Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to give an overview of some of the inadequacies of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
The Liberal government has once again said one thing in its messaging and preamble about what this bill would do, in contrast with what the content of the bill actually enacts. Its message to Canadians is that the bill would ensure online broadcasting is covered under the act. It indicates that the bill updates broadcasting and regulatory policies to better reflect the diversity of Canadian society and that it modernizes and provides the CRTC with new enforcement powers through an administrative monetary penalty scheme.
Updating and modernizing the Broadcasting Act is very important, as it has been almost 30 years since any significant change has been made to Canadian broadcasting regulations. Many of my younger colleagues have commented during their speeches on this topic on how old they were when changes were last made to the Broadcasting Act, even speaking to the fact they were but a glimmer in their parents' eyes.
I cannot say I was there when Maurice Cole was the essence of radio, but I do share a birthday with CKSW, a country music radio station in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, which serves southwestern Saskatchewan and first began broadcasting in 1956.
I grew up enjoying Saturday morning cartoons with the Flintstones, the Road Runner and Bugs Bunny. Saturday nights we watched Hockey Night in Canada, and on Sunday evenings we had popcorn for supper as we were entertained by Red Skelton and Carol Burnett. Movies filmed a detective as he slowly crept along an entire block, and advertisements for headache relief lasted a full 60 seconds. We do not know what we have until it is gone.
That being said, boy, do I love getting to watch what I want, when I want and as much as I want. That is where we are at today, in the blink of an eye. However, that is enough of precious memories. We will move on to the task at hand.
This act provides the guidelines for everything in our media industry. It is a crucial vehicle for determining fairness in the way the industry is regulated, while ensuring it is vibrant and growing with opportunities for Canadians. The Broadcasting Act covers everything from how our Canadian broadcasters operate to how we support Canadian content and production.
The arrival of the Internet and online streaming services has been a reality for a long time now, and they have been competing with Canadian broadcasters on an uneven playing field. Unfortunately, Bill C-10 does not meet the need to set the policies and standards required to level that playing field. The bill is vague. It does not address important aspects of issues important to industry stakeholders, such as ensuring that the web giants Google and Facebook have to compete under the same rules as Canadian companies. It does not explain how digital platforms and conventional players would compete on an even playing field.
Bill C-10 also does not require broadcasters to contribute to the creation of Canadian content or the Canada Media Fund, as is currently the case for Canadian broadcasters.
In the previous majority Liberal government, the then minister of heritage championed the decision of Netflix to support Canadian content with a $5-million commitment. However, I could not help but notice that this generous contribution was immediately followed by an increase in monthly consumer fees, which smacks of Canadians paying outright for this supposed act of generosity and appreciation for investing in Canadian content.
The issue of proprietary content that is shared on digital platforms is also not addressed. The bill does nothing to address the inequity between digital and conventional media; the regulation of social media, such as Facebook; and the sharing of advertising royalties demanded by traditional media.
As well, the absence of language guidelines in the bill disadvantages francophone communities by failing to ensure that online broadcasters create content in both official languages. There are no guidelines to regulate French content, and the specificity of Quebec culture is not mentioned.
The one and only measure to increase the place of French language is the reference in paragraph 3(1)(k) of the act, which states, “a range of broadcasting services in English and in French shall be extended to all Canadians as...[means] become available”.
This is to be replaced by simply removing that last part so that it will now read, “a range of broadcasting services in English and in French shall be progressively extended to all Canadians”.
This does not better reflect the diversity of Canadian society. It changes it, for sure. However, it is unacceptable and represents a much weaker approach than the act provides for aboriginal, racialized and LGBTQ content. It is important to note I am not saying that their content should be minimized in any way, but simply that there is not an even playing field here, even within the act, for French and English content. It is important we do this.
I have children who home-school, and they watch French-language television to increase their French capabilities, which is something I wish I had had the opportunity to do as I was growing up. It was much more difficult for this lady who shares a birthday with a radio station.
The bill also does nothing to modernize the copyright law. With Bill C-10, the government has introduced a broad delegation of powers to the CRTC, without including clear guidelines, on the percentages of Canadian content required, fees and contributions, expenses, French content and so on.
The CRTC's powers have not even been clearly defined at all. In fact, the bill even chooses to limit the oversight powers of parliamentary committees with respect to the directives and regulations adopted by the CRTC. It also limits broadcasters' ability to appeal a decision. This is not acceptable. The message the government is sending is for us to trust it, and we will see it later. The government will, therefore, wait several months for the CRTC to act, and with very limited parliamentary oversight.
This is very poor governance on behalf of Canadians. Canadians expect and deserve accountability in and oversight over their government, and any and all laws, regulations and public institutions governing their opportunities as individuals and peoples. Taking authority away from committees' capacity for oversight and from the Auditor General, and increasing state control of information and conversation is regressive, not progressive. It is a serious overreach by the Liberal government.
In a minority situation, it would have been much more appropriate to come up with a clear bill, detailing in concrete terms the government's approach to all of these issues, rather than simply giving the CRTC more discretion and telling Canadians to wait and see how it would be exercised.
Stakeholders have outlined the many shortcomings I have mentioned today, and in their defence, Bill C-10 is not supportable without significant amendments in response to those requests. I can only hope that the Liberal government has been listening to our stakeholders.
Media has changed forever, and 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.
Apparently I am having trouble with my audio. This is something I deal with all the time, and I apologize. Saskatchewan, for connectivity, comes and goes. I am very frustrated with that. I want what I have to say to be heard.