Madam Speaker, tonight I will be splitting my time with the member for Regina—Lewvan.
On February 5, I spoke to Bill C-10 before it was referred to the heritage committee on February 16. Here I am speaking to Bill C-10 again, a few months later, now that the bill has returned from committee. Most times when a bill returns from committee, we see a couple of amendments here and there to fine-tune it before passing it along to the Senate, but with BIll C-10, it is not a vew changes here and there. This bill is completely different than its previous form.
What is even more abnormal about this is the fact that so many of the amendments came from the Liberals, the ones who introduced the bill in the first place. The government owes it to Canadians to explain why so many amendments were introduced after the fact and why it is pulling every trick in the book to try to push legislation through without proper debate and while ignoring legitimate concerns.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage is using tactics to make people believe that Conservatives are anticulture and standing in the way of Bill C-10, when in fact, many experts who testified at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage agree this bill is flawed and needs further review.
Protecting Canadian content is important for Canadians, but what good do rules around Canadian content do, if Canadian content is not properly defined. The minister recently demonstrated in committee that even he does not know what classic Canadian movies actually count as protected Canadian content under this legislation.
Over the past month I have received countless emails and phone calls from constituents in fear of the government's legislation. They want to know what they can do to stop it. One man even said to me that this legislation embodies the same police-state-like control he emigrated to Canada to escape.
The question I get most often is, “Why?” Why does this legislation contain an amendment giving the CRTC this much power. Why is the government trying to push this through so quickly? Why does the government think it has a mandate to police the Internet?
Conservatives recognize that the Broadcasting Act is in need of updates. No one is arguing against that. When Conservatives raise legitimate questions about user-generated content being affected by this legislation, instead of providing answers, the minister diminishes our concern and proceeds with his carefully scripted paragraph about why the Broadcasting Act needs to be updated, even though we are already agreeing that it needs to be done.
I have to point out the irony in the fact that we are being censored here in the House of Commons on a debate regarding censorship. Instead of allowing Bill C-10 to go through full and proper review, the Liberals moved a time allocation motion to shut down debate on Bill C-10 early, and effectively censored our debate on censorship.
Here we are, around midnight, mid-June, speaking for the last time to a bill that would have the power to limit our freedoms and could change the way Canadians are able to use the Internet. The government imposing time allocation on this bill, which is fundamentally flawed, is wrong because it attacks freedom of expression. The minister is attacking our freedom of expression as parliamentarians, who are just trying to do their jobs. Instead of telling us Conservatives that we are preventing work from moving forward and that we are anticulture, the government members should be explaining to Canadians how they can possibly justify this time allocation motion, when the committee still has many amendments to review. This is deeply concerning to not only me, but also to many Canadians.
I also want to talk about the precedent legislation like this could create for the future. In a society that values freedom of speech and freedom of expression, Bill C-10 would leave the door open to a massive abuse of power concerning the rights of Canadians.
It is not enough for the minister to stand in the House of Commons and claim this bill is not meant to target ordinary Canadians. Words spoken by the minister mean nothing if they do not coincide with the wording of the actual legislation.
The amendment regarding user-generated content aside, Bill C-10 creates a regulatory mess of a streaming and broadcasting industry in Canada. There are real harms that could come with this legislation as it currently stands. This bill is far broader than many Canadians realize, and certainly broader than the minister has claimed. This has led to a lack of understanding of the consequences of the bill as it relates to the general public.
With so many amendments being brought forward in such a short timeframe, it is hard for the public to keep up and stay informed. One thing we must always remember as parliamentarians is that we work for the people. It is our duty to keep our constituents informed and to seek their input on legislative matters. With this amendment being added, and this legislation being rushed through the legislative process so quickly, I fear many members will not have adequate time to properly inform and consult their constituents on this issue.
It is with extreme disappointment that I am speaking on this legislation tonight, knowing that so many voices have been silenced and important dialogue on this bill will not be heard. The government claims that limitations are integrated into this bill, so that it is not too overreaching.
The minister said in the House of Commons, “user-generated content, news content and video games would not be subject to the new regulations. Furthermore, entities would need to reach a significant economic threshold before any regulation could be imposed.”
This claim made by the minister is false, as there is no specific economic threshold that is established by the bill, which means that all Internet streaming services carried in Canada, whether domestic or foreign owned, are subject to Canadian regulation. That would mean if someone has Canadian subscribers, this law would, regardless of where the service provider is located, apply to them.
The limitations the minister is referring to are that the bill gives the CRTC the power to exempt services from regulation. It also leaves it entirely up to the CRTC to establish thresholds for regulations once the bill is enacted. This is dangerous, and while I have confidence in the work that the good people working for the CRTC do, it is our duty to legislate, not the CRTC's, and that means properly defining the term “significant economic threshold”.
Bill C-10 now has over 120 amendments, of which about a quarter were put forward by the government itself, even though it wrote the bill. My Conservative colleagues at the heritage committee did everything they could to fix the problems with Bill C-10 in the time they had. My colleagues say that in review stage, the work at committee was going well and progress was being made. That is until the Liberals decided to bring forward an amendment to include social media.
This amendment was so large it changed the scope of the bill entirely. It was at that point people, including experts, former CRTC commissioners and thousands of Canadians across the country, starting raising objections.
As I wrap up my speech, I am thinking of all the flaws contained in this bill and worry for the future of freedom of expression. While I do not suspect this bill was brought forward with malicious intentions, the wording in this legislation could set a terrible precedent.
It is okay for the government to admit when it is wrong and when it has gone too far. Now is the time for the government to acknowledge that it needs to take a step back, re-evaluate and correct the course.