacing lines 22 to 24 on page 4 with the following:
“requests the exemption and the operator has entered into agreements with”
and it basically changes the words “and the following conditions are met” to be “and the operator has entered into agreements with”, but then the rest remains the same. There's nothing I see that says they're deleting line 25 and what follows. I'm just a bit confused as to how that actually works.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:25
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Is it okay if I respond?
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2022-11-25 13:25
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Of course. I just want to understand how you see the wording actually working and flowing from one to the other.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:25
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You're right in pointing out the first change there, to lines 22 to 24. We've made a small change there. Then if you keep going, it's on the next page—page 5—in the legislation. There's paragraph 11(1)(b) under clause 11. That paragraph 11(1)(b) is the one that allows for any condition to be set out by the Governor in Council. We're striking that.
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2022-11-25 13:26
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I'm sorry for the back-and-forth. I understand that. I'm just wondering how the words flow from one to the other.
Does “(a) the operator has entered into agreements with” stay, or does paragraph (a) in the amendment somehow takes part of that first line? That's what I don't understand.
The way it is worded now, we're taking away the words “and the following conditions are met”, so in paragraph 11(1)(a), subparagraphs (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (v) and (vi) would stay. Now, as I understand it—but I'm probably wrong—it would say “requests the exemption and the operator has entered into agreements with” and then “(a) the operator has entered into agreements”. That's what I don't understand. How do they flow together?
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:26
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I don't know if I understood your question.
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2022-11-25 13:26
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That's what I don't understand, if you look at it.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:26
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Our legislative clerk, Mr. Méla—
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2022-11-25 13:27
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No worries. I just don't know.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:27
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—maybe could address some of the concerns we have with amendment CPC-12.1.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:27
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think I understand what you're saying, Mr. Housefather. It's more a drafting question than a legislative clerking question, so to speak.
There is the end of the top part of subclause 11(1), which says, “the following conditions are met”, and there's a colon there, and then there are paragraphs 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(b). Those would disappear.
It would then read, “if its operator requests the exemption and the operator has entered into agreements with news businesses”, and then it would go on. So the paragraph 11(1)(a) disappears completely there—the colon and the “met”. There's no paragraph 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(b) anymore. It would be just one full paragraph.
I'm not sure if that was your question.
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2022-11-25 13:28
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If that's how it would be worded, I understand it better. Thank you. I still don't think it's good, but I understand it better.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:28
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Mr. Housefather, you still have the floor.
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2022-11-25 13:28
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I'm good.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:28
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Okay. We'll move to Mr. Bittle.
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:28
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Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
We heard from experts like Professor Owen that the exemption criteria set out in the bill are the primary policy tools in play for Bill C-18. They ensure that smaller players would benefit and they ensure that the deals would not allow corporate influence over news coverage.
This amendment takes away from that, and once again we see the Conservatives presenting what seems like a reasonable amendment but one that again takes the side of big tech over Canadian news organizations.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:28
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Mr. Chair, I'm sorry, but I couldn't make out the very first premise of Mr. Bittle's statement, so I lost the context for the entire thing.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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Okay. Go ahead, Mrs. Thomas. Then we'll go to Ms. Gladu.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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Can he just clarify? He said that the entire legislation was subject to something and therefore....
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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I did not say that.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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Do you want to repeat what you said, Mr. Bittle?
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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I do not really, but to help with the Conservative filibuster, I guess I'll....
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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There's no filibuster.
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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I am put on the spot.
I was just quoting from Professor Taylor Owen about how the exemption criteria are—
I'm sorry. I'm just seeing the lights flash.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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They are.
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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The exemption criteria set out in the bill are some of the primary tools of Bill C-18. That's the premise.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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Okay. I want to go to Ms. Gladu and then Mrs. Thomas.
Ms. Gladu, your hand was up first.
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View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2022-11-25 13:29
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Thank you, Chair.
I just want to say that I support this amendment because I think people do not want the government, after the fact and with no parliamentary oversight, deciding what to put in the regulations to exempt people from this framework. I think we need to have transparency about it.
Taking out paragraph 11(1)(b) leaves the rest of it really clear about what the terms are.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:30
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Thank you.
We'll go to Mrs. Thomas.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:30
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Thank you.
Let's be really clear here. I recognize that the members opposite enjoy launching baseless attacks against this side of the table. Allowing for paragraph 11(1)(b) to remain in there, such that it would be up to the cabinet to determine “any condition” to be applied with regard to an exemption, would actually put news businesses in danger, because they wouldn't know under what conditions DNIs could move forward with an exemption.
Those conditions could be, for example, that the CBC had entered into a negotiation or Bell had entered into a negotiation or any of these big companies had entered into negotiations, so therefore an exemption would be granted. How would that help ethnic media? How would that help our local newspapers? Allowing this paragraph to stay in there and allowing for such vague criteria to be implemented by cabinet actually puts the little guys in danger.
Let's be really clear about what's going on here. It allows for this government to show favouritism towards the big media companies that push out their story and it puts the little guys in danger, because they could be prevented from entering into negotiations with DNIs because DNIs could be granted the exemption.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:31
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Are there any other comments?
Seeing none, we'll proceed with the vote on amendment CPC-12.1.
(Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 3)
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Kevin Waugh): Thank you. Amendment CPC-12.1 is defeated.
We will move to amendment NDP-4.
Mr. Julian, before you get started, I'll say that if amendment NDP-4 is adopted, amendment CPC-13 cannot be moved due to a line conflict.
The floor is yours, Mr. Julian.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It's good to see you in the chair with us.
I disagreed with the form, the content, of the CPC amendment. I did agree with the thrust of Mrs. Thomas's argument, which is that we need to make sure there are very clear criteria in terms of granting exemptions.
On amendment NDP-4, you'll recall that our testimony with respect to any independent online news publishers of Canada was very clear in this respect. The current criteria for laying out exemptions are too vague and really leave the door open for big tech to push hard for an exemption when they haven't completed negotiations.
What amendment NDP-4 proposes is that clause 11 would be amended to ensure that deals must be made with all eligible news organizations before the platforms would be granted an exemption. That would ensure, with the window of opportunity that's provided, that eligible news organizations can identify themselves and that big tech does have to make that negotiation.
Then Mrs. Thomas asked the rhetorical questions about ethnic media, small media and those that big tech may not choose to negotiate with. Amendment NDP-4 resolves that question by ensuring that all of the eligible news organizations need to have those agreements before big tech can apply for the exemption. Hopefully it will receive support from all four corners of this committee and it will help to tighten the rules around exemptions.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:35
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Go ahead, Mr. Bittle.
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:35
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Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
With respect to my friend Mr. Julian, I appreciate what he's trying to do. However, I worry that this may undermine the bill. Given the tactics of foreign tech giants, they will look for any way in which to avoid the requirements. If there is just one hold-out media outlet.... We've seen some media outlets that don't agree with this and may not even bother applying.
On the exemption itself, the purpose of the bill is to have platforms reach deals with news organizations themselves—
Mrs. Rachael Thomas: [Inaudible—Editor]
Mr. Chris Bittle: Pardon me?
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:36
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It's an internal thought.
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View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2022-11-25 13:36
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It's internal thought.
Here's the ironic thing, to anyone listening. Mrs. Thomas just engaged in a heckle. She likes to attack everyone's credibility and then cry foul when there's a perceived attack on her credibility, which there never is. There's a high amount of respect on this committee, except for one member of this committee who continuously engages in personal attacks.
That said, some parties already have deals and don't want to renegotiate or go through arbitration. However, this amendment would undermine the exemption mechanism by removing the initiatives for platforms to seek an exemption. It instead would incentivize platforms to go through the bargaining process, through which they would likely delay for as long as possible through legal challenges and procedural methods. While we understand the intent, it will only benefit the tech platforms with money and resources to drag this process out as long as possible.
Exemptions were a key element of the Australian law. In Australia the addition of the exemptions process addressed the concern about platforms that would remove or threaten to remove news content. By undermining it, as I said, we jeopardize the bill. A better outcome could be achieved through collective bargaining. I know that Mr. Julian is a big champion of that in this bill and in other fora as well. That is the way to get as many outlets together as possible.
We've heard from the major players that they are willing to collectively bargain with smaller players, and that is the best way to get as many deals as possible. In the end, my worry is that requiring all of them is a loophole that will serve the foreign tech giants.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:37
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Thank you, Mr. Bittle.
We'll go to Mrs. Thomas and then Mr. Housefather.
Go ahead, Mrs. Thomas.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:38
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Thank you.
I support this amendment in principle. I will offer a subamendment, though.
Essentially, this bill is that DNIs have to enter into negotiations with eligible news businesses. This amendment makes sure that if there are 20 lined up to bargain with the DNIs, all 20 have to be bargained with before an exemption can be granted.
I fail to understand how that is benefiting big tech. Everyone lined up and everyone wanting to enter into negotiations gets to enter into negotiations. That's favouring the little guy. That's advocating for them.
I guess I'll ask Mr. Ripley a question for clarification.
Is allowing all eligible news media sources to enter into negotiations with DNIs before an exemption can be granted leaving some eligible news businesses out of the picture?
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Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:39
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Thank you for the question, MP Thomas.
If this amendment were to be adopted, it would in essence require platforms, as you indicate, to come to an agreement with all eligible news businesses prior to getting an exemption. It would be a major departure from the way the bill is currently structured. The bill right now is intended to put in place a bargaining framework, and through the exemption criteria indicate that a certain threshold must be met in order for DNIs to get an exemption.
The intention behind that was to put in place an incentive for DNIs to want to get an exemption. That was very much modelled on the Australian experience, where the goal is not to actually rely on the back end of this bill in terms of mandatory bargaining and final offer arbitration. In that context, in the context of a bargaining framework, it is understood that there could be news businesses that do not have an agreement in place with a DNI, because the exemption criteria could be met.
One observation is that if you go the route of requiring an agreement with every single news business in order to have an exemption, it is unclear to us whether any DNI would actually pursue an exemption at that point, because it's not clear whether there's really an incentive structure to do so: Why not simply rely on the mandatory bargaining framework at the back of the bill?
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:41
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I have a further question, Mr. Ripley, in terms of the exemption order.
If our goal is ultimately to allow these smaller entities—local newspaper entities, ethnic media entities, etc.—the opportunity to enter into negotiation, what benefit does the exemption order have to the news businesses?
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Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:41
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The government shares that objective in that a DNI should not be able to get an exemption without having agreements in place with small independent players.
In terms of the government's position, if you look at the exemption criteria, you will see that there are strong markers put there about the importance, under subparagraph 11(1)(a)(ii), of supporting the production of local news content. Subparagraph 11(1)(a)(v) is really a critical one for independent local news businesses in that “a significant portion” of them have to benefit from the agreements and that the benefits have to “contribute to the sustainability of those businesses”. Then, in subparagraph 11(1)(a)(vi), again, you see reference to “a range of news outlets”, including local news and different kinds of business models.
All of this is to say that the government does share that objective. These agreements need to be diverse. They cannot be simply with a small group of consolidated players but have to be put in place with independent local news businesses.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:42
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Thank you, Mr. Ripley, but my question was this: How does the exemption benefit these smaller news outlets? How does it defend their ability to enter into negotiations?
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Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:43
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In short, the bill is about putting that obligation on platforms to bargain. Then the exemption criteria benefit independent local news businesses by saying that in the context of that bargaining obligation, some of that bargaining has to be with them. When the CRTC looks at all of the agreements that are being brought forward to justify an exemption, again, they have to see that “a significant portion of independent local news businesses benefit from” those agreements, and that it contributes to their sustainability.
Again, the intention behind the exemption process was not that every news business be entitled to an agreement but that there be certain discretion left to the free market for the DNIs and the news businesses to determine that. At the end of the day, the CRTC assesses whether enough has been done in relation to these criteria.
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:44
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I would put forward a subamendment to my colleague's amendment. I wonder if he would accept this.
I move that we take paragraph (b) from CPC-13, which replaces line 32 on page 4 to line 17 on page 5 with the text outlined in CPC-13, and add it in with NDP-4.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Chair, I'm a little lost here.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:45
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Do you have that in writing, Mrs. Thomas?
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View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Thomas Profile
2022-11-25 13:45
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I believe the legislative clerk and the officials should have CPC-13 in front of them.
What I'm asking is that we take paragraph (b) from CPC-13 and add it to the latter part of NDP-4.
It's of course up to you, Chair, but if it's of benefit, I would entertain a quick suspension and have a quick conversation with my NDP colleague.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:45
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We'll suspend for a couple minutes, then. Is that fine?
Mrs. Rachael Thomas: Yes.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Kevin Waugh): Good.
We'll suspend.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2022-11-25 13:52
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I will resume the meeting.
I will ask Mr. Méla, the legislative clerk, to go over the subamendment.
Mr. Méla, can you inform us of the new text?
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Philippe Méla
View Philippe Méla Profile
Philippe Méla
2022-11-25 13:52
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As Mrs. Thomas was explaining, the subamendment would simply add paragraph (b), located in CPC-13, which contains the instruction to replace line 32 on page 4 to line 17 on page 5 with the text that's provided in CPC-13.
That comes with the following consequence. If NDP-4 is adopted, then CPC-13, G-1, NDP-5, CPC-13.1, NDP-6, NDP-7, PV-2, NDP-8 and CPC-13.2 could not be moved due to line conflicts.
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