Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C‑11 at report stage. Let me start by saying that this bill matters a lot to the Bloc Québécois and has since the last Parliament.
I spoke in favour of this bill in a speech last month. However, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the hard work of my colleague from Drummond, who has devoted himself, body and soul, to this bill ever since its previous incarnation as Bill C‑10. He deserves every bit of the applause I am hearing right now.
I will begin my speech today with a reminder about how important Bill C‑11 is to the discoverability of francophone culture. I will move on to a reminder about the importance of local media, and I will wrap up with an expression of hope regarding the importance of fighting misinformation, which has had such an impact on this parliamentary session.
As I was drafting my speech, I came across the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The CDCE states that Bill C‑11, which updates the Broadcasting Act, is one of Canada's important and long-awaited cultural policies. On its website, the CDCE has what I think is a very good summary of the importance of Bill C‑11.
It ensures that Canadian creations and productions have a prominent place on our airwaves and on our screens, and that the companies generating revenues from access to culture in the music and audiovisual sectors contribute to their creation, development and distribution.
Canadians are increasingly accessing culture through online platforms. Much of the broadcasting ecosystem is transitioning to digital content. This has a number of benefits for the public and for creators: increased access to a variety of stories, music and ideas, increased opportunities for creators to launch their work, and renewed ability to reach audiences in Canada and around the world...
Many large corporations take advantage of this digital age without any obligation to contribute. Artists, creators, producers, publishers and other professionals of the music and audiovisual industries, as well as for Canadian society, do not reap the potential benefits of investment in the Canadian cultural ecosystem. C-11 was introduced to correct this unfairness.
Unfairness is indeed a problem.
The purpose of the new bill essentially remains the same as the previous one, namely to apply the Broadcasting Act to the web giants by forcing them to contribute financially to the creation and discovery of Canadian cultural content.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, will receive new powers that will allow it to determine which online services will have to be regulated and what quotas will need to be respected. Bill C‑11 will help better regulate video streamers such as Netflix, Apple and TV Plus, Disney+, Prime Video, but also companies that specialize in streaming music online such as Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music. The bill will require them to contribute to Canadian content when commercial items such as albums are downloaded and distributed on platforms.
However, the exclusion clause, namely clause 4.1, addressed earlier, has been revised. Now creators, users and social media influencers are exempt from the legislation. The money a creator earns from their content is immaterial in the eyes of the new legislation. So‑called amateur content on social media would be exempt. The legislation focuses specifically on commercial products.
The level of monetization of the use of content in full or in part by a broadcasting undertaking regulated by the CRTC will, among other things, be taken into consideration. The CRTC will also have the option to impose conditions associated with discoverability and the development of Canadian content.
The bill will not touch the algorithms that can influence the recommendations made to users, and that is very important. The Department of Canadian Heritage says it wants to focus on discoverability outcomes and not intervene directly with respect to web giants' algorithms. There are still questions to be asked, for example, on whether the two are not already intertwined and whether greater discoverability of Canadian and francophone content is necessarily dependent on algorithms.
In our case, it is the outcome that counts. Quebec, francophone and Canadian content must be much more accessible on platforms. Ottawa is trying to give the CRTC the power to hold discussions with each of the digital companies to determine how much they should contribute to Canadian content based on their business model. The CRTC will be able to impose administrative and monetary penalties on those digital broadcasters that refuse to comply with the Broadcasting Act.
Finally, the Minister of Canadian Heritage is proposing other legislative changes in his bill that will apply to all broadcasters, traditional or otherwise. The law should also strengthen programs produced by Canadians that cover news and current events—from the local and regional to the national and international—and that reflect the viewpoints of Canadians, including the viewpoints of indigenous persons and of Canadians from racialized communities and diverse ethnocultural backgrounds.
After everything we just talked about with regard to this legislation, I also want to mention the gains that the Bloc Québécois was able to secure with Bill C-11.
The Bloc Québécois did a lot to improve the previous version of the bill, namely Bill C-10, by ensuring the protection and promotion of original French-language programs; the discoverability of Canadian programming services and original Canadian content, including French-language original content, in an equitable proportion; the promotion of original Canadian content in both official languages and in indigenous languages; a mandatory contribution to Canada's broadcasting system if a company is unable to make use of Canadian resources as part of its programming; the requirement for first-run French-language content, in order to ensure there are new French-language shows on Netflix, for example, and not old ones; and a sunset clause that would provide for a comprehensive review of the act every five years.
This is very important, because we will thoroughly review C‑11 and meet with the various industry stakeholders and experts to get a sense of what is happening in the industry. We will have to keep evolving this law. We will not hesitate to try to improve it, if necessary, and we will surely propose again many of the hundreds of amendments that were rejected in the spring. Some of our proposals would have made improvements for local, community and independent players, for example.
We have to keep in mind we want a piece of legislation that will not be obsolete as soon as it is passed. Technology is developing very quickly, and we need a long-term vision to ensure that the act does not become outdated after just a few years. Flexible legislation is important, especially since Quebec's and Canada's cultural sectors have been waiting for decades for this act to be updated.
The cultural sector made a simple demand just a few days after Bill C‑11 was introduced. We need to ensure that this bill is passed quickly. The sector has waited long enough.
In May 2021, on Tout le monde en parle, even the former minister of Canadian Heritage said that every month that goes by without us enacting Bill C-10, now Bill C-11, represents more than $70 million that does not go to our artists in Quebec and Canada.
Second, do not forget that, like Bill C-18, which specifically focuses on assistance to print media and is based on the Australian model, Bill C-11 also fits into the context of this media crisis.
Since their inception, Facebook, Twitter and Google have been appropriating news articles and reports without giving any compensation to the authors or the media outlets concerned. For too many years, the digital giants have therefore been instrumental in dismantling our traditional media. This phenomenon began with national advertisers deserting traditional media for Facebook and Google, later followed by local advertisers, who also stopped buying advertising in local weeklies in favour of the giants.
Advertising on digital platforms is now the property of Google and Facebook, which alone are pocketing 80% of online ad revenue. Moreover, digital giants pay nothing for journalistic content that ends up on their platform, and they disregard the copyright of journalists whose work others share on social media.
Third, I really want to talk about misinformation, especially since there has been so much of it in connection with Bill C‑11: cat videos that will not be allowed to circulate, freedom of expression denied and information controlled, like in Russia. I have heard so many shocking things during the debates on this issue.
Just this week, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada expressed concerns about the impact of misinformation on the health of our democratic institutions. He pointed to the demonstration in downtown Ottawa that paralyzed the city for three weeks, but he emphasized the importance of our shared responsibility to fight ignorance and hatred, which lead to misinformation. He expressed one wish for people in positions of authority, such as ourselves, namely that we pay more attention to the statements we make and their veracity.
I also replaced a colleague at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security during its deliberations on radicalization and online hate. We cannot continue to ignore our role as elected representatives in the deterioration of public discourse on topics like Bill C-11 and in the divisiveness that exists. I hope to see this place debating a bill to address online hate sooner rather than later.
As a final point, I do not know whether this will be my last speech of the session, so I want to remind everyone listening of my unwavering commitment to the people of Shefford. I always keep in mind that I am accountable to my constituents, first and foremost, and, in this case, I am thinking of our local media in particular. I want nothing but the very best for the people of my region who have a right to access francophone cultural products, and for our artists, who have such an important and vibrant presence in our communities. They have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, so they need some good news. Let us do something for them and pass Bill C-11.