Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House once again on behalf of the great people of Cypress Hills—Grasslands. I will begin my speech in this debate by considering the background of the bill. There is a disturbing trend happening under this NDP-Liberal coalition. They do not seem to respect the democratic process, and they do not seem to be interested in protecting it.
Among many other examples, the most recent is the passing of Motion No. 11 to give themselves the power to prematurely shut down Parliament. They do not even pretend to use COVID as an excuse anymore, but they also do not like it when the Conservatives mention that it is long overdue for them to remove restrictions on members, their staff and regular citizens from entering this place or from travelling within our own country, insinuating that they are supposedly undesirable Canadians.
Leaving those things aside though, we are here to debate yet another attempt by the government to extend its overly controlling approach to online content that people can access or publish. That is the problem with Bill C-11. The vast majority of it is a near carbon copy of its predecessor, Bill C-10, with the exception of some minor changes surrounding user generated content. To debate this legislation properly, we need to fully understand how we got from Bill C-10 to Bill C-11.
Let us refresh a few memories here. Originally, Bill C-10 had a section which excluded user-generated content from its scope. At heritage committee, that was suddenly removed. This threw the door open for the CRTC to regulate nearly anything on the Internet. The government faced severe opposition to this and rightly so. At first, it might appear that the Liberals learned something from all the embarrassment, but sadly, if we dig a little deeper, it is clear that they have not.
What is even more sad is that the NDP has sold out and is going along with it. Section 4.1 is back in Bill C-11, but it is now accompanied by section 4.1(2), which allows for an exemption on the previous exception. This creates a loophole for the CRTC to regulate any content that either directly or indirectly generates revenue. In other words, the CRTC can regulate nearly anything on the Internet.
At the heart of the bill is the lurking threat of expanding censorship. It is only a matter of time, as this new opening moves through the process of bureaucracy. We must carefully consider more than the bill in front of us as it exists on paper, otherwise we will move too close to Big Brother for comfort, and it will turn out to be just as toxic as a reality show, but without any of the entertainment value. I hope bad jokes will remain safe from censorship as well.
Liberal members, along with their neighbours in the NDP, may say that this is not the intention behind the bill. If it is not, I will remind them that good intentions can still pave the road to a very bad place, and that is why Conservatives keep on saying and trying to remind them of. We are doing our job as the official opposition because it is our duty to point out any harmful risks in legislation so Parliament can make better decisions on behalf of Canadians.
This is what every MP should keep in mind. When I took my oath of office as an MP, I swore to defend the Constitution and the fundamental rights of every Canadian. Every single MP did the same thing. We are all under that same obligation. It is entirely possible to fix the problems with the bill while achieving what the NDP-Liberals say it is supposed to do. There should absolutely be a level playing field between smaller Canadian broadcasters and larger streaming services. Canadian content creators have something unique to bring to the table, and we all want to see them in the spotlight. No issues there. We are happy to pass this part of the legislation that supports Canadian producers.
However, where it goes too far is that it is unnecessarily wrong for government to control what people can or cannot access online, and ironically, what type of content Canadians should or should not produce. It is extremely irresponsible to ignore the warnings we have received. Before we know it, it could completely get out of hand. If the NDP-Liberals want to deny it, they should explain to Canadians how they are leaving room for it to happen without closing the obvious loophole.
It is a failure of due diligence and there is no excuse for it. Canada stands in a long tradition of free expression. We are admired and envied around the world for a heritage of free speech among many other freedoms. For centuries and over the years in our lifetime, we have seen it practised in newspapers, letters to the editor, and people just simply writing letters to their elected officials.
Today, we all express ourselves on the Internet as a free space. We can post our opinions. We can access information and engage with other people around the whole world. We have done it as citizens, and we do it as members of Parliament communicating with our fellow Canadians. Right now, it is easy to make posts and videos with our thoughts on all kinds of issues, and it all could be subject to regulations. Bill C-11 fails to provide safeguards for our freedom as we know it.
The government could eventually control what everyday citizens post online. This is what Peter Menzies, the former CRTC vice-chair, had to say about Bill C-10 in the last Parliament: “[It] doesn't just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy.” That should catch all of our attention. The former CRTC vice-chair warned that this legislation is toying with a fundamental right. He is in a position to understand better than some how necessary freedom of speech is for a democratic process to remain intact.
Citizens must always be able to disagree with their governments openly and strongly. We are eroding this right so the government, through the CRTC, could have the ability to regulate what it does or does not like to hear. Quite frankly, it does not like to hear the dissent from the opposition. That said, Bill C-11 would not only give us a paternalistic government, but it might also create practical problems in the area it claims it would help.
Currently, anyone could pull out their device and head over to YouTube, where they can access any content they would like, whether it is kitchen renos, how to fix car problems or content posted by friends, family or people around the world. It works well enough for now, but with the government involved, the CRTC might decide to dictate what content people should see when they search for something specific. While government mandated algorithms analyze how Canadian the content is, what someone is looking for might get pushed to the back of the queue of their search results, if it simply does not pass the test.