Online Streaming Act

An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Pablo Rodriguez  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of May 12, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-11.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 12, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
May 12, 2022 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (amendment)
May 12, 2022 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (subamendment)

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 11:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-11, the online streaming act. This bill seeks to awkwardly apply the same content regulation framework we see for radio and television onto online streaming and video platforms. Last year, the Liberals passed Bill C-10 in the House of Commons without allowing a full debate at the heritage committee to address many outstanding concerns from experts and parliamentarians over how this legislation affects Canadians' rights and freedoms on the Internet.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage claims that the bill's purpose is to target only large online streamers. The problem is this is not what the bill says. In fact, proposed subsection 4.2(2) says that in making regulations, the commission shall consider:

(a) the extent to which a program, uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service, directly or indirectly generates revenues;

To be clear, any content that generates any revenue could be regulated. On this point, Michael Geist said:

The tone for the government’s communication on Bill C-11 was established from the very beginning. In the very first speech from [the minister] in the House of Commons, he stated “the proposed amendments in the online streaming act regarding social media would not apply to content uploaded by users or to the users themselves.”

This is not completely true, though, as content uploaded by users who may benefit commercially from their uploads can be regulated under proposed section 4.2.

Mr. Geist said:

Not only does the law have few limits with respect to which services are regulated, it is similarly over-broad with respect to what is regulated, featuring definitions that loop all audio-visual content into the law by treating all audio-visual content as a “program” subject to potential regulation.

Bill C-11 essentially defines broadcasting as any transmission of programs and audiovisual content for reception by the public. Mr. Geist also said:

[F]or all the talk that user generated content is out, the truth is that everything from podcasts to TikTok videos fit neatly into the new exception that gives the CRTC the power to regulate such content as a “program”.

He also said:

The kind of speech that many Canadians engage in on these platforms is just basic, fundamental freedom of expression that does not require, and should not be subject to, any sort of regulation or regulatory oversight by a broadcast regulator.

The bill would give the CRTC wide latitude to decide how to implement its new powers and there are legitimate concerns about regulatory overreach. One of the fundamental tenets of our free and democratic society is the need to separate political direction from the independence of the media. We see that in oppressive regimes like Russia and others that maintain a firm grip over what people see and do not see.

That is why I am so concerned about this bill and in particular section 7 and how it is expanded under Bill C-11. This section says that cabinet could tell the CRTC how to regulate online platforms. The section modifies cabinet's power to issue directives of general application on broad policy matters. The section would not only allow cabinet to issue general directions on broad policy matters, but would also allow cabinet to direct the CRTC on specifics, such as the definition of a Canadian program. It would shift the final authority for regulation from an independent authority to politicians and cabinet.

Just today in question period the Prime Minister refused to answer what direction the government would in fact give the CRTC for the implementation of this bill. That is a concern in and of itself, given the fact that debate is about to end in a few minutes on this bill and presumably we will be voting on it very shortly. The government says the goal of Bill C-11 is increasing the share of Canadian content consumed online by Canadians, yet the reality is that lots of Canadian content is already uploaded and shared every day, albeit in a disorderly manner. However, most Canadians have come to see social media and the Internet as an inherently disorderly place. In fact, it is what many Canadians appreciate about the Internet and social media. It is the sense of randomness and orderly chaos to the content they consume.

This legislation must be considered very carefully. We live in a society that values freedom of speech, thought and expression. These values are entrenched constitutional rights. By allowing the CRTC to impose a revenue test, any new online creator must now contend with the regulatory quagmire of rules, regulations and whim-of-government regulation for fear of being offside the fiat of the CRTC.

This test alone would have the exact opposite effect of encouraging Canadian content. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it would be a chill on new creators.

Former vice-chair of the CRTC Peter Menzies stated, “Overall, the big problem still is that [the Liberals] continue to believe that the internet is broadcasting, and I don’t think they really understand what it is”. Under the previous bill, Bill C-10, there was originally an exception, in proposed section 4.1, that would have allowed those who generated content on social media sites to be excluded. However, at committee, government members removed that exclusion, opening up user-generated content to regulation.

Further complicating the matter in Bill C-11, the Liberals added an exclusion to the exclusion, in proposed section 4.2, mainly regarding the revenue exception I have already mentioned. This exclusion to the exclusion is so broad that the government, through the CRTC, could once again regulate wide swaths of content uploaded to social media.

Canadians are rightfully concerned that an unaccountable government agency would be enforcing and controlling what people see and do not see on social media sites. Although the goal of promoting Canadian arts and culture is one I believe in, the government will never be able to be an honest broker, as it will always choose to highlight the content and media it subjectively enjoys. The incentive structure will change. The word will get out that if people want to get celebrated and promoted, they will need to share the government's subjective view of what is Canadian. Canada is home to many world-class writers, actors, composers, musicians, artists and creators. Creators need rules that do not hold back their ability to be Canadian and global successes.

Honestly, when it comes to social media and other online platforms, Canadians' main concerns are not about where their content is created; rather, their concerns are more personal. Canadians consistently express frustration that the current regulatory framework allows for the easy and near constant sale of their personal information. What Canadians want is to take back control over their lives and their personal information.

Let me offer a constructive suggestion, if members will entertain a thought experiment. Suppose I am an Uber driver and I have a great reputation as a driver. I want to open an Airbnb apartment, but I have no reviews on that, which means it is going to be hard. What if I could port my reputation from one application to another? If we make reputations portable and free-existing, that would allow me to own my own reputation, instead of some social media giant. It could be regulated in a way similar to how we currently regulate intellectual property.

I know this idea is imperfect; it is more of a rough sketch of a solution. My point is that Canadians are way more concerned about control of their personal information online and reputation portability than they are about the already pleasantly abundant supply of Canadian content. The truth is that Bill C-11 is nothing but a solution looking for a problem. Instead, why not solve real problems? Canadians should control the valuable data they generate, and the government should focus on issues that truly preoccupy everyday Canadians.

For this reason, I cannot support this legislation.

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 11:15 p.m.
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NDP

Lori Idlout NDP Nunavut, NU

Uqaqtittiji, through you, I would like to ask the member this. Bill C-11 states clearly that both the act and the CRTC shall implement the act, “in a manner consistent with the freedom of expression”.

Does the member not agree that section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides the necessary guidance to allow for Canadian freedom of expression?

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 11 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, it is always a privilege to speak in the House. I rise today to add my concerns to those of my colleagues around Bill C-11.

For those who have been following the process closely, Bill C-11 has several working titles around Parliament Hill. To some here in the House, it is just a reintroduced Bill C-10 from the last session of Parliament, with one change and one exception making that change irrelevant. To others, this bill is known as “how to save the future of broadcast” despite the fact that broadcasters such as Rogers and Bell, for example, have never publicly mentioned that their future relies on this act. My colleague for Perth—Wellington would call it the “groundhog day act”, because the challenges that existed in this bill when it was introduced as Bill C-10 are here again in Bill C-11. Let me explain.

Bill C-11 aims to regulate online streaming, online news and online safety. Those are admirable goals, but Canadians understand and expect that large, foreign-owned streamers ought not to be given advantages over the regulated Canadian broadcasting sector. Large foreign streamers should pay their fair share. On the face of it, this bill simply updates regulations in an industry that has moved faster than regulations ever could.

However, if there is one thing that we have learned from the Liberal government, it is that it is never able to resist the allure of power at any cost. It takes power, controls the narrative, silences its opposition and never accounts for its actions. We have seen this before. The Prime Minister just could not resist the urge to silence his opposition, going as far as to use the Emergencies Act, although it was unnecessary, and he and his government are never accountable for their actions. That is why we, as the opposition, need to be extreme in our diligence to ensure that the government cannot be given powers that could be misused.

Why is that necessary? It is because the Liberal government has proved that it has the audacity to use these powers and then not be accountable for their use. With that said, for my colleague across the way, Dr. Michael Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa, where he holds the Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law and is a member of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society. He is clearly a highly esteemed legal voice on this issue, unlike my colleague across the way, and he has had nothing flattering to say about the government's proposed Bill C-11. As we know, the government does not meet with those who have the courage to hold opposing opinions.

First, there is the question of regulating user-generated content, referred to in this bill as “content uploaded to a social media service”. Have colleagues ever thought about how broad that is: “content uploaded to a social media service”? Based on that definition alone, every member in this House should take pause. By that definition, the Facebook post that I put out this morning puts me within the same regulatory framework as the major players.

The Liberals on the other side have tried to make the argument that there are exclusions in the act, but the devil is always in the details with their legislation, meaning that the exception indicates that users would not be regulated like broadcasters, but their content could be treated as a program subject to CRTC regulation. These regulations include discoverability requirements that would allow the CRTC to require platforms to prioritize certain content and effectively deprioritize other content. The problem is not that they do not have protections looking out for individual users; it is that we know that even in the context that this should protect Canadians, it is not enough to keep the Liberal government from overreaching.

Second, in addition to the continued regulation of some Internet content as programs under CRTC rules, the remarkable scope of the bill also remains unchanged. In fact, there was a 10-page memo that set out what the government could regulate with this new bill: podcasts, audiobooks, sports streaming services and niche video streaming services, just to name a few.

In fact, as Professor Geist explains, and here it comes:

The potential scope for regulation is virtually limitless since any audio-visual service anywhere with Canadian subscribers or users is caught by the rules. Bill C-11 maintains the same approach with no specific thresholds or guidance. In other words, the entire audio-visual world is fair game and it will be up to the CRTC to decide whether to exempt some services from regulation.

Did we just feel a shiver go across this room? Canadians did. Just the thought of having the government-appointed body of Liberal friends in charge of deciding who they want to regulate without legislative guidance, now that is scary.

The uncertainty found in former Bill C-10 is also largely unchanged in Bill C-11. Bill C-11 tries to include some criteria for defining key provisions, such as the user-generated content exception and what constitutes a Canadian creator. How do Canadians feel about vague ways to identify who will be covered under provisions in this bill or what items are left unidentified?

For example, key terms like “social media”, used 12 times in the bill, are undefined. Unfortunately, this is lazy Liberal legislation, or maybe that is what they want us to think. This is their second attempt at this bill and I think they still have it wrong. They have left the door wide open for government regulators to cross lines of government overreach leaving us with only the hope that no government would have the audacity to stoop so low. In thinking that, we are underestimating what the government is willing to do with its power.

When opening the debate on Bill C-11, the minister asked us to “imagine a day without art and culture, no music, no movies, no television or books. It would be really boring.” This bill asks us different questions. It asks us to imagine a day when the Government of Canada decides which music, what television shows or what books are acceptable and how they should be distributed and regulated, with no clear guidelines of what they actually are. It asks us to trust the government by giving them the power to broadly regulate with their word that although they could use it to silence opinions opposed to theirs, they assure us that they would not.

I have considered that world and I have found that the Liberal government needs no extra powers to silence the viewpoints of Canadians.

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 11 p.m.
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Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I give up. I am sick and tired of this. After listening to the Conservatives talk for three hours, I will surrender to their arguments. If Parliament adopts Bill C‑11, Canada will become a dictatorship, the thought police will be out, no one will be able to publish anything, no artists will be able to release their music on Spotify, no filmmakers will be able to get views, we will be terrorized into submission, and freedom of expression will disappear. That will be it. Way to go, the Conservatives got me. I am tired of this.

All of that said, we still need to help artists. We need to protect them.

As I mentioned earlier, Pierre Lapointe was paid $500 for one million plays. That is unacceptable and we must do something about it.

What does my Conservatives colleague suggest we do about this?

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to stand in my home to speak tonight to this bill. It pains me to have to do this, as it is another attempt by the Liberals to restrict Canadians’ speech.

I would like to reiterate what so many content creators and their stakeholders have expressed in opposition to Bill C-11 and its predecessor, Bill C-10. No matter what the Liberals claim, this bill is a near carbon copy of Bill C-10 and represents a direct assault on the free speech of every Canadian. That simple fact outweighs any supposed benefit of the legislation, which is why I feel it needs to be stopped.

I had previously spoken on Bill C-10 in the last Parliament. That was before the Liberals decided to vote against aspects of their own legislation in order to target the free expression of average Canadian content creators. At the time, I spoke about the shortcomings of the bill and how it does not succeed in making the changes to our broadcasting system that are needed to ensure that who we are, what we say and how we say it within Canada and to the world are available going forward.

The pandemic amplified that need. We have all spent more time indoors during the pandemic, and without a doubt, more time with family in front of a TV and computer screens cemented the fact that our media landscape has changed forever. Canadians have changed how they gather information and find entertainment. They have also come to realize that there are no limits on the opportunities to choose where they go for their content. Looking at this bill in its present form, I think the Liberals fully understand this new reality. That is why they felt the need to take it in the concerning direction that we see today.

As background, Bill C-11 would give sweeping power to the CRTC to regulate the Internet, with no clear guidelines for how that power will be used. That is significant. Despite claims that this bill exempts user-generated content, the Liberals still plan to allow the CRTC to regulate any content that generates revenue “directly or indirectly”. That means virtually all content would still be regulated, including that of independent content creators earning a living on social media platforms like YouTube and Spotify. In fact, YouTube has been critical of attempts to force-feed Canadian content that Canadians might choose not to watch. Ninety per cent of Canadian YouTubers' revenue comes from beyond Canada. A video’s poor performance within our borders will translate into reduced distribution around the world, threatening an industry that contributes $923 million to Canada's GDP.

This is not a surprising element of the bill. In the last Parliament, the Liberals voted against the section of Bill C-10 that would have at least partially exempted individual users who upload videos to social media sites like YouTube and Facebook from CRTC regulation. They have given the CRTC the power to regulate the content Canadians upload on social media and the social media sites that allow them to publish that content, just like the programming on a licensed television station like CTV or Global.

At the time, the minister also mentioned that the CRTC could impose discoverability regulations on individuals who have a large enough following online. This would put Canadian content at even greater risk, especially the content that the minister or the Prime Minister does not like. The government does not like the fact that Canadians have the freedom to create, criticize and comment online free of government censorship.

The government’s fear of the average content creator is evident through its past actions to curtail debate in the committee. Our Conservative opposition does not oppose elements of legislation without putting forward common-sense amendments. At the heritage committee, members proposed an amendment to Bill C-10 that would have limited regulation to online undertakings with more than $50 million a year in revenue and 250,000 subscribers in Canada. In effect, this amendment would have only applied to large streaming services. This approach was rejected outright, so there is a disconnect here.

Then the Liberals went to the unprecedented length to gag our work in committee. In a move not seen in over 20 years, the Prime Minister and his minister placed time allocation on the work of the committee to properly vet each clause of the bill and hear expert testimony on its effect. This is what they are saying they want in committee now.

Sadly, the Liberals have also shown disrespect for the House and for the fundamental rights and freedoms we have all been elected to defend. The latest motion, Motion No. 11, gives the NDP-Liberal government the power to extend debate daily, without notice, until midnight, while giving it a pass on having to participate and giving the Prime Minister the ability to arbitrarily shut down the House until the fall if he feels that his power is being threatened by the truth revealed in this place.

Over and over again, they have come dangerously close to being exposed for using disinformation to convince Canadians that they have their backs and are motivated by concern for the safety of Canadians, so why would Canadians trust them with this latest version of their anti-speech bill?

On this side of the House, we will not permit them to run roughshod over Canadians’ rights and freedoms without a challenge. I would like to reiterate the concerns of some of Canada’s leading experts on the digital economy and our media landscape, because we want to hear from the people who are the experts, right?

Well, Michael Geist serves as the Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa. He has said that, despite the government’s claim, it simply is not the case that Internet regulation is off the table with C-11. According to Geist, “everything from podcasts to TikTok videos fit neatly into the new exception that gives the CRTC the power to regulate such content as a ‘program.’”

He has warned that Bill C-11 actually goes beyond Bill C-10 in empowering the CRTC to control user-generated content.

He says, “As Bill C-10 made its way through the legislative process, new provisions were added to limit the scope of CRTC orders and regulations over online undertakings and user generated content.... Those limits have been removed from Bill C-11, which once again opens the door to a far more aggressive CRTC regulatory approach.”

I would also like to reiterate what Mr. Geist said last year. He said, “We would never dream of saying the CRTC would or should regulate things like our own letters or our blog posts, but this is a core expression for millions of Canadians, and we are saying that it is treated as a program like any other, and subject to regulation.”

To Geist, it is clear that Bill C-11 aims to pick winners and losers in the competitive digital marketplace of ideas. No other country in the world regulates content in the way that this bill is proposing. The government missed a golden opportunity to listen to what Canadians had to say. While they could have fully excluded user-generated content and put strict limits on the CRTC’s power, they chose not to, and that is a concern.

Peter Menzies is another expert well known to the government as the former vice-chair of the CRTC. According to Mr. Menzies, the biggest difference between Bill C-11 and last year’s Bill C-10 is the bill number. He says that the Liberals “continue to believe that the internet is broadcasting, and I don’t think they really understand what it is”.

Well, either they do not understand, or maybe they are so concerned that they are trying to limit that. His input on the debate has justified many of the fears that my colleagues and I have with regard to the practical effect of Bill C-11.

As with so many other bills, and this is important, the Liberals are choosing to throw up their hands and empower the unelected CRTC with defining social media and deciding whether uploaded content passes its smell test. That should not be its job.

Canadians could attempt to hold the CRTC accountable for its decisions if there were public records of its meetings, but according to Menzies, no minutes of their meetings are kept. As a former commissioner, Mr. Menzies knows the mandate of the CRTC better than most anyone. The CRTC does manage speech. In his words:

From the moment the Royal Commission on Broadcasting was established...the regulation and licensing of Canada’s publicly-owned radio waves...has been about who owns it and what speech it will approve to be used upon it....

The CRTC governs what type of music is made, and by who, and when it is played, along with how many hours a week must be designated for “spoken word,” news, “deejay banter” and advertising. It decides what is and isn’t a montage, and it makes sure that if you are a religious broadcaster, you have to give 20 hours per week to people who don’t share your faith.

The CRTC is not a transparent body, whose natural instinct is to regulate and shape speech to align with its definition. The CRTC and the Liberals should not be defining what the public wants in this new digital age.

Conservatives support creating a level playing field between large foreign streaming services and Canadian broadcasters and championing Canadian arts and culture. We have made that clear. However, we do so without compromising Canadians’ fundamental rights and freedoms. There is a poison pill here.

This bill is flawed in many ways. It is clear that the Liberals are caught between their own hunger to control thought and speech, and their inability to grasp the sheer scope of the media landscape that grows by the day.

Bill C-11 is clearly an effort to stifle inconvenient speech in a digital world that the Liberals do not control. They do not want Canadians to make informed choices for themselves, and they do not want to protect their freedom to create content that showcases the best our amazing country has to offer—

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10:45 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I have respect for the member for Provencher, but he has just proven my point. The Conservatives are not debating Bill C-11. In fact, many of the Conservatives who have intervened tonight patently have not read the bill. They do not know what is in the bill, so they are debating everything else. They are debating cellphone technology. Are they kidding me? This is exactly the problem. The Conservatives want to sit until midnight, but they want to talk about cellphones. They want to talk about anything but the bill.

On behalf of Canadian artists from coast to coast to coast, I say this to the member for Provencher and all other Conservative MPs: Let us get the bill to committee. Let us get the legitimate questions answered. Let us stop talking about cellphones and all kinds of other things that have nothing to do with Bill C-11.

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives seem to be having a hard time understanding that those who control the distribution network have the opportunity to promote their own product. They do not understand this concept when we talk about culture, but when we talk about oil and pipelines, they understand the distribution system. That speaks volumes.

Does the member not agree that the only thing Bill C‑11 does, in reality, is require online distribution networks to offer a wider range of viewpoints and products and that ultimately, this will improve democracy here in Canada?

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying that the cultural aspect of our lives is extremely important. For years, we have had the means to allow Canadians across the country to hear the voices of other Canadians, to listen to music, to watch movies, to watch television and to experience a Canadian culture that is extremely complex and very diversified.

When I think of Quebec culture, for example, I remember the first time I listened to Robert Charlebois, on a Sunday evening, because we could listen to French radio at home, in New Westminster, British Columbia. He was the first Quebec artist who forged my understanding of the diversity of Quebec's cultural life.

What artists are telling us is that there is currently a real imbalance in the system. Consequently, as talented as they may be, artists cannot fully reap the benefits of all their potential, as artists, to create and to promote our cultural life and to make it so complex and so profound.

That is really the message tonight. Our artists across the country are saying there is something wrong with the system. We have web giants, these massive companies, that are foreign-owned and the Conservatives support them to the detriment of Canadians and Canadian artists. These companies make these enormous profits while paying scraps to Canadian artists.

As we know, the reality is when we are talking about the word “censorship”, we are throwing it around so loosely when it comes to Bill C-11, and I will come back to that in just a moment. The reality is the censorship that takes place now with the web giants is the algorithms that withhold Canadian content from Canadians. Even Canadians trying to access that content cannot do it because of the algorithms that are not shared or not transparent that censors what Canadians can see and what Canadians can hear. That is the reality.

As members well know, other countries are putting forward legislation so that these web giants, these massive foreign-owned corporations, that pay no taxes in Canada and do not show the responsibility they should be showing in Canada, actually have to be transparent on the algorithms that control what people see, what people watch and what people can hear.

The idea that we put in place an update to the Broadcasting Act makes sense, because it establishes a level playing field so we do not see the situation we are seeing now. We see that Canadians musicians have lost 80% of their income as more and more of their product goes online and they get paid less and less by the massive web giants that are supported, for reasons I do not understand, by some members of this House.

As that happens, it is important for Canadian MPs to step up and try to level the playing field. Musicians losing 80% of their income should be something that all members of Parliament should be concerned about. About $3 billion has been taken out of musicians' pockets. That should be something that all Canadians are concerned about.

I talked earlier about listening, for the first time, late one evening in New Westminster, British Columbia, to a Quebec artist, Robert Charlebois, and understanding the incredible depth of Québécois culture. When I was growing up, I was able to listen to Rush, Gordon Lightfoot and Bachman-Turner Overdrive and so many other Canadian artists that would not have been able to get into the market if the American record companies and the American broadcasters had told Canadians what they could or could not listen to. That is the reality here.

When we have foreign companies deciding what Canadians can watch and listen to, we need to establish a level playing field so our Canadian artists can shine through.

The Conservatives, who are opposed to this legislation moving forward, even to get answers on it, should understand that not one of them has quoted a Canadian artist or musician tonight. They cannot, because artist associations, everyone from the Canadian Independent Music Association to ACTRA, are all very supportive of the legislation. What, then, should we be doing tonight in this debate?

My Conservative colleagues, and I have respect for them, have said that they simply do not want this legislation to move forward, just as they have been saying for months that they do not want any other legislation to move forward. We have seen it with Bill C-8. Teachers were asking for their tax credit and the Conservatives said they would not pass it. We have seen it with Bill C-19 and dental care, which the NDP pushed forward. For the first time, there was an affordable housing platform, and the Conservatives said they did not want that to move forward either.

On Bill C-11, as we have heard in the debate tonight, the Conservatives have talked about three concerns. First off, they reference a bill that no longer exists and say they did not like it. That is fair enough, but that is not the bill we are debating. Then they talk about a bill that may be coming in a year or so that deals with online harms, and they say they do not like that bill either. Well, that debate will be in a year.

Then they say, about this bill, that they believe in a level playing field, but they have some questions. At the same time, however, they do not want this bill to go to committee, where we can get answers to the questions they have asked. Some of the questions they have asked around the CRTC are legitimate. How it defines its powers is a legitimate question, and I have that question too.

We would love to have the bill come to committee, because the committee, as part of our legislative process, is the place where we get answers to questions. We could sit here to midnight every single night, but we are not going to get the ministry and the CRTC to answer our questions until the bill gets to committee.

This is where it becomes passing strange. We have had debate now for a number of days. We should be referring the bill to committee. If Conservative members do not want to vote for the bill they do not have to vote for it. However, for them to say they are going to stop any member of Parliament from getting the answers they are asking around the bill by refusing to have it go to committee does not make any sense at all.

It is also not respectful to the artists from coast to coast to coast who have been asking for years to have a level playing field. They have been asking for years for us, as members of Parliament, to play our role and establish a level playing field to allow them, finally, to have some presence in the online world so that Canadian content can shine and the web giants will not decide what Canadians get to see and hear.

This is really the challenge this evening. We will be sitting until midnight, but the Conservatives will say they want to keep sitting and sitting and will say the same things. As I mentioned earlier, they have debated a past bill that no longer exists and a future bill that may or may not exist, and on this bill, they say they have questions.

We should all agree that the way to get answers to those questions is to refer the bill to committee and allow the heritage committee to sit down and get answers from the minister and the CRTC. In that way, we could respond to our legislative role, which is to make sure that as we pass this legislation, it is done in the most effective way possible and actually does what it purports to do: level the playing field for Canadian artists so that our musicians, actors and all of the Canadian cultural and artistic sphere can shine.

We know that when there is a level playing field, it is not the web giants deciding what Canadians can see and hear. When there is a level playing field, Canadian artists will shine. My message to the Conservatives is to let Canadian artists shine. Let us get answers to the bill. Let us get this bill to committee.

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Madam Speaker, my apologies. “Weeks ago, the Liberals secretly withdrew the section of their own bill that protects individual users' content, resulting in Canadians being subject to broad government powers to regulate their use of social media. The government went even further when it used extreme tactics that have not been used in decades to silence the opposition, keeping Canadians in the dark about their infringement on freedom of speech and ramming the bill through without proper debate.”

At this time, I need to point out the complete hypocrisy of the Liberals and NDP as we are discussing this bill late in the evening, but under time allocation. When the Liberals introduced Motion No. 11, we were told that one of the reasons they were doing so was so that more members could participate in debate on legislation. Why then did the government, with the help of the NDP, pass the time allocation motion on this important bill at second reading, limiting debate and the ability for the remaining opposition parties to hold the government to account? The answer is that this is part of a pattern of behaviour where the Prime Minister and his government run from transparency and accountability.

Here we are: We are debating Bill C-11, which is another encroachment by the Liberals on the fundamental rights of Canadians. It is under time constraints when clearly opposition to the former bill, now packaged as Bill C-11, and its encroachment on freedom of speech, are not partisan matters. It is not just the Conservative Party and its strongest supporters who are opposed to what the Liberals are attempting. Bill C-11 is a mere copy of the Liberals' deeply flawed Bill C-10, and it fails to address the serious concerns raised by experts and Canadians.

I would like to quote from a piece published by Michael Geist on his website on February 3, and I did that just for the member for Kingston and the Islands. It is entitled, “Not ready for prime time: Why Bill C-11 leaves the door open to CRTC regulation of user-generated content”. The opening paragraph reads as follows:

The minister and his department insisted that the new Bill C-11 addressed the concerns raised with Bill C-10 and that Canadians could be assured that regulating user generated content is off the table. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case. The new bill, now billed the Online Streaming Act, restores one exception but adds a new one, leaving the door open for CRTC regulation. Indeed, for all the talk that user generated content is out, the truth is that everything from podcasts to TikTok videos fit neatly into the new exception that gives the CRTC the power to regulate such content as a “program”.

He concludes his article on Bill C-11 with the following:

There was an opportunity to use the re-introduction of the bill to fully exclude user generated content (no other country in the world regulates content this way), limit the scope of the bill to a manageable size, and create more certainty and guidance for the CRTC. Instead, the government has left the prospect of treating Internet content as programs subject to regulation in place, envisioned the entire globe as subject to Canadian broadcast jurisdiction, increased the power of the regulator, and done little to answer many of the previously unanswered questions. The bill is not ready for prime time and still requires extensive review and further reform to get it right.

The former commissioner of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Peter Menzies, is quoted by Global News as saying the following:

The biggest difference is that it’s called Bill C-11 instead of Bill C-10.... I think they deserve a little bit of credit for acknowledging that some of the concerns that many people raised last spring did indeed have merit, but their efforts at resolving those, I think, are weak.

The campaigns director for Open Media said of Bill C-11 the following:

Treating the Internet like cable television was a bad idea last year, and it’s a bad idea now. The Online Streaming Act continues to give the CRTC the power to use sorely outdated 1980s ideas about what “Canadian” content is, to control what shows up on our online feeds and what doesn’t.

These quotes by experts give voice and detail to the many, many emails that I have received from constituents and from Canadians who oppose this erosion of their freedoms. Canadians are paying attention.

In closing, I do want to remind my colleagues of two very short quotes by a former prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who passionately defended individual liberty. He said, “Canada is free and freedom is its nationality” and “Nothing will prevent me from continuing my task of preserving at all cost our civil liberty.” I agree with the former Liberal prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. I wish the current Liberal Party did as well.

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, discoverability applies to French-language content. My colleague from Beauport—Limoilou pointed out in her speech that she has a hard time finding French-language content on these platforms.

This also applies to our indigenous peoples, who need visibility. Last week we had a debate on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. There are all kinds of stories in the news that show how important it is to be in touch with indigenous peoples and show that they also need to be discovered.

Discoverability is not just for francophones. It is also for indigenous people and many others as well, thanks to Bill C‑11.

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10:10 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the most concerning parts about Bill C-11 is that the government does not have to release the policy directive to the CRTC on user-generated content, and it does not have to do it while we are debating the bill.

In fact, the expectation is that, once the bill is passed, the policy directive will be shared with the CRTC. In the absence of any knowledge of what that directive may look like, does it not concern the Bloc that this bill does not reflect what that policy directive is as we debate the bill?

We are effectively debating something that we are not sure of, in terms of what is going to happen. Is that not a concern to my hon. colleague?

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise today to speak to Bill C-11, the online streaming act, which follows on Bill C‑10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act.

First, as a student of journalism, media arts and technology at the Cégep de Jonquière, which I would like to give a shout-out to, then as a politics and communications student at Université de Sherbrooke and even recently as the critic for seniors, I have heard a lot about what is happening to the media and web giants like GAFAM. That is what my speech will focus on today, because my other colleagues, including the member for Drummond, have spoken at length about the importance of Bill C‑11. In my speech, I will address three points: the link between this bill and local news, the importance to seniors of protecting regional media, and the Bloc's gains in this bill.

The first part of my speech will be a plea to save regional news. For that, I will cite excerpts from Extinction de voix: plaidoyer pour la sauvegarde de l'information régionale, a book on this very subject that was written by a journalist and author from back home, Marie-Ève Martel.

First, by not requiring enough of a contribution from GAFAM and their ilk, we are helping erode regional news content. We can rail against the unfair tax treatment between the news media and the web giants and the federal government's inaction when it comes to remedying the situation. Local news outlets have been part of the socio-cultural landscape in Quebec communities for decades. Many of these outlets played an essential role in their community for years and years before closing up shop.

The uncertain economic outlook for regional news businesses dictates the rules of the game. Economic stability seems unattainable for some. There is a high price to be paid for the dwindling number of journalistic voices out there. It is not uncommon for several small media outlets to be served by a single journalist or a barebones staff. They sometimes get content from national news outlets or other group members to pad the web edition. Televised newscasts are cut down or fleshed out with national news reports on more general topics. In some cases, any white space on the platforms is simply filled with press releases, which means that the message is not subject to a journalist's scrutiny. By using such practices, news outlets can hide the fact that they are producing increasingly less local content, as a result of having insufficient resources to produce as much coverage as they used to.

Journalism is often called the fourth estate, because it is in charge of monitoring the other three, namely the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judiciary, and reminding us of their purpose. We are governed by elected members who advocate for transparency on all fronts, at least in their speeches. In the digital age, they can now communicate with their constituents without an intermediary. Their policies should be available online with just a few clicks. Despite this so‑called transparency, the information is not necessarily more accessible than it was before. There are still many obstacles that will need to disappear before we can be said to have full access to this information.

We have to acknowledge the many barriers making regional journalists' work harder. Although these limitations and barriers are not directly contributing to the disappearance of the media, they prevent the media from fulfilling their mission, so in that sense, they are a threat on the same level as economic uncertainty.

Another equally important role the media plays, regardless of location, is oversight of political power. Elected representatives represent their constituents, so, as officers and administrators of public funds and municipal government, they are accountable for managing them. That watchdog role is one of the main reasons media outlets do what they do. Need I point out that the media took shape as political instruments centuries ago? On behalf of the people, journalists keep representatives accountable and ensure the proper functioning of local governments. That is why they are known as the fourth estate, which some elected representatives sometimes dislike.

Nevertheless, as much as journalists keep an eye on politicians, they also serve them, if only by enabling them to take the pulse of the populace. Many elected representatives rely on local news for information about problems and issues of concern to the people. The media essentially helps build local identities, serves as a catalyst for local unity, and provides a public forum for the exchange of ideas.

Regional media outlets serve as an advertising platform that gives businesses consumer visibility and, as a service, they are a powerful showcase for small and medium-sized businesses.

An American study published in May 2018 found that when local media shuts down, this has a profound impact on the local economy. The study looked at a total of 1,266 counties in the U.S. served by more than 1,500 newspapers, 291 of which disappeared between 1996 and 2015. The authors found that, since the media monitors how contracts are awarded, including by various levels of government, when the media disappears, this has a direct impact. Public spending tends to increase within a three-year period, particularly in the area of long-term borrowing for infrastructure projects.

In the communities that were studied, borrowing costs were on average 0.55% to 1.1% higher in places where there was no longer a newspaper to keep an eye on public spending.

These are just a few examples from the book to illustrate the importance of better protection.

Ms. Martel has recently written another book, Privé de sens: plaidoyer pour un meilleur accès à l'information. It is a plea for better access to information. In it, she explores Quebec's access to information system, which was set up 40 years ago and allows anyone to obtain most documents produced by public organizations. These days, the mechanisms underpinning the system are often outdated. Long wait times, astronomical fees, conflicts of interest, blatant misunderstandings, insufficient resources and redacted documents are some of the numerous and overlapping reasons given for refusing or delaying the provision of information. The book also explores the connection between access to information requests and the democratic foundations of our societies.

We must now remember that in the 20th century, Quebec's and Canada's local broadcasters had two advantages that enabled them to provide free local journalism and increased their revenues.

First, the media could offer a package of products, or a combination of genres and categories, with the profitable parts of the package subsidizing the unprofitable parts, thus ensuring the overall viability of the platform. For example, television stations used to offer all types of programs, including news, sports and others, and they used the profits to subsidize less profitable genres.

Second, radio and television stations and newspapers served as gatekeepers. They provided news that listeners, viewers and readers could not officially or easily have obtained otherwise.

The Internet changed everything. Websites and platforms took off, starting with the classified ads on Craigslist and moving on to international digital platforms, such as Google and Facebook ads, and they were soon able to compete with local media for profits. With targeted print, audio and video media being delivered digitally, the Internet enabled more competition for advertising dollars and for consumers' time and attention, including international competition for these three elements. The competition, especially from global Internet conglomerates, devastated local Canadian media.

The Quebec and Canadian radio and television broadcasting sector is in crisis. An article published by the Canadian Press on August 27, 2020, reported that the short- and medium-term outlook for private radio and television broadcasting in Canada is very bleak. It is high time to subject web giants to the Broadcasting Act by forcing them to contribute financially.

Second, the survival of local media is extremely important for seniors, as this is how they stay connected to their communities. They are worried that the web giants are not paying their fair share, which is jeopardizing the survival of local media. I got a question about this at a debate during the 2019 election campaign. I have also heard from organizations on this issue recently because of my position as critic for seniors.

Third, I have to mention that the Bloc Québécois contributed significantly to the previous version of the bill, the infamous Bill C‑10, and was able to secure the following gains: the protection and promotion of original French-language programs; the discoverability of Canadian programming services and original Canadian content, including French-language original content, in an equitable proportion; the promotion of original Canadian content in both official languages and in indigenous languages; a mandatory contribution to Canada's broadcasting system if a company is unable to make use of Canadian resources as part of its programming; the requirement for first-run French-language content, in order to ensure there are new French-language shows on Netflix, for example, and not old ones; and a sunset clause that would provide for a comprehensive review of the act every five years.

I would like to mention that the Haute‑Yamaska chamber of commerce held its 35th awards gala last weekend, and the daily newspaper La Voix de l'Est won in the category “retail business and services with more than 15 employees”, demonstrating that our local news outlets are an integral part of our economy. Mario Gariépy received the community builder award, notably for his involvement with the committee that turned La Voix de l'Est into a co-operative.

To conclude, this bill is very important to us, because Quebec culture is at the heart of the Bloc Québécois's mission. Broadcasting is undoubtedly the most effective tool for disseminating our culture, and it helps define our national identity. Local artists regularly remind us of this. The Bloc Québécois is obviously in favour of modernizing the Broadcasting Act. We must keep pace, stop the misinformation and move forward. I was barely 10 years old in 1991, the last time this legislation was reviewed.

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10 p.m.
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Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Madam Speaker, Canadians from coast to coast to coast sent us here to get work done for their benefit and to move legislation forward. I am very happy to see that the NDP is working constructively with us to do that, whether it is on this bill, Bill C-19 or other pieces of legislation.

We need to bring online streamers within the system. They benefit from access to the Canadian market, but they do not contribute to the creation of Canadian content. We need to change that, and part of Bill C-11 would do that. We also need to level the playing field, which Bill C-11 would do as well.

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 10 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to ask my colleague for his comments on what the Conservative strategy has been over the last six months. Basically, since the ban on conversion therapy got through the House, the Conservatives have refused to let any legislation through. However, as we have this debate tonight on Bill C-11, we know we have a situation where the web giants have created billions of dollars through record profiteering during the pandemic, and Canadian musicians, artists and actors are finding themselves, particularly in the case of musicians, losing 80% of their income. We have many examples of the web giants using the production and creative knowledge of Canadians to make enormous profits, but they are paying just pennies, just scraps, to Canadian artists.

Why does the member think the Conservatives are objecting so strenuously to having in place a situation where Canadian artists are actually remunerated effectively for their creations? Why are the Conservatives blocking this bill and so many other bills?

Online Streaming ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2022 / 9:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, it is great to be here tonight, late in the night, debating Bill C-11. I asked the member's colleague this question before, and I am going to ask him as well—