Mr. Speaker, I am truly pleased to be here today to talk about the online news act.
I want to take a moment to express my sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of my friend and colleague, Jim Carr. Jim served Canadians with pride and dedication. He will be profoundly missed.
As I have been saying from the beginning, with Bill C-11, the online streaming act, and with Bill C-18, the current bill, Canada is leading the way. The whole world is watching. On the surface, the bill we are debating now is simply about ensuring fair compensation for Canadian media, but the issue is actually much bigger than that.
It is about protecting the future of a free and independent press. It is about ensuring that Canadians have access to fact-based information. It is about protecting the strength of our democracy, one of the most important legacies that we can leave to future generations, who will see the Internet and new technology play an increasingly larger role in their lives.
When the Internet first came along, we thought it was amazing. It was, and it still is. We were suddenly able to access information from around the world in a few simple clicks. Suddenly, we had an infinite number of possibilities at our fingertips, and we still do. We all love that.
That being said, it also brought incredible challenges.
The Internet has fundamentally changed the way we create, search and consume content, especially when it comes to news. Right now, our news sector is in crisis: 468 media outlets, newspapers, television, radio stations and news websites, closed between 2008 and last August, 84 of them since the beginning of the pandemic.
Why is this happening? More and more Canadians are turning to digital platforms like search engines and social media networks as gateways to find news. At the same time, the number of Canadians who read their news in print or watch it on TV is rapidly declining.
Right now, the news is largely disseminated by these platforms, but the companies creating that news are not benefiting from it as they should. The impact on our press has been devastating.
The numbers speak for themselves. Since 2010, about one-third of journalism jobs in Canada have disappeared. In the last 12 years, Canadian television stations, radio stations, newspapers and magazines, which depend on advertising revenue, have lost $4.9 billion, even though online advertising revenue in Canada surpassed $10 billion in 2021. The lion's share of that $10 billion went to the tech giants, which pocketed 80% of the revenue. The digital platforms dominate the advertising markets, so they can set their own terms, which are often unfair. In the midst of all this, the media has lost its economic influence. Right now, the digital platforms have absolutely no incentive to fairly compensate the media for its content.
The status quo is not an option and it never will be. There is absolutely no doubt that a free press, an independent and thriving press, is absolutely essential to our democracy.
We all rely on timely and accurate news to make rational decisions, to counter disinformation and to fully participate in our democracy. In these challenging times, we need it more than ever.
The pandemic gave us a strong reminder that access to quality information could literally save lives.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the global protests inspired by Mahsa Amini are also devastating reminders that we must never ever take our freedom, our democracy, for granted. We must fight for it every day.
Dominant platforms have a responsibility to support news and journalism in our democracies. Tech giants have a choice to make, and I want to work with them. We want to work with them, but we must act now.
What will the online news act do? It will help build a fairer news ecosystem, one that supports a free and independent press, one that will hold the tech giants accountable to Canadians.
How will it work? The act proposes a simple, practical and market-based approach. It is not complicated. Digital platforms will have two options. Either they enter into fair agreements with news media, or they will be forced to negotiate based on specific criteria.
The agreements will have to satisfy seven criteria. First, the digital platform must pay fair compensation to the news media. Second, an appropriate portion of the compensation must be used to support the production of local, regional and national news content. Third, the agreements must show that they defend freedom of expression and journalistic independence. Fourth, the agreements must contribute to the vitality of the news sector. Fifth, the agreements must reflect the diversity of the Canadian news sector, including with respect to language, racialized groups, communities and local characteristics. Sixth, the agreements must support independent local news businesses in Canada. Lastly, the agreements must contribute to the vitality of indigenous news outlets.
News businesses would also be able to negotiate collectively, giving smaller news outlets more bargaining power. This is extremely important. If platforms and news outlets are unable to reach voluntary agreements, then, and only then, would the act mandate negotiation, with final offer arbitration as a last resort.
Members may say that this model is very similar to the one introduced in Australia, and they are right. However, we have learned from its experience, considered the feedback from stakeholders and adjusted it to fit our Canadian context. As I have said before, Canada is paving the way.
Canadians expect us to act to protect their local journalism and to do so transparently.
This is a complex task. We are hearing concerns and criticisms, and that is normal. Unfortunately, we have also seen misinformation in connection with the bill.
Our job as a government is not to stand up for the web giants or repeat their talking points like the Conservatives are doing. Our job is to be there for Canadians. It is the right thing to do. We will face challenges, because we are breaking new ground and that is never easy.
The online news act is one piece of a large and complex puzzle that aims to build a safer, more inclusive and more competitive Internet for all Canadians.
I have spoken with my G7 colleagues about all of this and I can say one thing: The whole world is watching Canada right now.
I hope that together we will rise to the occasion. We must never take our democracy for granted. We must do whatever it takes to preserve it. This is why I am asking all colleagues in the House to support this legislation.