Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be joining the debate on Bill C-10. There is a Yiddish proverb that says when one sweeps the house, one finds everything. I am not sweeping this House, as I am sure it is the cleanest house in Canada right now. I am sure the staff is doing amazing work.
In reading the legislation now before the House, I had to sweep over articles of what the minister and the government believe Bill C-10 would achieve, especially as conditions have changed over the past four weeks. I hope to demonstrate to the House that the intent of the government, with Bill C-10 and what it hopes to achieve, is confounding two different issues.
There is a role for the government to play in ensuring that regulations and laws are in place to offset disinformation and attempts by foreign governments, or entities with a nefarious purpose, to spread disinformation with the objective of achieving discord or chaos in our country, or causing economic harm.
I do not think there is as much of a place for the government to deal with misinformation, because Canadians are excellent at dealing with it themselves. A headline about an interview the Minister of Canadian Heritage gave states, “Regulation of online hate speech coming soon, says minister”. This is regarding Bill C-10, the legislation that was suggested. Hate speech is already banned by the Criminal Code. There is a way for police to monitor and go after individuals who spread hate speech. Nobody on this side of the House, or any side of the House, agrees with hate speech. I do my best to make sure that when I see it online I address it, whether it is directed at ethnicities or religions, and whatever the purpose is behind it.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage also said that the government wants to block messages on the Internet and social media that might undermine Canada's social cohesion. It is a lofty goal for the government to want to do these things with legislation like Bill C-10 and the vast extension of government powers that it is allowing. I will go through some of the proposed government powers that I find questionable.
I question whether ensuring the social cohesion of a country is the right role for the government to be taking on. Our citizens, NGOs and civic organizations do the job of protecting our civic virtues already. It is not the job of the government to be proposing such legislation as I see here. What I see in Bill C-10 is the government opening the door to state regulation of the Internet. While people define the Internet in different ways, we interact with it every single day, whether by watching steaming services online or interacting with others on different platforms. This is an area that I think the government is erring by getting into.
The same minister went on to say that he wanted to prevent media platforms from sowing doubt in the population with regard to public institutions. I find the government does an excellent job of sowing doubt in public institutions itself. We were told months ago that vaccines were going to be distributed and everybody was going to be vaccinated by September 2021. Then we saw an announcement for AstraZeneca vaccines from a facility that is not even built yet. It will be finished in July, and then we are supposed to believe that in two months somehow this facility will save the day, and also that Pfizer vaccines will be available now that its facility has been upgraded.
It sows doubt among people in my riding who trusted the government at the beginning, who had faith in public institutions and public servants and believed that the government had a handle on this. They do not believe that anymore. I had a digital town hall yesterday and the majority of the questions I had to field from over 600 constituents back home, at one point, concerned the government's dribs-and-drabs approach to the travel restrictions that it has introduced, and how confusing they are. To be honest, I am just as confused as everybody else.
The government does enough of a job of undermining public trust in public institutions. When it botches the rollout of the vaccine to the provinces and introduces random restrictions, it does not need legislation like this. I will go into some of the aspects of what this legislation would do that give me concern.
First, I am concerned that the bill chooses to limit the oversight powers of parliamentary committees with respect to directives and regulations that would be adopted by the CRTC. At the end of the amendments to the Broadcasting Act, the bill states that it would go around the powers Parliament rightfully has to oversee what is being done. I get constituents asking me, all the time, to intervene in the actions and regulatory activities of the CRTC. I have concerns about this.
The Broadcasting Act says that broadcasting undertakings include distribution undertakings. The proposed legislation would add online undertakings. About a dozen people in my riding have successful YouTube channels, such as toy channels and travel channels, when travel was easy to do. YouTube is one of those platforms I think the government is targeting for regulation. YouTube is both a streaming service and a platform. It is sort of a commons area like this chamber, for people to put up videos, whether funny or serious, and share their opinions. Whether or not one likes their opinions is totally secondary.
This is an expansion of what the government is trying to do. A lot of independent media are saying they are very concerned that they are going to be regulated directly by the government. Who gets to decide what is misinformation? What I see happening, mostly from parties on the left but all over the spectrum, is that misinformation is now whatever someone does not like, or whatever opinion one does not agree with.
A lot of Liberal caucus members have opinions I disagree with, but I do not want to censor them. I want to debate them, preferably on the floor of the House. I do not want to do it over Twitter. To me, Twitter is one of the lowest of all platforms. It is where people get attacked, mobbed and treated like second-class citizens. When I talk to constituents about it, I generally refer to Twitter as a sewer with its activities. Bots are all over the place, and there are vicious attacks on both Liberal and Conservative politicians. I think all members have been victims, at some point, of nasty online commentary, either calling for violence or treating the members very poorly. We can all agree that this is something awful and unique to that particular platform.
Another part of the legislation I am worried about would amend a portion of the intention behind the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It reads, “the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide broadcasting,” which is the new amendment, “services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains”. I have a hard time believing that a lot of the material being broadcast right now by the CBC, or its online platforms, informs, enlightens or entertains, unless it is a high form of satire it is producing in its news section.
Bill C-10 does not achieve the modernization of broadcasting, which was the idea the government had months ago when the bill was tabled. Generally, many members agree with that idea. In my lifetime, with the advent of the Internet, we have seen a lot of people migrate away from cable providers. Cable used to be the “it” thing in the 1990s. I would not know, as I never had cable. My family could not afford it.
Everybody has migrated to online services. The government is catching up to regulate these, but it is going way overboard and has missed the mark. This is not the way we should go about regulating it, nor should we take away from Parliament the ability to question and oversee regulators such as the CRTC.
I consistently get complaints about the CRTC and I do not think more government power over what Canadians share online, the discussions they are having at home and online, is an area the government should be getting into. It does not have the wisdom or the ability. It will always be catching up to society and civic institutions not attached to government. The government is erring, and I will not be supporting this particular legislation.