Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate with my colleagues in the House this evening.
We heard some very interesting comments. First, I would like to remind members of just how critical I think this bill is. We are talking about artists, artisans, technicians and people who work in the film, television and music industries. However, above and beyond economic development and jobs, which are very important, we are also talking about who we are and our identity as Quebeckers and Canadians. This is an important subject, and this is not just any industry. Our cultural industries define us, tell our stories, take us out into the world, and that is part of Quebec's and Canada's great national narrative.
It is with that in mind that I want to address this subject. It is not just important for sustainable and fair development and ensuring a level playing field for everyone in the ecosystem; it is about more than that, because it gives us more soul and defines us collectively.
I thought it was important to point that out from the beginning. This evening's speeches are not just administrative or technical. They are about who we are and how we should be seen and how we want to be seen by our fellow citizens and the rest of the world.
This is an interesting debate. It was decided years ago that the Hertzian waves were public property. If we lose sight of that, we are on the wrong track for understanding exactly why and how to legislate and regulate this sector.
It was decided that waves that move through the air, whether for television or radio, do not belong to any one company or individual, but rather are a collective good, a public property, whose use must be subject to rules. The CRTC was created to manage this public property, the airwaves, and to grant licences, or permits, to companies to use these airwaves to broadcast television programs, films, or music in the case of radio stations.
This system worked well for a while. Unfortunately, the Broadcasting Act has not been reviewed since 1991, which is around the time I was finishing high school.
Things have changed since then. Back then, no one wanted to intervene too much to regulate the new baby that had just arrived on the market, by which I mean the World Wide Web. They thought that this new medium was a new way to distribute content and that they would give this poor little thing a chance. They would not regulate or control it too much, but instead give it breathing room so that it could grow and thrive.
Over the years, the poor little thing has grown into a juggernaut that is crushing everyone in its path. It is part of life, and that is okay, but our legislative and regulatory framework was completely out of step with the significant role that Internet and web broadcasting came to play.
Then came the Yale report and its 97 recommendations. It includes many very serious elements and gave rise to an almost unanimous observation, namely that the success of a cultural, film, television or radio production sector depends on universal participation.
Right now, there are some stakeholders that do contribute and that are required to invest part of their revenue in the system to help our creators and producers of original Quebec and Canadian content. However, there are other stakeholders that do not. That point was raised by the Yale report, which stated that this situation cannot go on. For that reason, today we have Bill C-10, which tries to make the legislative changes that will get us there.
The intent is noble, and we agree with it. It is required. This bill should have been introduced 10 or 15 years ago. It is a little bit late.
That said, the bill has many flaws, and I will get to them. I believe that we have a duty as parliamentarians and members of opposition parties. Some of my Conservative and Bloc colleagues have demonstrated that they want to enhance and improve the bill by minimizing the flaws while retaining a certain flexibility and openness for the future.
This bill will not be reviewed every two or three years. It has not been reviewed in 30 years, and I hope we will not wait another 30 years. That said, I do not want to box us in or handcuff us.
How come, once again, some stakeholders are not contributing? This was not in the Yale report, but I bring it up because I do not understand this disconnect. When Vidéotron, my service provider, plugs a cable into my TV, it has to pay a 5% royalty to the Canada Media Fund to support the production of Quebec and Canadian cultural content. That is great. However, Vidéotron does not have to contribute a thing for the Wi-Fi device I have in my home. A cable is a cable. Whether it is transmitting cable TV or the Internet, everyone should have to contribute to helping our producers and creators deliver original Quebec and Canadian content. I still do not understand this.
This bill should have been much more ambitious, but I get the impression that the government was looking for the lowest common denominator. In the end, we did not end up with much. The NDP is worried that this bill does not really include everyone. Internet service providers are not included. Another quirk is that ad revenue earned by web giants like Facebook and Google is excluded. All of Facebook's and Google's revenue comes from advertising. Why did the Liberals choose to exclude Facebook's and Google's ad revenue from the bill? Would it have anything to do with the hundreds of meetings that assorted Liberal ministers have had with the web giants? That may be the case, although I hope not. This was a strange thing to leave out, and it will have an impact on help for the media and for journalism, which were also completely left out of this bill. I will come back to this later. We had hoped to see concrete measures to help newsrooms, journalists and people who are doing important journalistic work. We were close to getting something, but that all disappeared at the last minute. We have a lot of questions about this for the Liberal government and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Another thing that is missing is YouTube. We can talk about television and film production, but we must not forget that the broadcasting bill also affects musicians. That is very important. For now, Bill C-10 appears to cover Spotify, but not YouTube, even though it is an indispensable platform for many artists, be they well established or up and coming. It is an absolutely fantastic way for artists to share their work and their creations. I use it, and so do my children and my friends. It is not covered, though.
I realize we need to draw a distinction with someone who takes a video of their cat in their basement and puts it on YouTube because they think it is cute. I get that Bill C-10 does not cover that. However, for artists like Pierre Lapointe and Ariane Moffatt, we can make that distinction and include YouTube so that it too contributes resources for the creation of more original Quebec and Canadian content.
The major things that are missing are social media, YouTube, Facebook's and Google's ad revenue, and Internet service providers. There are a lot of things missing. I am very much looking forward to the committee studying this bill and fixing all those problems.
What is more, the government has been telling us for months that it will make sure that Netflix collects GST. Other members spoke about that. That was supposed to happen without any problem, but it still has not been done. The Minister of Canadian Heritage will say that it is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance, but could he not sit down with her to work on a plan and give us a clear indication of when the web giants and Netflixes of the world will have to collect GST like every other business in Quebec and Canada? For now, it is still just an empty promise.
Moreover, why are the GAFAM, the web giants, not paying taxes in Quebec and Canada when they are making a fortune? They are not paying a cent in taxes, nor are they helping to fund our health care and education systems or infrastructure in Quebec and Canada.
I want to share a statistic that I find very interesting that was recently released by Oxfam Canada. With the pandemic, some companies have made huge profits. Amazon is one of them. Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, does not pay taxes in Canada. Amazon does not pay taxes in Canada. However, as we all know, online shopping has increased dramatically.
According to Oxfam-Québec, Amazon has 876,000 employees worldwide, and Jeff Bezos could write each and every one of them a cheque for $100,000 and still be as rich as he was before the pandemic. However, people like him are not paying taxes here. It is absolutely appalling. I would like the Liberals to show some backbone and promise to force these web giants to pay taxes in Quebec and Canada.
Furthermore, I am disappointed that there is no mention of CBC/Radio-Canada in the broadcasting bill. This is a bit worrisome, since CBC/Radio-Canada is a major player in content production, as well as journalism. It is as if it no longer exists. I would like to believe that the Minister of Canadian Heritage cares about the future of CBC/Radio-Canada, but there is no indication of any clear intentions in Bill C-10 at this time. We see this as a flaw that could be fixed and worked on in committee.
I am not the first to talk about this, but I want to emphasize that the NDP is not necessarily in favour of legislating quotas for French-language content. We think legislation is not necessarily the best place to put these objectives, because it is a bit constraining, and we want to provide some flexibility.
However, the legislation must provide clear direction and objectives. That is currently missing from the bill, and we very much doubt that the direction given to the Governor in Council or the CRTC on original French-language content will be very clear. We believe it is absolutely essential that the content be original, not purchased from abroad and dubbed by Canadian or Quebec actors. We want original content created in French.
We think there is a way to strengthen the wording of the legislation to ensure that it is extremely clear and essential that additional resources be provided for indigenous and Inuit productions, but also to ensure fair and equitable treatment for producers of French-language content, whether in television or film.
With regard to Canadian ownership of licensed undertakings, we share the same concerns about section 3 that have already been mentioned here. We want a system that allows us to preserve and protect the ownership rights of producers of Quebec and Canadian cultural content. We do not want them to be bought up by foreign companies. That is a major concern for us right now. It is the type of thing that we all need to work on together, to ensure that we end up with the best possible system.
On a more technical note, there is some uncertainty because we are moving from a licensing system to an order system.
With the licensing system, licences were renewed every five or seven years, and industry stakeholders and members of the public could participate and intervene in CRTC hearings.
Under the new system of orders and conditions of service, there does not seem to be a renewal process that offers an opportunity to challenge, add or change certain conditions. The NDP feels it is very important to put that on the agenda.
Furthermore, a process for petitioning the Governor in Council would allow industry stakeholders, creators, and artists to report violations of the spirit of the act, the directives or the orders. The option of filing a complaint seems to have disappeared in Bill C-10, and we would like the appeal process to be reinstated.
In closing, one of the elements missing from the bill is assistance for newsrooms and for the production of news content. Many web giants are stealing journalists' work and posting it on their websites. While these giants profit from this free content, newsrooms are suffering and journalists are losing their jobs. This is extremely important for our democratic life and social life. We were expecting that there would be something in this bill. It is very disappointing that there is no support for newsrooms.
I would like to share some figures. Between 2008 and 2018, 189 community newspapers and 36 daily newspapers were closed in Canada. In Quebec, 57 weekly or biweekly newspapers, 12 monthly and bimonthly newspapers, six online newspapers and one regional daily newspaper closed between 2011 and 2018. The sector has been devastated.
If we want to live in a democratic society with healthy, rational debates based on verifiable facts, we must force the web giants to financially compensate news organizations and journalists, which are doing very important work. Their work is not free. It must be compensated and rewarded.
We hope that the Liberal government will make adjustments and choose to help local and regional media.