Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
What could be more fitting for a bill that could limit the free speech of Canadians across the country and what they can see online, than a government trying to use tactics to limit debate in Parliament? I have heard, loud and clear, from my constituents in Kelowna—Lake Country, and we have heard, loud and clear, from experts from coast to coast to coast how poor Bill C-10 is.
Canadians do not want this deeply flawed, speech-limiting, online-viewing-limiting legislation. It is truly shocking that the government would attempt on more than one occasion to limit debate on a bill that has been so divisive. The government keeps raising the bar on what divides us. If the Liberals cannot even tolerate dissenting views in committee and in this House, how are Canadians supposed to expect them to act differently and respect their views online should this legislation come into force?
Back in May, I addressed this chamber through Statements by Members, outlining the overwhelming opposition to this troubling bill from my constituents in Kelowna—Lake Country. I outlined how hundreds, and by now hundreds more, have written me with their valid and real concerns. Residents in Kelowna—Lake Country have strong reservations about the government's attempted overreach to regulate individual Canadian Internet users and what they can hear and see online, concerns shared by University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist. Dr. Geist is not just some newcomer to the field. He is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. Not only could he be considered an expert, he is a vocal and non-partisan critic who has been fighting for the rights of Canadians by speaking out against this dangerous legislation.
Dr. Geist has outlined how, despite the empty words on the part of government claiming otherwise, this legislation, “represent[s] an exceptionally heavy-handed regulatory approach where a government-appointed regulator decides what individual user generated content is prioritized”. Dr. Geist has also called the recent manoeuvring by the Liberals at the heritage committee to effectively cover this legislation in a dark cloud of secrecy “disturbing”, when the committee began to vote on undisclosed amendments without any debate or discussion.
All of this came on the heels of the Liberals' teaming up with the Bloc earlier this month to severely limit debate by using an archaic parliamentary process, manoeuvres that have not been seen in over 20 years in this House. The Liberals may claim that this legislation is to modernize the Broadcasting Act, but that has not stopped them from using procedures to ram Bill C-10 through Parliament without proper debate or discussion. We heard in debate today, from my colleague the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood, how 40% of Bill C-10 was not even discussed or debated at the heritage committee with respect to other recommendations.
The voices of my constituents will not be silenced. Residents of my riding in Kelowna—Lake Country from all walks of life have written to me ever since the introduction of this draconian bill, stating, “Censoring free speech or shutting down debate is not acceptable.”
Another wrote that, “People should be able to speak freely on all platforms”.
One wrote that, “It is shocking that the current government has the audacity to even propose something as limiting to free speech as Bill C-10”.
Further comments were also expressed: “We must not tolerate this kind of censorship of free speech in a free country”; and, “Bill C-10 is the most appalling assault on free speech we have seen from any democratic government”.
I agree with my constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country, and that is why I am here today.
This legislation is an unacceptable attempt by the Liberals to target the freedoms of individual Internet users in Canada. It raises significant concerns about the ability to preserve net neutrality, which is an important principle that ensures free flow of content and that no content on the Internet is favoured over another. Net neutrality is basically the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications, regardless of their source and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites.
The bill before us would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, absolute control with no clear parameters. Furthermore, this legislation would give sweeping powers to the CRTC to regulate the Internet, including individual users with no clear guidelines for how that power would be used.
What are Canadian creators saying about this proposed legislation?
Well, J.J. McCullough, a well-known Canadian YouTuber, recently wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post. Mr. McCullough has nearly 300,000 followers on YouTube and, by his own research, he says that this makes him the “1,483rd most popular Canadian YouTuber”. I would say that provides a pretty clear picture of the success that Canadian content creators have online. He goes on to note that there are “...well over 100 Canadian YouTubers with subscriber counts surpassing 3 million — a combined audience larger than the population of Indonesia”. He mentions how well Canadian YouTubers have done without this legislation. Mr. McCullough also notes with real concern that “If Bill C-10 passes, satisfying the needs of audiences — the formula that has produced countless Canadian YouTube success stories...may soon take a back seat to satisfying government regulators”.
His trepidation is justified, as the Liberals rejected an exemption to individual users who upload videos to social media and even took it a step further by promising to introduce a new amendment to regulate apps. We have also heard that digital first creators have not been consulted. It is smoke and mirrors to say that Bill C-10 is about charging big Internet companies to get tax dollars.
On Bill C-10, Conservatives propose to protect individual users and small players in the market by exempting streaming services and social media users with lower revenues. The Liberals rejected this common-sense compromise. The minister ignores these concerns despite the stated purpose of the bill being to promote Canadian content and support, not burden, Canadian creators. However, if history is any indication, the minister does not care about factual and thoughtful points such as these. His party only cares about shutting down debate so its members do not have to listen to the mounting evidence against this proposed legislation.
It is not just the residents of Kelowna—Lake Country, Canadian content creators or Dr. Geist who are speaking out against Bill C-10. A former commissioner of the CRTC has said in an interview that Bill C-10 “...doesn’t just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy”. This was from a former CRTC commissioner, and if anyone can speak on how the CRTC could interpret its new powers, he would be the one to ask.
The government claims that Bill C-10 is a priority and that is why it is using the tactics that it has chosen to employ. My Conservative colleagues and I will not apologize for doing whatever is necessary to defend the right to free speech and free viewing of the content of Canadians.
I think it is important that we examine exactly what has taken place in this Parliament leading up to this moment. We must not forget that it was the Liberals who prorogued Parliament to escape scrutiny for their ethical scandals. When it is something they want, they will ram it through in any way they can using procedures like the one we recently saw around Bill C-10, which we have not seen used in the House for over 20 years. There were amendments at committee that were never even read and debated. The Liberals had four years as a majority government and have been in power in this Parliament for almost two more.
We will be back here in September as, after all, the Liberals definitely do not want an election, right? So, I will not apologize for standing up for Kelowna—Lake Country and I will not apologize for standing for free speech and for net neutrality. This is deeply flawed legislation that should be deeply troubling, and it is troubling to the core to each and every one of us to consider here today.