Madam Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I take this opportunity to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
I thank my constituents for all of their support. It is a great honour to represent them in the Parliament of Canada.
I welcome this opportunity to express the concerns of my constituents regarding Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
The challenge I have as a legislator is this: Do the changes to the Broadcasting Act, which was originally enacted under a previous Conservative government, outweigh the concerns of Canadians regarding the steady erosion of free speech in Canada?
When the Minister of Canadian Heritage started talking about hate speech and fake news, it pandered to the less tolerant, the alt-left crowd. Their agenda is to silence the diversity in the voices in Canada. Canadians have every reason to be concerned. The Prime Minister goes to the United Nations and says one thing, and then denies his own words when questioned about his version of the great reset he has planned for Canada. It is not in the best interests of Canadians to turn the CRTC into some kind of censor board beyond the reach of Parliament.
I proudly speak today as a member of Parliament for the Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke riding, which is rife with Canadians and their stories, together with the storytellers. Canadians are proud of our stories. The storytellers want to share their stories with the world. The government claims Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act, would support the Canadian storytellers. We all know that it would not support all Canadian storytellers, just the government-approved storytellers.
What is the price to support these government-approved storytellers? According to the government, the financial price is close to $1 billion, but what about the cost to freedom of expression, regulating the Internet, demanding control over algorithms and restricting foreign programming? Is this really a price Canadians wish to pay to not watch central, committee-approved, bland television productions? If Canadians knew the real costs and consequences of the Liberal bill to regulate the Internet, what they are really were, they would reject it entirely.
There are three things that Canadians need to understand about the bill. First, it is a deception. The Liberals would change the very definition of the words in order to grab some money for their friends. Second, it is an attack on freedom of expression. Mandating speech is the same as restricting speech. Third, in proclaiming to support diversity, the government would reduce the diversity of stories that Canadians have access to, and this would have a particular set of consequences for new Canadians and refugees who speak neither of the two official languages. This is what happens when governments strip our liberties away. The least powerful pay the highest price, but we all bear a cost. That is the reason for this deception. The Liberals cannot be honest about what they are doing, because what they are doing violates the charter. It violates freedom of expression.
We have the deception, the attack on free speech and the attack on diversity. I will begin with the deception, and for that we need to go back to why we have a Broadcasting Act.
Why is there a Broadcasting Act regulating television and radio but not a newsprint act regulating newspapers? It is because newspapers use their own print and paper to express their views. Broadcasters use public airwaves to broadly cast out electromagnetic signals that televisions and radio receivers can pick up. Airwaves are a classic public good. Broadcasters cannot use the same frequency or their signals become lost. Frequencies have to be allocated by the government or else everyone would broadcast on every frequency and nobody would get a signal.
For-profit broadcasters cannot charge customers for the signal after they have already broadcasted out, but the broadcasters were introduced to advertisers, and they all made a lot of money. The government later told these broadcasters that, in return for making huge profits from public airwaves, they would be required to support Canadian storytellers, artists and musicians. Canadians were largely supportive of using Canadian airwaves to support Canadians.
Even when cable came along, the government had a role in regulating cable monopolies for the public good. This arrangement was good for the companies, good for the government–funded, committee-approved storytellers and good for the advertisers. Any Canadian with a radio, TV and some rabbit ears could watch or listen to the free entertainment. The business model was simple: Cast out the programs to the broadest audience possible and then sell the viewership to advertisers.
Canadian consumers of music and stories received quantity over quality. Then the Internet came along and changed everything. It changed everything for advertisers. Just ask the newspapers that, ironically enough, are now lobbying for a newsprint act to bail them out. It changed everything for musicians and storytellers. Just ask Justin Bieber if he would have his globe-spanning career were it not for YouTube. It changed everything for consumers. No longer did they have to sit at a specific time to watch a somewhat decent program. Now they can watch when they want but, more importantly, they can watch what they really want.
For nearly 70 years, the biggest change in broadcasting was colour TV. Then in the last 20 years, everything from production to distribution has been revolutionized. In response to this tremendous revolution in technology, entertainment and opportunities, in response to all this change, the government’s only play is to fall back on 1970s-era protectionist talking points and slap 1930s-era legislation on a 21st-century technology. It is old, it is tired and it is a deception. These companies do not use public airwaves to broadcast out a signal. It is ridiculous to call them broadcasters.
The only reason the government is doing this is to stretch the justification of regulating public airwaves into a justification for regulating private viewing. As I said in my initial remarks, it has to commit this deception to hide the truth. This is regulating expression. It is a limit on speech. Our freedom of speech and our freedom of expression are not just about the right to be heard. It is also about our right to hear, to listen, to see and to understand. It is a human right, not a Canadian privilege.
What is a privilege is to live in a time and place where we can experience stories from any human on earth. The Internet has turned all of us into both broadcasters and receivers. The government seeks to regulate that. It seeks to control it. It wants to put the toothpaste back into the tube and turn the clock back to the seventies. It wants to bring back The Beachcombers, but it is not going to happen. It is 2020 and if there has ever been a year when Canadians appreciate the ability to watch what they want when they want it, it is now.
The government has different plan. It wants to regulate what people can watch. They want to charge a tax on these streamers to even have the opportunity to offer Canadians any kind of programming.
These new taxes and regulations will cut Canadians off from a growing, rich, diverse array of new streaming services from across the world. The Liberal attack on freedom of expression is an attack on diversity. The Liberals claim that this tax will help them fund a new film school of grads with diverse backgrounds, but what about the thousands of diverse Canadians who lose out?
Does the Liberal government really believe an Indian Bollywood streaming service is going to stay in the Canadian market if it is required to produce an unprofitable amount of programming? The grandmother who recently arrived on a family reunification visa had sure better hope so. She might be in luck, due to the millions of Canadians who watch those films, but what about new Canadians from different countries? Will every foreign-language streaming service in every country be required to produce Canadian content?