Madam Speaker, I appreciate the time tonight. For those watching, it is 11:32 p.m. here in Ottawa. The bill that we are debating is Bill C-11, in case folks out there have not picked up on that already.
I think the question that we are really asking tonight is whether we can trust the Prime Minister and the government.
Let us not answer that question quite yet. It seems like the NDP and the Bloc want to completely trust whatever the government is going to do. It is kind of a marked shift from where the NDP used to be. The NDP used to be critics of the government. Now, again, it is carrying the water of the government. It is different. My hope is that it would be a true servant in opposition again.
The question is whether we can trust the Prime Minister and the government. We are talking about Bill C-11, but I will give a bit of preamble.
Everybody remembers the values attestation for the summer jobs program: this is where the Prime Minister said, if one is going to be from a certain faith-based group or has a certain belief, there is no need to sign up for the summer student jobs program.
This is a government that proves that it makes value judgments and decides who the winners and the losers are. Again, my question is: can we trust the government?
How is it relevant to Bill C-11?
For some in the NDP, who said that we had not read the bill, I have it right here. It is marked up quite a bit. I marked up Bill C-10: the previous iteration of the act. I was former chair of the access to information, privacy and ethics committee. We studied these kinds of issues at length.
As to the key section that the member across the way in the Liberal party mentioned, it is kind of interesting. We all heard it. He mentioned different clauses in the bill but he missed the real key one, and that is proposed section 4.2.
He forgot to mention that one, which is a pretty key category, so let me read through it.
4.1(1) This Act does not apply in respect of a program that is uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service for transmission over the Internet and reception by other users of the service.
If it just stopped there, we would probably say that it sounds pretty good, but it goes on.
(2) Despite subsection (1), this Act applies in respect of a program that is uploaded as described in that subsection if the program (a) is uploaded to the social media service by the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or by the agent or mandatary of either of them; or (b) is prescribed by regulations made under section 4.2.
What many experts have said about that particular section is that it is an exemption a truck could drive through.
This is the concern for us, and this is why we are debating until 12 o'clock at night. It is because of that particular section. What it essentially does is that that user-content that is supposed to be exempted from this oversight is now included. That is massive.
We talk about TikTok videos. We talk about YouTube videos. They are all now under the purview of the CRTC and the arm of the Prime Minister, of shutting down free debate and free speech in this country. That is the potential that it has. Can we trust him? Can we trust the government? Again, do not answer the question quite yet.
I will go through some quotes because, again, the member across the way has not heard enough quotes tonight, but I will read some out.
These are from some experts who have appeared at committee in the House of Commons and are well-respected witnesses.
The idea that the CRTC can—or should—regulate the global Internet, in an age when market intervention should be sharply decreasing, is unworkable and counterproductive, falsely pitting the industry against itself.
This is not really a glowing quote on Bill C-11 from a person who has got some pretty good credentials: Dr. Irene S. Berkowitz, senior policy fellow at Ryerson University, who is a pretty significant individual.
It is really hard to hear in here, on both sides, actually. I had to say it.
My next quote is from Scott Benzie, managing director of Digital First Canada:
Bill C-11 still has many issues for Digital First Creators, the 'sandbox' that is said to be given to the CRTC is too broad and could include every piece of content online.
Now members should listen to this:
Most concerning though is that there is still room in the bill for the government to force platforms to put “approved” Canadian content ahead of independent Canadian content and artificially manipulate the algorithms. Even in the best case scenario this bill only has downsides for Digital First Creators while the traditional media industry gets their funding doubled.
Again, that is Scott Benzie, managing director of Digital First Canada.
It is not just Michael Geist who is speaking against this bill. There are many who are concerned about this. It is much broader in the community.
Here is another quote from Scott:
That exemption, clause 4.2(2)(a), is far too vague. It's far too broad. There are no guidelines. It basically includes the entire Internet.
I mentioned that exemption, proposed section 4.2, but the Liberal member failed to mention it.
Again, we wish the NDP down the way would be in opposition with us and fight some of these bills. It would be nice if the NDP members read the bill and actually understood some of the problems with it, and stood with us instead of criticizing us. That is all we have heard tonight, criticism from fellow opposition parties. It is really strange. Anyway, I digress. I know time is a-wasting.
I have one last quote that I will mention tonight. The question that is hanging out there for everybody to answer has not been answered yet. This is from Andrew Coyne, a columnist from The Globe and Mail. I would not say he is a Conservative. He is not Michael Geist either. Michael Geist is very reputable, and I will say I have heard him testify. He is a very reputable individual. For the Liberal Party to completely disparage this witness does not say too much about the party across the way. Here is the final quote:
This bill would assign a wide latitude to regulate, well, the Internet: not just the big audio and video streaming services like Spotify or Netflix, but any number of other services, from podcasts to audiobooks to news channels, and not just those based in Canada but anywhere in the world.
He goes on to say that this is surely the far greater concern. Whether the users of these services are subject to regulation in their capacity as content posters, and insofar as the services are compelled to give greater prominence to certain content, its users can hardly be unaffected.
I do not know if the member across the way heard how significant that one phrase was: “to give greater prominence to certain content”. One thing that we have learned, and I have another former chair of the access to information committee sitting behind me, is that that concerns us greatly. We have seen examples of big tech throttling up and throttling down certain social media accounts. We were the ones who subpoenaed Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to appear at our committee, because of our concerns around their misuse of personal data.
What the government is now asking is, “Hey, look, big tech, we actually want to take over. We want to do that job.” Again, can it be trusted? Will it be trusted?
I will finish this quote.
To the extent that the services are [compelled] to give greater prominence to certain content, their users can hardly be unaffected. They are [certainly] subject to regulation, as are consumers.
I would just say that our concerns are very warranted. It is not just the Conservative Party across the way. It is the many experts we have heard from tonight. Again, I started with a question: “Can we trust the Prime Minister and the government?” I would say tonight that the answer is a firm “No.” That is why we need to oppose Bill C-11.
I would just commend my colleagues for staying up for hours at night to do the good work of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, holding the government to account.