Mr. Speaker, I want to start my speech with an aside once again. I am definitely making a habit of starting my speeches with an aside. I want to do this and I think everyone will be fine with it, because last Friday was graduates' day. In Quebec, we celebrated students graduating from high school, CEGEP, vocational school and other schools. We applauded their efforts and their determination at an important step in their studies. I therefore wanted to take a few moments to commend graduates in the riding of Drummond. I am thinking in particular of Elsa Darveau and Ève Turgeon, two young ladies that I adore. Back home, I want to applaud my stepson Christophe and his girlfriend Sophia who are also headed to CEGEP. I want to commend and congratulate everyone graduating in Quebec and Canada, and all those taking this big step in their studies.
I hope that this will be the last time we rise to speak to Bill C‑11. I am optimistic that it will be. We worked on Bill C‑10, we worked on Bill C‑11. It is time to pass this bill that our cultural and broadcasting industries have awaited for such a long time.
I must say that we put a lot of hours into Bill C‑10 after it was introduced in 2020. The spotlight was on us, as members of Parliament, and we were being congratulated and patted on the back by our colleagues and others, but there is a whole team working behind the scenes. I want to acknowledge my support team, which did extraordinary work during our study of Bill C‑10 last year and during our study of Bill C‑11 now before us.
I especially want to thank my assistant Mélissa, who did an amazing job planning more than 60 meetings with stakeholders from all across the industry and who worked non-stop to prepare for the committees. She did an amazing job. I thank my friend Éric, who contributed his thoughts and experience, our research friends, Michael and Vincent, and the whip's team, Paul, Marie-Christine and Charles.
I want to say a special thank you to my colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix, who is here in the House today. Last year, she held meetings on Bill C-10, and she put in a lot of effort. It was a bill that she cared a lot about. I imagine she is pleased today to see that Bill C-11 will be passed. She was a singer in a former life. Actually, that is not true. She will always be a singer. In fact, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has the opportunity to benefit from her talents at just about every meeting. I think this bill was particularly close to her heart because she has made a living from singing and she knows how important the Broadcasting Act is to the entire cultural industry. I therefore thank my colleague for her wonderful help.
I feel like I am giving a thank-you speech at an awards ceremony, but I think it is important. I hope others will follow suit.
I also want to say a big thank you to the interpreters, the committee staff, and the clerks' office staff, who do an absolutely incredible job, always behind the scenes. Without them, I do not think we would be able to get anything done. I want to sincerely thank them as well.
With that, I want to focus on a number of very important things that were added to Bill C‑10, which I spoke about earlier. My pet analogy is that Bill C‑10, as introduced on November 3, 2020, was like a blank paint-by-number. The numbers were there, but they were in need of paint to fill in the structure and content of a bill that was lacking on both fronts.
Earlier, the parliamentary secretary talked about Bill C‑10 and Bill C‑11 as though they were essentially one and the same. He is not completely wrong about that, but he should have said that it was actually the final version of Bill C‑10 as amended and the version of Bill C‑11 as introduced that were virtually the same. That is an important distinction because a lot of work was done on Bill C‑10. Specifically, a lot of work was done to take out significant sections of the Broadcasting Act, for example, paragraph 3(1)(a) on the Canadian ownership and control of broadcasting entities. Last year, the Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment to Bill C‑10 to replace it with the following: “the Canadian broadcasting system shall be effectively owned and controlled by Canadians, and foreign broadcasting undertakings may also provide programming to Canadians”.
We often say that the Bloc Québécois put the protection of French back into the broadcasting bill. That is true, and it is in Bill C‑11 because we managed to add it to Bill C‑10. Here is what the new subparagraph 3(1)(i.1) says: “reflect and support Canada's linguistic duality by placing significant importance on the creation, production and broadcasting of original French language programs, including those from French linguistic minority communities”.
There is an important nuance here that I think is worth bearing in mind and repeating. The bill talks about “original French language programs”, not programs in French. If we had stuck with “programs in French”, as the bill seemed to suggest before we amended this clause, then content dubbed in French would have been given equal weight regardless of the original language. What we were calling for, and it was entirely legitimate for us to do so, was original French content, meaning broadcasting companies would be required to produce original content in the language of Molière, Vigneault, Leclerc, Lévesque and myself.
I am talking a lot about Bill C-10 because we added a few things to it, some of which also made their way into Bill C-11, so they have been discussed again.
One of them was the issue of discoverability, which really got people talking. It has become quite hackneyed and used to spread appalling misinformation. I talked about discoverability in the House last week, and I think it is pretty straightforward as a concept. It aims to ensure that local content is promoted, easy to find and available on any broadcasting platform.
I cannot imagine anyone thinking to themselves that, yes, we produce great content but that we need to make sure that no one can find it, so as not to completely confuse the algorithms of the big foreign companies, which will stop liking us.
I was elected by Quebec voters, who want me to protect their interests. I was not elected by multinational corporations that are based abroad and who report virtually no revenue, pay virtually no taxes and contribute virtually nothing to our broadcasting system and our cultural industry in Canada.
I therefore have no problem imposing discoverability requirements on these businesses, because I find that it makes sense. I find it contemptible that this requirement has caused so much outrage and been used as justification by those who claim that this broadcasting bill essentially amounts to censorship.
Another very interesting addition made to last year's bill is the sunset clause. This emerged from the realization that the Broadcasting Act has not been updated, revised or amended for more than 30 years, and that if nothing were done, it would more than likely be quite some time before a new act were adopted or amendments made to the new Broadcasting Act.
Why would we not require a re-evaluation at specified times to make the necessary amendments and adjustments? That is one of the fine additions included in Bill C-10, and then in Bill C‑11, and it will require the House to review the Broadcasting Act every five years. If some things are not being done properly today, we will not have to wait 30 years to correct them.
Bill C‑11 has had quite a strange trajectory. We can agree that the process was a little messed up. In other words, it was short-circuited or neglected. I apologize; perhaps I could have used a better term.
It did not help that the Conservatives decided they were going to oppose the bill in any way they could, by filibustering during some very important meetings, even though the study process had already been planned out when the committee received the bill. In response, the government opted for a closure motion, which made it tough to talk about amendments and advocate for amendments.
This meant that the committee was not able to have the types of discussions it would normally have when amendments to bills are proposed. I think that the discussion can open members' minds. I wanted to hear my colleagues make arguments, even the ones I find far-fetched. In committee, we are meant to discuss, listen to what others say and keep an open mind. This is how we can amend Bill C‑11 as effectively as possible.
A few Bloc Québécois amendments were rejected. I think the main reason they were rejected is that we did not have the opportunity to explain them. There was no room for debate, particularly on the control we want to have over online companies, or rather the control we refuse to have over them.
It is unbelievable. When we tried to force American, Chinese and international companies, foreign companies, to hire Canadian and Quebec human resources, creative resources and talent as much as possible, I was told that it is impossible because the companies are already investing a lot of money. I was told that we cannot force them to hire locals because that would be too upsetting. That is what I was told. These companies and the web giants say that they are already contributing a lot and that it would be inconvenient if they were forced to use Canadian resources as much as possible. To that I say, they are always nibbling away at the advertising pie and taking the revenues for themselves.
I really want members to understand this. People in this flourishing industry are on the verge of switching careers. They no longer have an income, and media outlets are closing up shop, yet web giants tell us they do not want us to impose those kinds of constraints. Our doormat of a Canadian government lies down and has no problem letting them walk all over it.
I sincerely hope the government will take a somewhat firmer stance, especially when it comes to orders the CRTC can give. The CRTC does actually require good faith negotiations between the companies that create programs and those that distribute or broadcast them, and obviously that includes online platforms in our current system. That means the CRTC would need the tools to impose fair negotiation rules should good faith negotiations not happen. That idea was turned down too.
I was told it would not work, that the government could not give the CRTC tools to respond should negotiations not take place in good faith. That means big corporations will be able to walk all over our little-guy production companies and carry on exploiting our Quebec and Canadian content creators for profit.
Who might need these negotiations to be protected? Small programming businesses might need that, although many of them have grown. Consider APTN, for example. APTN's wonderful model is being emulated around the world. New Zealanders were inspired by what APTN has done in Canada and created a similar channel. CPAC is another example. I think everyone here is quite familiar with CPAC. We can also think of The Weather Network. These are all businesses that need this protection, but they are not getting it because we think that if we are too strict with online businesses, they will be angry. Do we really think they will go away because they are angry? They make billions of dollars.
Here is another thing that really frustrated me. We hear about balancing the market, making the market fair to ensure that our traditional broadcasting companies are not penalized in relation to online companies. In that regard, I am quite happy that the part II fees, which imposed significant and onerous financial conditions on licensed broadcasters, have been dropped. I think dropping these fees should really help them, or at least give them a little breathing room. However, the CRTC still cannot issue orders.
Let us talk about one of the amendments that I thought did not make much sense:
The [CRTC] may, in furtherance of its objects, make orders imposing conditions on the carrying on of broadcasting undertakings that the Commission considers appropriate for the implementation of the broadcasting policy set out in subsection 3(1), including conditions respecting...any change in the ownership or control of a broadcasting undertaking that is required to be carried on under a licence.
I said that the idea of a licence should be removed because we want that to apply to online undertakings. However, that was rejected. People did not want that to apply to online undertakings. It is as though they were still scared of the big online company monster. It is as though they were afraid of stepping on the toes of the giant.
We are afraid to step on the toes of the giant, but that giant is crushing us and we are saying nothing about it. We think it is amusing because we can watch our movies and our shows. We do not even realize that our creators are starving.
Bill C‑11 will pass. The result of the vote will be close, but it will pass. I hope that the fears of those who have profusely expressed them will be allayed when they eventually realize that the “censorship” and “control” of what they envisioned are fabrications. These arguments are pure fearmongering and really have no merit. All the rambling that took place over the past few months and the Conservatives' systematic filibustering when Bill C‑11 was being studied in committee has only resulted in the postponement of important studies, such as that of bill C‑18.
More than 450 news businesses have closed their doors. This is a crisis. Because so much time has been wasted for unfounded ideological reasons, a slew of media outlets, including small regional media, are on the brink of closure, and I find that outrageous. I think that these people should show their frustration by pounding a table and making sure their MPs hear them. It is absurd that Bill C‑18 cannot be studied sooner and that we must wait until the fall to discuss this urgent matter.