Mr. Speaker, I want to state at the outset that the parliamentary secretary is an hon. member of this House and any of my comments should not be inferred as to suggest otherwise. That having been said, I find a tremendous difficulty in that the entire House of Commons, whether it is in this chamber or in committee, works on negotiation between members. When that negotiation happens, there is an assumption on the part of both parties I am sure that once the persons negotiating arrive at an agreement, the agreement will be fulfilled. Clearly that has not happened in this instance.
What has happened is that the committee was overtaken by the member for Parkdale—High Park and others who are concerned about seeing that this particular omnibus provision was included in the bill. This was totally outside any agreement that had been made by us at that time.
We should be focusing as well on when the committee hearings actually took place. The Speaker might not be aware that the committee hearings actually took place after the House rose for the summer recess. When those committee hearings took place, the understanding on the part of the Bloc member, on the part of the Conservatives and certainly on the part of the official opposition was that the agreement that had been entered into by the parliamentary secretary on behalf of the heritage member and on behalf of the department officials was that those clauses would be removed.
There is goodwill that exists around the body of this bill and what this bill is actually about. There is goodwill that exists on wanting to get on with modernizing the library and bringing forward a proper archival situation in Canada. Because of that goodwill and because of the value of this bill, we did not see any reason to be worried about what would be happening at committee.
As I said directly to the parliamentary secretary, I understand that the events at committee ended up overtaking her and overtaking the commitment that she had made. To be very generous, I might even suspect that the member for Parkdale—High Park might not have been aware that this commitment had been made. Let us make that assumption, but that does not absolve the parliamentary secretary or the Minister of Canadian Heritage from the fact that a commitment had been made to members of her party, to members of the official opposition, indeed to all members of the House who were concerned about this bill.
This is scandalous behaviour. It ends up undermining the ability of us to do business. It means that all the suspicions and the worry about what the real meaning is of ministers and all the paranoia that there frequently is around the parliamentary process end up coming into reality.
The reality is that the heritage minister and her spokesperson, the parliamentary secretary, have not been prepared to follow through on a solemn commitment that was made in this chamber. Let me be very clear and totally transparent. This means that there will be a question in the minds of all parliamentarians when they receive a commitment from a parliamentary secretary on behalf of a heritage minister as to whether they actually have the intent to follow through.
We were dealing with Bill C-13 earlier today in the House. The health minister came to this House and overturned the work of the committee on Bill C-13. This is very common. It is an unfortunate happenstance because parliamentary committees should be independent. Parliamentary committees should be able to make changes to government legislation. But it is very common that ministers will come to this place after those changes have been made by committee and will overturn the changes. That is the reason I raised the example of Bill C-13.
We could go down a whole list of legislation where this has happened. Therefore, with the greatest respect, I say to the hon. parliamentary secretary that it is simply not genuine to say that the committee is master of its own destiny and therefore she and the heritage minister are incapable of making the change. I am sorry but that does not fly. That is simply not a valid argument.
I suggest what has happened is the heritage minister with her own leadership aspirations has taken her eye off her legislation, which is in front of the House now, and has basically left the parliamentary secretary hanging out to dry. Once again, on the issue of copyright law, the heritage minister has walked away from her responsibility and we have bad law. This was an omnibus bill that should never have been an omnibus bill.
Clause 21 should never have been included in the bill, as I said in my question to the parliamentary secretary. I have the Copyright Act in my hand right now. I understand the copyright law. It was very clear that there had to be changes in the Copyright Act for Bill C-36 to go forward. That is simple and very straightforward. What was not needed was Clause 21. Clause 21 in this bill is the opening up of copyright legislation.
She will know, as a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, that starting next week the standing committee will be briefed by parliamentary officials on a review of the Copyright Act. We will be briefed on Tuesday and again Thursday.
There is a whole situation around copyright law that desperately needs changes and I will address couple of them in half a second. The parliamentary secretary knows that. I do not know what went on behind the scenes. I do not know how in the world we ended up with clause 21 being surreptitiously put into the bill. It basically takes a current issue, a vital and important issue to certain copyright holders and advances it ahead of other people who are very concerned about clauses and provisions in the Copyright Act.
I draw to the House's attention subsection 30.8(8) and subsection 30.9(6) of the Copyright Act. This is the basis of me saying once again that the heritage minister has done a bad, totally inadequate, flawed job of copyright revision. By allowing these changes in Bill C-36, by surreptitiously putting them into Bill C-36, by falling back behind the rubric that committees are masters of their own destiny, once again she has done a totally inadequate job. When the new Prime Minister takes over, it will be very surprising to see if she manages to maintain her position as Minister of Canadian Heritage because she has absolutely dropped the ball on this issue as with many others.
In the case of sections 30.8 and 30.9 of the Copyright Act, the relevance here is that the actual provisions that had to be changed in Bill C-36 are in proposed section 30.5. We are talking about things that also need changing and we are very close: 30.5 versus 30.8 and 30.9.
What desperately needs changing is what was inserted into the bill back when we were in committee work in 1997. At that time we were looking at ephemeral recordings. That is when a radio station ends up making a recording for absolutely no reason other than a technical ability to more easily bring programming to air. There are exceptions all the way through in sections 30.8 and 30.9 that would permit the radio stations to do a job in a very efficient way.
As a result of the inclusion in section 30.8 of subsection (8), tens if not hundreds of people are losing their jobs or have lost their jobs this year as a result of this clause. The reality is subsection (8) stops the radio stations from either doing things efficiently in a modern, technological way or by doing them efficiently in a modern, technological way and having an unfair compensation go to the creators.
What it is all about is very straightforward. Nowadays just about all music comes to the radio stations in a digital format. It can come to the radio stations in a digital format on a CD or it can come to the radio stations in a digital format on some form of broad band. When that digital format is actually at the radio station, then a decision has to be made.
For example, on a CD there might be 12, 15, 18, 20 cuts or songs. What the radio station would decide is whether it would play cut number two, number seven or number nine. It does not need the rest of the CD. When the station does its programming, it simply lifts selections two, seven and nine from the CD and puts them onto a hard drive. When a particular song is played on air, it is in a different format and, as a consequence, it is automatically on the air.
As I have explained many times to the House, my daughter is married to a musician. I understand copyright. He is a composer. I understand why copyright exists and my daughter and my four grandchildren are supported in no small part by virtue of the fact that copyright law exists. I am in favour of copyright law. When value is exchanged, when the music is played, then my son-in-law and all other composers and authors and artists should be properly compensated. That is fine.
What goes on with so-called ephemeral recordings is it simply changes the format technically behind the scenes, possibly at a totally different location, and when it changes the format as a result of clause (8), a copyright fee is payable. The artists, the composers, the authors are not entitled to be paid simply because of a technological change.
The heritage minister is prepared to change the copyright law in clause 21 for specific copyright owners and holders or people who could receive value because of copyright law. However she is not prepared to protect the hundreds of people in the radio and recording industries who have ended up losing their jobs in the last year to 18 months.
The parliamentary secretary knows that. I believe her predecessor was with us when we were on the tour to take a look at this, among many other issues. We were in a radio station in downtown Montreal. We went through and saw what actually transpired. Does anyone know what it was? It was the push of a button. With that push of button there was no sound, no music, no playing and no value exchanged. There was simply the transfer of digital information at light speed from one format to another format and, as a result of that, there was a copyright payable. There are other problems within the copyright law at which we desperately need to be look.
Why did we end up with subsection (8) and subsection (9)? In 1997 the then parliamentary secretary, Guy Arseneault was negotiating with the Bloc Quebecois and at that point there were no collectives that could actually collect any copyright fee. The Bloc Quebecois critic, in negotiating with Mr. Arseneault, the parliamentary secretary, had those clauses included.
I hollered in a loud voice at that time. The recording industry and broadcasters could see this train coming into the station and we tried to make as big a deal of it as we possibly could, and good on the Bloc Quebecois.
What happened was this. Gaston Leroux, who was the critic for the Bloc Quebecois, knew there was a collective coming in Quebec and because he knew that, he wanted to wipe out the ability of the ephemeral rights exclusion and he got his way. Why? Because the parliamentary secretary of the day, acting on behalf of the then heritage minister, the current heritage minister, was prepared to negotiate that into this law, and it is bad law. Why? Because the heritage minister had made up her mind that Bill C-32 would be through Parliament, out of committee by Christmas and there was a deadline. That was a roadblock by the Bloc Quebecois.
This is fine. That is part of parliamentary procedure but it does not mean that we have to live with bad law that was created by the heritage minister who was simply trying to get the bill through Parliament.
Once again, we have a situation where this heritage minister, in Bill C-36, has gone ahead and made changes yet once again to copyright law that really should not have been made. I am really not sure what her motivation is nor will I try to guess. The fact is the heritage committee is now seized with the responsibility under legislation, which came to us through Bill C-32, to come to the House with a report on the shortcomings and the strengths of the copyright law and from that point to come forward with laws on a new copyright bill. There is no excuse for the fact that we are in that process and for the fact that this, which I believe is an erroneous part of Bill C-32 to begin with, is now part of Bill C-36.
There are other parts of copyright law that also require changing. For example, the so-called blank tape levy, again one to which I absolutely was opposed, is proving to become even more of a problem than what I have just explained about ephemeral right. Under the guise of ensuring that the artists would end up being properly compensated, the heritage minister brought into Bill C-32 the so-called blank tape levy, which is to presume that everyone in Canada is guilty of recording illegally and therefore we will extract a levy on all blank tapes.
First, that goes against anything I understand about law in Canada. Every Canadian is innocent until proven guilty. Under the blank tape levy we are saying that everybody is guilty, whether they record a sermon in church, or a speech, or something in a classroom, and they must pay a levy on that.
The interpretation by the copyright board has been that it is on the amount of information recorded, not on the length of the tape. The original idea that was floated, and I did not believe it for a second, was it only would be 25¢ a tape and that was really no big deal. In fact it has been substantially more than 25¢ a tape. Now that we have new technology and new recordings like the MP3s and others that have a tremendous capacity to absorb music, the cost of that new technology has gone through the roof.
It will mean for Canadian retailers, for people with whom I am familiar, that some people will quickly go across from southwestern Ontario to Buffalo or to Niagara Falls, New York. I am familiar with people in British Columbia who will easily go across to Spokane.
What it basically means is that an MP3 or another recording device that is available in constant Canadian dollars down there for $200 will be retailing in Canada for $400 or $600 simply because of this so-called blank tape levy.
The problem with Bill C-36 is not its intent, but the fact that the heritage minister chose to make this an omnibus bill, thereby being caught in changing unnecessary parts of the Copyright Act and as a consequence acting in a totally unfair way with other copyright holders.
I say, shame on the minister for putting the parliamentary secretary into the position that she did, in asking the parliamentary secretary to give my colleague and I, and others a solemn undertaking that the clause would be removed. Shame on her for not removing it when it came back here at report stage.