Madam Speaker, considering my previous career, it is a great pleasure and an honour for me to participate in this essential debate on a bill that is very important but that we believe, as my colleague from Alberta did a great job of explaining, has some serious flaws and could really do with another look.
Before I get into the substance of the bill, I would like to revisit some of the facts. I am sure my colleagues, particularly those in government, will waste no time insisting that, unfortunately, the Conservatives are once again delaying the parliamentary process. That is patently false. We have a job to do and we have to do it properly. It is important to note that this bill is almost, in a way, a carbon copy of the old bill we debated in the previous Parliament. When I say “old”, I mean that it could very well have been exactly the same bill that went through proper process, but the Liberal government decided to call an election right in the middle of the pandemic and right in the middle of the summer. The election that nobody wanted cost Canadians a fortune, over $600 million, and ended with a cabinet shuffle and numerous bills, including this one, going back to square one.
I therefore want to advise any Canadians who may be watching that, if any cabinet members opposite happen to mention that our motion calls for more in-depth study in committee, it is only because those folks over there delayed the process that was already under way. By calling the election, they delayed the whole approach that was established for us to study the bill, and all the stakeholders had to be called back.
As I said in my introduction, as a former journalist, I am obviously very interested in this subject. I had the privilege and pleasure of practising that wonderful profession for 20 years and sharing information with the public. Of course my 20-year career had its ups and downs, as well as its great joys. When I began in radio in 1987, in Beauce, where I cut my teeth, technology did not exist as it does today, which is quite logical. In 1987, when I started at Radio-Beauce, in Saint-Georges de Beauce, I was very proud to see that we had manual sliders on the board rather than round knobs. It was very technologically advanced at the time, and we were very proud of it. Nowadays, you have to go to a museum to see that kind of thing, so yes, technology has evolved.
When I started my journalism career in television, a production facility cost about four times the price of a house, whereas today, people can use an iPhone to record a video and broadcast it live from anywhere. That costs far less than four times the price of a house. Although everything in life is too expensive, in this particular case, let us just say that there are substantial cost savings compared to when I started as a journalist.
I went on that very long tangent to say that we need to adapt to changes in technology when it comes to the news. First and foremost, we must protect the public interest.
Is the public well served by the bill we are currently studying? In our opinion, there are flaws.
Are producers, artists and creators well served by this bill? We feel there are weaknesses in this area as well.
Are the large companies that produce video, audio or journalistic content well protected? Here again, we believe that there are valid questions that need to be analyzed in parliamentary committee.
We always have to find that balance and, as we see it, that is where this bill fails. I do want to point out that things have changed even though no amendments have been made. That might apply more to print media, but anyway. Let me give an example.
I have often been called upon by the press for my thoughts on various issues as a journalist. After giving the same answer a number of times, I was harshly criticized by people who had not bothered to read the article in question carefully. I said that I could not remember the last time I had sat down to watch the news or bought myself a newspaper. Taken out of context, that could be seen as an incendiary remark about journalists, but it is not at all.
Nowadays, because of modern technology, we can access all the stories we hoped to see during the nightly ritual of the Téléjournal. Like everyone in my generation, I grew up religiously tuning in to Bernard Derome's Téléjournal at 10:00 or 10:30, which was without a doubt the most highly regarded intellectual beacon and the go-to source for news.
Today, all the news reports are just a click away on the Internet, whether it is the Téléjournal, TVA, Noovo or other newscasts. We no longer need to sit at home in the living room at a specific time to watch TV, participate in the nightly ritual with Bernard Derome, as I did for years and decades. I was very happy to do it, by the way, thanks to the quality of news offered by Mr. Derome, his team and his reporters.
The same thing goes for newspapers. Why would people pay for the news on paper when all the articles are on the Internet? That is why I said that I could not remember the last time I sat down to watch a newscast on TV or bought a newspaper. People misunderstood me and said that was horrible, an attack on the news. On the contrary, it is the reality of the situation.
I wanted to say that because things have changed. Take, for example, Le Soleil, a daily newspaper in Quebec's capital that is more than 100 years old. When someone starts reading an article on this newspaper's website, a message will appear on the screen after a certain point, telling them that they must pay to read the rest of the article.
The media has adapted. I spoke about Le Soleil, but the same thing is being done by the Toronto Star, if I am not mistaken, and The Globe and Mail. Other media outlets have this paywall, which means that they have self-regulated to meet the requirements of the current act to gain access to this source of funding. That is why we must also find the right financial balance.
Let us now talk about the big players, such as GAFAM, YouTube or Netflix, companies that can present, produce and provide online content.
As citizens, we buy their products, but our money does not necessarily end up in producers' pockets. That is why we must come up with the right legislation that will enable producers not just to get the money they need, but to invest it in creating even more content. In the end, the reader or the online streamer consuming the documentary or show will have to pay their fair share as well.
From our perspective, this bill does not provide adequate answers to these very pertinent questions. That is why we are asking the government, through the motion moved by my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill, to go back to the drawing board by referring the bill to a parliamentary committee.
We have to pay our fair share. We have to find the balance between traditional media and new media. Creators must be allowed to develop in this world as it currently exists. Many Quebeckers will remember how an extraordinary artist emerged at the height of the pandemic when we were all in lockdown. Damien Robitaille is a one-man band who still puts on incredibly unique shows.
This is why it is important not to look upon new media and new online platforms with disdain. On the contrary, we must seize the opportunity, because every new development brings opportunities. It is up to us, as citizens, to seize them. It is up to us, as legislators, to regulate them properly by protecting freedom of expression and ensuring that resources are equitably shared. We also need to allow artists and news professionals to continue to entertain and inform us.