moved that Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe.
I am honoured to speak today to Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
I would like to start by illustrating the situation in which we live to the House. Digital technologies have completely changed the way Canadians discover stories, how they stay informed, how they are entertained and how they learn and share with each other.
From 2011 to 2019, the number of Canadians with Netflix subscriptions has grown from one in 10 to nearly six in 10. The number of Canadians using Spotify to listen to music online has jumped from 2% in 2014 to nearly 30% in 2019. We welcome these innovations that bring so much richness to our lives and so much diverse content. However, prolonging the status quo will only further undermine our ability to tell our own Canadian stories.
If we do not react, funding for Canadian television and music production will continue to decline. What we risk in the long term is nothing less than the loss of our cultural sovereignty. The production of francophone, anglophone and indigenous works and programs will be jeopardized.
That is why we are taking action. The Broadcasting Act was enacted in 1991, before the Internet, smart phones and online platforms. Its regulatory framework is frozen in the past.
On the one hand, we have Canadian companies that play by the rules and invest in our Canadian stories. On the other, we have online broadcasters that operate outside any regulatory framework and make money off the system with no obligation to give back. No, resistance is not futile.
One system for our traditional broadcasters and a lack of for online broadcasters does not work. This outdated regulatory framework is unfair for our Canadian businesses; it threatens Canadian jobs. It undermines the ability of Canadians to tell and hear their own stories.
We are tabling this bill for three main reasons. First, the act will strengthen our cultural sovereignty. Canada is blessed with two official languages and the unique history and stories of our indigenous peoples.
We need to put mechanisms in place to ensure Canadians can tell their own stories and express their own culture, now and in the future.
Second, implementing the new Canadian audio-visual regime under the act will generate almost $1 billion in foreign investment per year in our films, television and music.
That means more quality jobs for our economy, more opportunities for our creators and talent in the production sector, for our artists, designers and authors, and for many other people who specialize in areas in which Canada is internationally renowned.
It means greater stability for the sector. These are the same people who entertained us and made us smile during the first wave of COVID-19, and who are still doing so now, during the second wave we are now in.
Third, the act aims to ensure fairness. Asking online broadcasters to shoulder their fair share of the effort is not a luxury. It is a matter of fairness.
Our government believes those who benefit from the Canadian system should contribute to it fairly. This legislation would provide stronger financing mechanisms and would give more prominence to what is produced in Canada in English, French and indigenous languages. It will encourage better representation at all levels of production for equity-seeking groups: for women, for members of the LGBTQ2 communities, for people with disabilities and for racialized Canadians, including Blacks and people of colour.
In fact, this bill provides Canadian creators and producers with the means of achieving their ambitions. It takes into account the diversity of Canadian perspectives and their contribution to our rich and unique culture. A modernized act would guarantee that Canadians of all identities and from every background are reflected in their broadcasting system and that they can take part in it and enjoy it. In short, our stories and music must have a place in the online broadcasting universe.
In a more practical manner, the bill proposes the implementation of a modern, flexible regulatory framework for the CRTC to apply fair rules to all broadcasters and ensure it has the necessary tools to do its job effectively.
We will also go a step further and will instruct the CRTC on how to use these new tools. This will happen once the bill receives royal assent, as the bill makes amendments that allow for this essential policy directive.
In our direction to the CRTC, we want the specific needs of the French language and Canadian francophones to be recognized in a digital world dominated by the English language. On this point, I would like to add that this is perfectly in line with the throne speech, which states that the government “has the responsibility to protect and promote French not only outside of Quebec, but also within Quebec.” I know that this is an important point for all members of the House and for all Canadians, since the protection and promotion of the French language are essential for everyone.
Let me get back to our direction to the CRTC. We also want to accord special consideration to indigenous communities, as well as greater recognition of their realities and contributions. Lastly, we want to focus on racialized communities to ensure that they are fairly represented in the ecosystem.
The way the regulation currently works is it establishes a minimum investment from Canadian broadcasters into our ecosystem. In effect, this creates a baseline of investment.
With the bill and this intended policy direction to the CRTC, we aim for the CRTC to add an additional mechanism on top of this baseline. We intend to ask the CRTC to implement an incentive mechanism that would encourage behaviours that are inclusive and ensure no one is left behind.
Some of the elements we would like to see being incentivized are: diversity in key creative positions, the role and place of Black Canadians in our system, the retention of our rich intellectual property in Canada and fair and transparent compensation for our musicians.
I would like to point out that we are listening to Canadians. This bill addresses key recommendations presented by the independent expert panel in January. Urgent action was needed to bring online broadcasters into the system.
Our approach is balanced, and we have made the choice to exclude a number of areas from the new regime. User-generated content will not be regulated, news content will not be regulated and video games will be excluded. Furthermore, only broadcasters that have a significant impact in Canada will be subject to the legislation. In practice this means that only known names and brands will be subject to this legislation.
When my daughter opens an online streaming platform, I, like many other parents, want to know that she is being offered the choice to see a Canadian series with her favourite actors, like District 31 with Vincent-Guillaume Otis. I would like her to have the choice to see a documentary on the history of indigenous peoples in Canada, for example. After all, it is our history and it is up to us to tell it.
When my daughter listens to music on another platform, I want her to be presented with a list of local artists and even, why not, someone from my home region of Mauricie.
What we are proposing will allow her not only to take advantage of an international offering, but also to discover Canadian content, which could be funded by contributions from these same digital platforms.
We know how important it is to see ourselves represented in all our complexity, either on screen or in productions. With the modernization of the Broadcasting Act, our francophone, anglophone and indigenous creators, our creators with disabilities, our creators from visible minorities and the LGBTQ+ community will have the means of telling their own stories and, more importantly, of making sure they are seen and heard.
It will be beneficial for both broadcasters and the public to produce stories that resonate with us, that speak to us and that look like us as Canadians and Quebecers.
This bill is part of a larger process. Our government is committed to ensuring greater equity among all Canadians.
The web giants are raking in billions of dollars from our content and our economy. Some of these companies are the most powerful in the world, and they operate outside any regulatory framework.
Time is up. There are no more free rides. It is about fairness. It is about everyone doing their fair share.
We are, in fact, starting to see this across the world. The European Union has adopted new rules on streamers resulting in increased investment, jobs, choice of content and ability to assert one's own cultural sovereignty. The United States has launched legal proceedings against Google for abusing its dominant market position. Australia is tackling a threat that journalism is facing, through a mandatory code of conduct targeted at Facebook and Google. As well, several other countries, including Canada, are concerned about misinformation, online hate and web giants' blatant inability to self-regulate. Voluntary self-regulation does not work.
I will remind the House that most, if not all, of these initiatives have garnered support across the political spectrum around the world. There should not be a left-right divide on these issues. Divisions only benefit large multi-billion dollar companies, not our constituents. That is why I am urging all members of the House to work together constructively and ensure that this important bill passes through second reading hastily, so that the committee can start doing its important work to amend, improve and move forward.
Let us show the world that Canada is united and standing up for itself.
Today, by proposing that we modernize the Broadcasting Act, we are standing up for our culture and forging ahead with essential reforms. We are standing up for Canadian companies and creators by saying that everyone who profits from the system must contribute to the system. We are also standing up for Canadians and Quebecers. We are standing up for indigenous peoples, who have been under-represented for far too long. We are standing up for artists, musicians, directors and producers across the country who want to create their art in French.
These same Canadians, Quebecers and indigenous people want, and expect, to see themselves in the programs they choose to listen to and watch. They expect their stories to be told in their own language and to reflect Canada’s diversity and the rich culture of indigenous peoples.
The Broadcasting Act enacted in 1991 served our society well, but it came into force before the digital era and is ill adapted to today’s reality, a fact we can no longer ignore.
Our regulatory agency, the CRTC, also has few tools in its kit to ensure that the broadcasting ecosystem continues to serve Canadians. It is dealing with a media landscape that has changed considerably in the past 30 years. By introducing this bill, our government is meeting a pressing need, namely to adapt Canada’s legislative framework to today’s digital reality.
In the mandate letter the Prime Minister gave me, modernizing the Broadcasting Act is my primary responsibility. In fact, the Prime Minister asked me to examine “how best to support Canadian [stories] in English and French”. He asked me to “introduce legislation by the end of 2020 that will take appropriate measures to ensure that all content providers, including internet giants, offer meaningful levels of Canadian [stories] in their catalogues, contribute to the creation of Canadian content in both Official Languages, promote [Canadian stories] and make [them] easily accessible on their platforms”, while also considering “additional cultural and linguistic communities.”
The bill our government tabled in the House on November 3 is a direct response to this mandate. It aims to update this important act to ensure the sustainability and vitality of our Canadian series, films and music, as well as of the people who make them and broadcast them.
I hope that the members of the House now understand that, on the one hand, we have Canadian companies that play by the rules and invest in Canadian culture, while, on the other hand, we have online broadcasters that take advantage of the system without any obligation to contribute to it. Having one regime for conventional broadcasters and another for online broadcasters does not work.
That is why we are proposing amendments to the act to support Canadian creators and independent Canadian producers: to ensure the viability of Canadian broadcasting and to protect Canada's cultural sovereignty.
The purpose of the bill is to level the playing field and ensure funding for Canadian stories and Canadian talent. It would allow us to give a higher profile to what is produced in Canada in English, French and indigenous languages, and encourage better representation of racialized Canadians, women and equity-seeking groups at all levels of production.
This bill would truly empower Canadian creators and producers. It reflects the diversity of Canadian perspectives. A modernized act would affirm and strengthen our francophone, anglophone, indigenous and Black identities, as well as all of our country's diversity by helping us to tell stories that speak to our experiences and values.
Bear in mind that we are imposing a number of guardrails. As I said earlier, user-generated content, news content and video games would not be subject to the new regulations. Furthermore, entities would need to reach a significant economic threshold before any regulation could be imposed. This keeps the nature of the Internet as it is. It simply asks companies that generate large revenues in Canada to contribute in a fair manner.
What we are proposing will not impact consumers' choices. It will not limit what any of those streamers can showcase in Canada and it will not impose a price increase. Foreign platforms will benefit from proposing local content that resonates with their subscribers.
These will be stories presented from their perspective and in their own language, or stories that will introduce them to the experiences of their fellow Canadians. This initiative will bring people together and promote social cohesion.
In these increasingly polarized times, having varied content that reflects our different experiences and perspectives across the country, through our shared stories, helps us to understand one another and to listen. Whether the perspective is from an indigenous person, a Black person, a person with a disability or a woman, we all have something to learn from each other.
Through their creative work, artists truly have a way to make us reflect, understand and feel what others feel. Global platforms will invest in local content and, by the same token, will allow our local content a greater reach globally.
This legislation will also generate investment in Canada and create jobs: two important drivers for reopening creative industries and ensuring their sustainability. This is no small feat when we consider that the broadcasting, audio-visual, music and interactive media sectors contribute $20.4 billion to Canada’s GDP and represent more than 160,000 jobs.
I would like to conclude by saying that Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, is the result of a collective effort. It is the result of a considerable amount of work by my colleagues, the public service, a vast array of stakeholders and the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel.
I would like to thank the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry for establishing the review panel, and for putting forward the notion that every participant in the Canadian broadcasting system has to contribute to the creation, production and promotion of Canadian stories.
I would also like to thank the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for making this bill a legislative priority for our government.
Last, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this important file.
With this bill, we are taking a step in the right direction. Our government has opted for a step-by-step, targeted approach to modernize the Canadian broadcasting system quickly and appropriately. We recognize that the work is not over. Other measures will come, particularly regarding the important role of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the various funding mechanisms for the audio-visual production sector.
This is a bill about jobs, investing in Canada, equity and what it means, at the very core, to be Canadian. If members do not agree with all of the bill, or if members do not believe in our cultural sovereignty and that we as Canadians, as francophones, as first nations, as Métis and as Inuit are different, they can still support the bill for the jobs it will create.
However, let me reiterate that resistance is not futile. If jobs and investment in the cultural sector are not what members believe in for the future of our country, they should support this bill for its much-needed equity and fairness. We need to re-establish the fact that everyone, including web giants, must contribute to our society.