Madam Speaker, here is another opportunity to speak on the bill. I know the bill has been recycled a number of times. I think its earliest life actually came when the Liberals were in power. In fact, they laid the groundwork for the copyright bill we are dealing with today. In fact, I think my hon. colleague across the way mentioned this. This is possibly about the third time the bill has come forward, which to me is a very good example of why sometimes we need to have a thorough examination of legislation; in this particular case, the copyright legislation.
This is a very technical bill. I would be the first to say that I am certainly not an expert on this issue. I know that some of my colleagues have been really drilling down into this legislation to examine what exactly is involved, who wins, who loses and whether or not there is a balance. We have heard time and again from the Conservative members who have quoted the numbers, the level of consultation. Consultation is very important, especially on a bill that is so wide in its scope and would affect so many different sectors, from very large corporations to individual artists to consumers. There is a very wide spectrum of people who would be affected. Those consultations are very important. I certainly would not deny that.
However, I think at the end of the day, we do have a fundamental question. Will Canadians have copyright legislation that would actually work for them? Is this the right balance that has been found?
I want to thank my colleagues on the committee who have worked so hard on the bill. In fact, not only did they work on the committee but they travelled across the country, as well, and heard from many individual Canadians and experts. We have had an enormous amount of feedback on the bill. In my own community of east Vancouver, which is home to many artists, I have had a lot of feedback on the bill.
Here we are, now, at the final stages of the bill and, unfortunately, that basic question is still before the House. Is this the right balance among consumers, creators and royalties, and would it unfairly kind of roll over to providing much greater support and a green light to some of the very large players?
As many of my colleagues before me have said today, on this side of the House we believe, having now gone through committee, having posed many amendments to try to mitigate some of the worst aspects of the bill, that here we are now at the final stages and the bill, unfortunately, does not strike the right balance.
In fact, I would say it appears that all the attempts that have been made at copyright reform in recent years have had very little to do, in reality, with creating a regime that would balance the rights of creators and the public. Rather, it has been more about satisfying the demands of U.S. large content owners, and by that I mean the movie studios, the music labels, the video game developers et cetera. These are all things that are very pervasive in our culture, in our society. One only has to look at a younger generation to see how incredibly powerful these various cultural products are in our society. We could have a whole other debate about the ups and downs of that.
However, we are very concerned that the bill is tilted toward satisfying the demands of those very large players. In fact, I was very surprised to read that, as a result of WikiLeaks' cables, there was even information about how the former minister's staff used influence and tried to generate a whole scene of pressure in the U.S. to put pressure on Canada to bring in a bill and to get this moving along.
I think that is just the tip of the iceberg. It is a revelation that shows us that powerful interests are involved in this issue of copyright, and who wins and who loses is very significant. Therefore, the fact that the bill has taken a long time and that it is now back in the House, I think, is a reflection of the complexities of that debate. There were many witnesses at committee who came forward to express their concerns.
Our concern is that the bill essentially gives with one hand while it takes away with the other. While we certainly acknowledge that there are some concessions for consumers, the reality is when we weigh it up that they are undermined by the government's refusal to compromise on what is probably the single most controversial aspect of the bill, the digital lock provisions.
The example I gave in questions and comments, as have other colleagues, is long distance education. Under the provisions, people would have to get rid of their school notes after 30 days. To us, this seems to be a very heavy-handed approach.
In fact, at committee, NDP members proposed deleting sections of the bill that would criminalize Canadians who, in breaking digital locks for non-commercial use in the normal course of work or school, would be penalized under the provisions of the bill. That is a pretty unfair element of the bill, which has not been resolved even though there were many attempts to bring forward amendments to resolve it.
I want to segue a moment because, as I said, the bill has a very broad scope in terms of the number of people it impacts. The colleague from the Conservative Party earlier spoke about the budget implementation bill. I think she said that the Conservatives are growing the economy, and that made me think about what is really going on in this House. On the one hand we have this budget implementation bill that would fundamentally change many different regimes, whether it be environmental regulations and protections or health care. One of the changes involves EI. This is something that would have an impact on artists.
It is quite astounding to know that The Conference Board of Canada estimated that the cultural sector in Canada generates approximately $25 billion in taxes for all levels of government. That was from 2007 and presumably it might be higher now. However, that is three times higher than what was actually spent on culture by all levels of government. What was spent was $7.9 billion, but $25 billion was collected.
The median income of an artist in Canada was just under $12,900; not the average but median, which is a much more realistic comparison. I represent a community where we have an incredible diversity of artists, most of whom have other jobs to support themselves, in the service sector, restaurants or maybe at home, but they are creators. They are people who contribute enormously to our society, our local communities, our history, our culture and our understanding of the experiences we all have.
It was very interesting to hear the member across the way talk about the budget implementation bill as it relates to the copyright bill and say it is all about growing the economy. This is a bill that would actually penalize and limit the scope of artists in this country. When we look at what their income is and how much they struggle, it should very much concern us.
At the end of the day we took a hard shot at this bill. We really worked in good faith because there are some elements that are adequate, but mostly there are not. I know that our folks on the committee tried to find ways to bring forward amendments. However, if it was like our health committee, anything that we proposed automatically got shut down, which in and of itself is an affront to democratic practice. Unfortunately, that has become the practice in this place.
We are still opposed to this bill because the balance has not been found. It is still tilted in favour of the really big players.