Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak today on Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act.
While this bill has some serious technical aspects, which I will get into in a moment, I would like to begin by highlighting the fact that at the end of the day, even though we are talking about regulations and broadcasting rules, we are ultimately talking about Canadian jobs. Today we can even look at some of the job losses. This morning we heard of the additional 213,000 job losses in Canada in the month of January, which once again has increased our unemployment rate, so while we are having this discussion we have to also focus on what this is all about, which ultimately is about people working here in Canada.
I also want to look back for a moment at what we have seen here in my own riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London and highlight some of the work that was being done here prior to the pandemic.
I remember the excitement in the community of St. Thomas when it was announced that Jason Momoa—and I probably said that wrong, as I am one of the few people who has not watched Aquaman—was coming to our area and that Apple TV was going to produce a show right in our own backyard at the psychiatric hospital here in St. Thomas, or actually in central Elgin, for those who are from here.
These are really important things to our community. Sean Dyke, who is our economic development agent for the City of St. Thomas, had talked about other companies coming to our area. Most recently, the Amazon movie The Boys was being filmed here, and Guillermo del Toro did Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Many people are choosing locations right here in our own backyard in the City of St. Thomas, and also in the community of Port Stanley. I know the village of Port Stanley has been used for sites, and I can think of Bayham in the Port Burwell area as well.
These are really important parts when we talk about productions. We have to look at what is being done in our communities and how talent is being drawn to our communities, whether through production or acting, and how that is highlighting some of the great things we have in our own communities.
I talk about this with a lot of excitement because my son, who is an actor, has been part of multiple productions for Netflix, and this is an opportunity for actors to get their foot in the door. Many other companies are now coming in and producing well-connected dramas and shows in our areas, and we are receiving economic development from them.
I am not going to speak specifically on the infrastructure of the bill and what that looks like. The reason I am not is basically because of its lack of clarity. I am finding it very difficult to understand, so I have to just look at the impacts of Bill C-10 here in Elgin—Middlesex—London and how we can move forward from this.
I know that conversations about economic growth have unfortunately been falling on the deaf ears of the government for a while, and we know that many of these productions will not be able to get back in order until there are rapid tests, vaccines and the tools needed to get people back to work so they can resume the great work that is being done.
I am not trying to advertise for any of these movies or shows, but Bill C-10 will have a tangible impact on how the content will be classified. Filming movies and TV shows in the heart of my riding, within the Canadian economy and with Canadian actors, actresses and crew members, cannot be classified as Canadian content, because all of the financing and production is handled by American companies. That is why I talk about the clarity of this bill, the idea of Canadian content and what CanCon actually looks like. I will tell members that every single cheque my son brought home in 2020 was from an American company, yet he was a Canadian actor acting in Toronto, so what is happening in our own communities has to be looked at as well.
These massive companies are also not contributing back into the Canada Media Fund and are not being taxed in the same way as Canadian corporations. This is inherently unfair for local producers, small papers and broadcasters working to highlight Canadian content and provide reliable content for Canadians.
I want clarity in this bill so that I can read it and understand the impacts of what the Liberals are putting forward. There have been barriers in the past, and this is why it is really important to have this conversation.
While it is definitely important that we modernize the Broadcasting Act and introduce some fairness to the industry, including requiring web giants and social media to pay their fair share, we have to remember that getting this wrong can directly impact Canadian jobs and that over-regulation or lack of clarity in the rules will ultimately lead companies to film elsewhere, causing Canadians to lose out on these new opportunities. The more barriers we have, the more likely it is that people will wonder if it is worth doing in Canada.
I am not saying that there should not be some fair ground here; I absolutely believe that there needs to be, but I do want to put into this debate today the fact that the clarity just is not there.
Another worry I have from Bill C-10 is that it has placed limited abilities on parliamentary committees to oversee the directives and regulations that are being adopted by the CRTC. I do not have to remind everyone of the government's dismal record on accountability. I know I speak for many of my colleagues when I say that it seems that the government's overwhelming priority, even in the middle of this pandemic, is to avoid accountability.
Without even getting into the political reasons for its completely unnecessary prorogation, we have seen by time and time again the government running from accountability, filibustering committees, covering its tracks on things such as the WE Charity and covering for a Prime Minister who would rather hide at Rideau Cottage than face the music. The fact that there is not going to be accountability here in Parliament for these powers being given to the CRTC is an issue. We do not want to see the unintended consequences without a thorough debate.
The government has not earned the trust of Canadians when it comes to broadcasting. Let us not forget that this is the same heritage minister who seems to have no problem in demanding that news organizations be licensed. I want to talk about that because I can share my own concerns on this issue.
There was a situation that happened here in Elgin—Middlesex—London with a person I know who is a journalist in our region. His concern is whether putting online publishers under the same type of broadcast regulations lays the groundwork to regulate online news content in the same way that television and radio content is being governed by broadcast regulations.
The government says news publishers will not be affected by these changes, but the problem is that the government has a limited definition of who qualifies as news and as media. According to the legislation, paragraph (i) specifies that “a person shall not carry on a broadcasting undertaking, other than an online undertaking, unless they do so in accordance with a licence or they are exempt from the requirement to hold a licence.” Once again we are establishing so many unknowns, and once again we need clarity on this aspect.
Just prior to when this legislation came out, Andrew Coyne, a writer with The Globe and Mail, wrote:
If that sounds paranoid, consider the weight the government puts on its assurances that online broadcasters would not have to be “licensed”. That's true, as far as it goes. They would just be obliged to “register” with the CRTC, subject to certain “conditions of service,” enforced by “fines.”
We can talk about the fact that there will not be these limitations, but we have to look at some of the other language being used. This is very concerning, because at this time right now, it is really important that we have proper news agencies and proper news reporting and that we are ensuring that we are getting all sides of the story.
Finally, the bill does not provide any benchmarks to legislate the percentage of French content. We have heard from many of our members today, specifically from Quebec. I have been working on my French recently and I hope to one day enjoy the bounty of wonderful content filmed and produced in Quebec in French, but this bill does nothing to help French language content.
I know some serious modernizations are needed to help our Broadcasting Act here in Canada, but I do not believe that the bill exactly does this. I am very concerned with the bill, as I said, and I hope there will be much more clarity in it. I believe we do need to find a balance between our big corporations and our smaller corporations, the new players on the field and the players that have been there for years, but let us make sure that we are doing it with all players on board, because I believe we are missing out.
I am now happy to take any questions.