Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to rise in support of Bill C-11, the online streaming act. I spent 20 years as a broadcaster, following a short career as a newspaper reporter. I saw first-hand the impact on Canadian storytellers once online streaming companies entered the fray and altered the way we and people around the world consume news and entertainment. I am so thrilled that now, as a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, I can play a role in helping level the playing field for Canadian content creators, with the passage of Bill C-11, an update to the Broadcasting Act.
This was the first big piece of legislation that I had the privilege to work on.
The Broadcasting Act, as we have heard, was introduced in 1991.
That was before I was a journalist, when I had just come back to Canada after spending a year in France. I had started studying political science at the University of Calgary. It was a different time. Times have changed.
Throughout the study of Bill C-11, the heritage committee heard from artists, creators and broadcasters about how much the Broadcasting Act has helped Canadians appreciate our own unique culture.
We heard from Gord Sinclair, of The Tragically Hip, that the little band from Kingston would not have been able to reach across the country from coast to coast to coast, and have such an impact on so many Canadians with their music, if it had not been for the Broadcasting Act, which has ensured that Canadian artists are heard, seen and appreciated by Canadians all across the country, that our artists do not have to go overseas or across the border in order to have successful careers. This is about seeing Canadian artists and creators succeed, and be supported and appreciated right here at home.
For decades, broadcasters in Canada have given us incredible Canadian content on our televisions and radios. We made a conscious decision to support our fellow Canadians, to help them share their talents and their stories with the rest of world. As a condition of their licences, TV and radio broadcasters have had to invest in our culture and our artists. It is why we have all the Canadian content we love. Whenever we are watching Schitt’s Creek or Orphan Black, or listening to Hamilton’s own Arkells or a classic like Stompin’ Tom Connors, it makes us proud to be Canadian, to support and encourage our Canadian talent.
Our culture is who we are. It is our past, our present and our future. Now that Canadians consume their media from a bigger variety of platforms, it is time to update the Broadcasting Act and protect our culture for generations to come.
I remember 1991, when we were listening to local radio to learn about the newest music and artists. When we found something good, we would head to the mall and buy the cassette tape at the music store. Today, most Canadians get their music on YouTube. We want to make sure they can still find and identify Canadian content from their streaming services.
Bill C-11 ensures that big players like YouTube and TikTok start contributing to the system, like our traditional broadcasters have been doing for decades now. Back in 1991, we knew which TV shows played on which night and we made plans to get home in time so we would not miss anything. If we wanted to watch a movie, our options were either a Blockbuster rental or the theatre.
Today our streaming services have usurped cable services. I still have cable, I still like to watch my local news, but I understand that today, most Canadians stream their content. People can stream pretty much anywhere they can get a signal, through their TV, phone or car. The technological advances many of us in this room have lived through since the 90s are extraordinary.
How wonderful and amazing to be able to watch our favourite shows and movies whenever and wherever we want. We can even binge an entire season of say, Canada’s Drag Race and not have to wait with anxious anticipation week after week to find out what happens at the end.
However, streaming platforms like Amazon Prime and YouTube broadcast to Canadians without the same requirements that traditional broadcasters adhere to, including supports to the industry and its players that helped build Canada’s culture. These companies absolutely invest in our economy in other ways, and we are fortunate to have such a bounty of entertainment to consume. We can proudly point to many productions made on our shores and in our streets, with our people telling our stories.
Streaming services do not have to produce and share content that reflects our Canadian story and shared identity. They do not have to protect Canadian rights of content ownership. They do not have to pay into the system that nurtures young talent and gives it space to grow and be seen and heard. Until Bill C-11 is passed into law, our culture will be in danger of being lost in the noise of all the content available to Canadians online.
Asking the streaming companies to make Canadian content more fundable does not in any way limit Canadians' ability to watch what they want, or produce the content they want or post the content they produce. All regulatory requirements and obligations in the online streaming act only affect the broadcaster and the platforms, never the user or the creator.
This bill does not limit Canadian freedom of expression in any way, shape or form. We are not telling streamers how to do their business or construct their algorithms. We are just saying that they benefit from our country and our stories and our creators. They have to contribute. They have to let Canadians see through the clutter and identify their own music and artists, storytellers and other creators.
This legislation will provide real opportunities for Canadians, including community media, local news, French-language productions, racialized communities, third-language programming and so much more. This legislation is incredibly important to ensure space within our broadcasting system for indigenous storytelling and indigenous languages.
When it comes to Canadian stories and storytelling, I would be remiss if I did not mention the news, community news and hard-working journalists. The broadcasting landscape has changed since I was in journalism, with bigger players impacting the Canadian news market. We need to ensure that our broadcasters can keep up and are protected, and that Canadian journalists continue to tell the stories of our Canadian communities.
The 1991 Broadcasting Act has run its course. It is now undeniably out of date, but its principles of fairness to Canadian creators remain crucial to this country. We need this legislation now so that we can better support our Canadian broadcasting sector. Canadian organizations and creators will continue to lose ground if this bill does not pass. We must all work together to see this come to fruition.
I would like to express my thanks to the Senate for its exhaustive study of this bill, which included the longest clause-by-clause consideration of a bill in Senate history. This has been about teamwork, about getting this bill to its best form. Although the Conservatives have been working against the team, spouting misinformation and raising unfounded fears on what this bill is really about, spending more time filibustering than working collaboratively, we got there.
We agree with many of the Senate amendments. As my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, mentioned yesterday, this government is fully supporting 18 of the 26 amendments brought about in the clause-by-clause study of Bill C-11. We also accept another two amendments with modifications, so all of the changes that adhere to the spirit of the legislation. This is another testament to the truly collaborative work that has gone on.
It is time that we pass this bill, that we show our support to Canadian artists and creators. I truly hope that all my colleagues will join me in supporting Bill C-11. It is time to bring our broadcasting system into the 21st century and do what is right for this country and our culture.