Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to a bill that is important to me. It is not so much the bill itself, but what it will do and the sector it will affect. This bill could really change things in the future.
Before speaking about the principles and general thrust of Bill C‑10, and as we are officially discussing at this time a supermotion to expedite the business and the course of events in the House, I would like to come back to the question I asked my colleague from Drummond a few minutes ago, that is, how did we get here?
How did we arrive at a bill that nevertheless affects our cultural sovereignty, our ability to produce Quebec and Canadian cultural content, and thus an entire industry representing billions of dollars, thousands of jobs and people affected in every region of Quebec and Canada, such a crucial and important industry that we had failed to address for a very long time?
Not only is the bill behind schedule, but so is the government in its management of government business in the House and in parliamentary committees. We have seen it all with Bill C‑10. I have been doing this work for years, but some of these things are unprecedented, including the twists and turns, bad management, communication problems, breaks, questions, notices and many testimonies. I have seen contradictory things and rather odd processes, including this thing done by the Conservatives, which I have rarely seen: systematic filibustering in order to waste the committee's time, including on Conservative amendments. When a member proposes an amendment they usually want to see it passed because they think it will improve the bill. However, the Conservatives had the nerve to filibuster their own amendments. It is rather odd.
Things are coming to a close. Nobody wants an election, but everyone expects one. That means we need to get a move on because we might be on the campaign trail come August or September. That is up to the Liberals.
We could come back and work on the bill. There is a chance that could happen, but all signs point to the Liberals being in a hurry. Now they want to move so fast that they shut down a parliamentary committee. That is just the fourth time in more than 150 years this has happened. This time, they are not limiting debate to 10 hours but to five.
In order to make the best possible use of those five hours, the NDP and other parties agreed to schedule more meetings so the committee could meet more often than originally planned. Last week, instead of meeting twice, the committee met five times, if memory serves. Even so, here come the Liberals with their supermotion to expedite matters once again.
I can only conclude that the government dragged its feet. It said all kinds of things about how important culture and the cultural sector are, but none of that was true. Bill C‑10 was full of holes, things were not clear, the Minister of Canadian Heritage himself was often unclear, and the government did not put Bill C‑10 on the agenda early enough and often enough for it to make any headway.
It is all well and good to mollify artists and tell them we love them, that we support them, that this is important and the bill must be modernized, but now we have a bunch of amendments at the last minute that we did not have a chance to study, even though some of them would have been relevant and should have been included in Bill C‑10.
This is the reality we often face at the end of a parliamentary session. It is too bad. If the Liberal government had been serious about culture and cultural sovereignty, it would have done this long before now, and not just because the Yale report was released in 2018. Bill C‑10 could have been given more attention during House proceedings, but the Liberals chose not to do so.
Why did the Broadcasting Act need to be overhauled? It is because, over time and with changes and advances in technology, it has become completely outdated and obsolete.
In my opinion, it is important to remember that the traditional broadcasters are required by the CRTC to contribute to the production of cultural content, whether Quebec or Canadian, in French or in English. We will talk again about the importance of having works, films, and programs in French. The ecosystem of broadcasting content has changed a lot over the past few years.
One of the things the member for Drummond talked about was Internet access. Some people will remember that it was much harder to get online 10 or 15 years ago. Today, our system is completely imbalanced and unfair, which means the cultural sector is hitting a wall. This is putting the cultural sector in jeopardy. Year after year, cable companies are losing subscribers. Why? Because the technology has changed and the traditional broadcasters are being overtaken by digital broadcasters, who are becoming more prominent and taking up more space. That was the case before the pandemic, but the pandemic has shown us that platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Crave have taken over.
Let me be clear: The big digital broadcasters, social medial companies and web giants do not contribute to the collective investment that is needed to create Canadian or Quebec cultural content in French or English. That is the problem. That is what the Conservatives and Liberals have been dragging their feet on for years. The Broadcasting Act should have been amended a long time ago.
The NDP is obviously in favour of making new players contribute. They are not so new anymore, but they are big. Traditional broadcasters contribute money to a fund to create Quebec and Canadian cultural content, but that fund is getting smaller and smaller. These new digital players need to contribute so that the industry gets more resources to create new works that will tell our stories, the stories of what is happening in our communities, cities, regions and our villages.
This is so important to the NDP that it was one of the issues we campaigned. I will read an excerpt from our 2019 platform:
Most Canadians now get their news from Facebook, and Netflix is the largest broadcaster in the country - but these web giants don't pay the same taxes or contribute to funding Canadian content in the same way that traditional media do. Canadian film, television, and media is up against a tidal wave of well-funded American content - and the Liberals have refused to take action to level the playing field [this notion is very important].
That's why...we will step up to make sure that Netflix, Facebook, Google, and other digital media companies play by the same rules as Canadian broadcasters. That means paying taxes [which is not in Bill C‑10. It is in the budget, but it seems we will have to wait until next year], supporting Canadian content in both official languages, and taking responsibility for what appears on their platforms, just like other media outlets....
New Democrats will make sure that Canadian talent can thrive on both digital and traditional platforms - here at home and around the world. We think that artists should be able to earn a decent living from their art, and that government has an important role to play in making sure that a diversity of Canadian voices tell our stories.
As members can see, we already knew that the act had to be modernized. Thirty years after it was passed, the act is outdated.
It is true that there is a real and well-founded appetite for such a long-awaited change in the cultural sector, whether it is television, film or music. YouTube is the platform most used for music, so it is really important to include social media platforms like YouTube on the list of entites that can be monitored and regulated.
However, we should not be regulating users, citizens who post their own videos on this platform. We need to target the professional use of this platform for commercial purposes.
I will come back to the questions that arose in the course of the Bill C-10 saga. To ensure the longevity of our cultural ecosystem, the NDP was obviously prepared to work in good faith to improve and enhance the bill, based on the premise that the old existing act had outlived its usefulness because it is jeopardizing this industry, our capabilities and some jobs.
What was the NDP looking for, exactly? We wanted a broadcasting system that remains essentially Canadian, with Quebec and Canadian ownership. We wanted Quebec and Canadian productions that are easily identifiable and accessible. We wanted local shows and content. That is something that we examined very closely.
We also wanted a broadcasting system that clearly recognizes the importance of the French language in this ecosystem. Unfortunately, the Liberal government had a hard time signing an agreement with Netflix a few years ago. We wanted to prevent that sort of thing from happening again, because we never got any real guarantees about the percentage of French-language content that would be produced under the agreement between the Liberals and Netflix.
We also wanted an equitable system without lowering our standards. Just because Canada is calling on web giants and digital broadcasters to participate financially should not mean that traditional broadcasters get a free pass or we will be no further ahead in terms of increased revenues for our artists and cultural production.
We wanted to ensure that there were indigenous language productions for indigenous peoples and for first nations. That was one thing we were watching for and wanted to find in Bill C‑10. Those are the principles that guided us in this work.
Now we are at the end of the process with a flawed and yet well-intentioned bill. This may create a dilemma for us as members and parliamentarians. We wanted to take our time to do the work properly, plug the holes and ensure that the bill could not be challenged in court.
The government has to accept a lot of responsibility for the misunderstandings and legitimate concerns people had about their freedom of expression, a topic I will now get into.
Is freedom of expression being threatened? There was much talk of that, many people reacted, many people called and wrote in and there were articles and editorials on the topic. Experts are divided on the issue, but one group is smaller than the other. The member for Drummond talked about that earlier. In Quebec, we just have to look at Pierre Trudel and Monique Simard, who are strong voices and feel very strongly about this.
It is also important to know that there are already guarantees in three provisions in the act, in sections 2, 35 and 46, that protect citizens' and ordinary users' capacity to publish and broadcast content on social media.
Obviously, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms still exists. We asked the Minister of Justice for a charter statement on two occasions, first before and then again after the removal of proposed section 4.1. In both cases, we were told that the bill was consistent with the charter.
To make sure that this important issue is properly dealt with and that we have all the possible guarantees, the NDP is also asking the government for a Supreme Court reference. That way, we would ensure our citizens' rights to freedom of expression are protected in the bill.
There are the sections of the bill, the overwhelming expert opinion and the two charter statements from the Minister of Justice. In addition, we are asking for a Supreme Court reference, to make sure that users cannot be regulated by the CRTC. That is very important: The CRTC will regulate broadcasting companies, not individuals.
I believe a member also mentioned it, but if I thought there was any possibility that my children or teenagers would be targeted by the CRTC or restricted in their freedom of expression on social media and online, I would be greatly concerned and I would not let that happen.
Why is it so important to take care of the cultural industry, our artists and our artisans? We may want to do it for economic reasons because this industry represents thousands of jobs and these sectors generally work well. Things were harder during the pandemic and it is more difficult for the cultural industry to get out of the crisis. What is more, things are not consistent across the cultural industry. Some sectors are doing well, while others are struggling. I am thinking of festivals, all the performing arts, the theatres and concerts. These sectors will need a little more time to get back on their feet. With regard to television and movies, activities continued, but we need to ensure that our system is sustainable so that we are able to continue creating our television shows and movies, telling our stories and hiring our local creators, artisans and technicians. There is therefore an economic argument because the cultural industry is an important economic driver.
However, the cultural sector is about more than just economics. It also brings us together as a society. It forges an identity, a vision of the world, and it also brings elements of beauty, tenderness and humanity into our lives. That is what makes the cultural sector different from any other economic sector. It changes who we are as human beings and how we see the world. The art that is produced says a lot about a society, whether we experience it through television, dance, paintings, performances, books or poems. Culture can change the world.
Allow me to read an excerpt of a poem written by Jacques Prévert.The sun shines for all mankind, except of course for prisoners and miners, and also for
those who scale the fish
those who eat the spoiled meat
those who turn out hairpin after hairpin
those who blow the glass bottles that others will drink from
those who slice their bread with pocketknives
those who vacation at their workbenches or their desks
those who never quite know what to say
those who milk your cows yet who never drink their milk
those you won't find anesthetized at the dentist's
those who cough out their lungs in the subway
those who down in various holes turn out the pens with which others
in the open air will write something to the effect that everything turns out for the best
those who have too much to even begin to put into words
those whose labors are never over
those who haven't labors
those who look for labors
those who aren't looking for labors...
those who simply rot
those who enjoy the luxury of eating
those who travel beneath your wheels
those who stare at the Seine flowing by
those whom you hire, to whom you express your deepest thanks, whom you are charitable toward, whom you deprive, whom you manipulate, whom you step on, whom you crush
those from whom even fingerprints are taken...
those who scatter salt on the snow in all directions in order to collect a ridiculous salary
those whose life expectancy is a lot shorter than yours is
those who've never yet knelt down to pick up a dropped hairpin
those who die of boredom on a Sunday afternoon because they see Monday morning coming
and also Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday
and Saturday too
and the next Sunday afternoon as well.