Mr. Speaker, once upon a time there was a group of candle makers who had concerns about the competition they were facing. They said, “We are suffering from the unfair competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price.”
Who was that competitor? It was the sun. The sun was firing beams right through the windows of homes. It was providing competition to the candle makers. Their solution was to call for a law that would force people to close “all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds—in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses”.
The candle makers' solution to too much competition was to ban windows to keep the sun out and force people to buy their products. That is exactly what we are getting from the large corporations that want more profit and less competition.
Since the inception of the Internet, the big companies that once dominated the news, the arts and other cultural industries have had to become more competitive because other people have been able to enter their field. Previously, this was impossible. An individual in a basement could not produce music and make it available to listeners, because it had to pass through a government-regulated broadcasting system. Now, competition is wide open and people can produce their own products without having to go through big companies like Bell, Corus, Rogers or CBC/Radio-Canada, which dominated the market when it was regulated by the CRTC.
We are now seeing an amazing reduction in the costs associated with culture and news. Usually, when industries say they are experiencing problems, it is because costs have increased, yet today, costs have decreased significantly, by almost 100%. It used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce an ad for a movie. Now, a teenager with a small computer can produce the same movie ad at no cost.
This also applies to the news. We are hearing that the media is in trouble, but why is that? Production costs have dropped dramatically. Distribution costs are almost zero because there is no need for printing or for all the infrastructure required to physically distribute a publication. It is now automatic thanks to the Internet. The cost of marketing has plummeted because consumers can get the news or learn about a cultural product automatically, without any advertising, just by going on the Internet.
With costs having come down so much, news agencies should be celebrating, so why are they so angry at the status quo? It is not because their costs have gone up. It is because competition has increased.
The windows are open, and now sunlight is pouring into the houses. Fresh air can come in. It is not just a small group of privileged gatekeepers who get to control what Canadians and others see and hear. The people can decide for themselves.
We are hearing that the other parties are against the web giants. Bill C-11 does nothing about the web giants. Once this bill passes, all cultural products will still be offered by the web giants. They will not be affected. It is simply the type of products offered on those same platforms that will be affected.
Instead of algorithms giving the audience what they want to see, that audience will see what the government wants them to see. This is not about taking profits away from the web giants. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and the other platforms will continue to dominate. Instead, the rules by which these platforms operate will simply change to favour content chosen by the government.
Web giants are totally fine with that. They are happy. Now the big broadcasting and culture corporations will join them and reap the benefits. They will use their political weight to get preferential treatment in government-manipulated algorithms.
If we give that power to a government instead of leaving it in the hands of consumers, where it is now, what are the consequences of that? Those with political power will have more say over cultural and news content. Why? According to Bill C‑11, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, a state body, will decide how the algorithms suggest content to Canadians.
Accordingly, people who influence this government agency will have a greater say over their Internet presence. Who are these people? The rich, obviously, the very rich, because poor people cannot hire lobbyists.
To be discovered on the Internet today, creators need to produce content that people want to see. Then, when people see it, the algorithm will recommend it to others. With Bill C-11, however, in order to get discovered, creators will need to have a lobbyist who can go to the CRTC to convince it to promote their content. A 14-year-old girl who plays guitar in her basement and makes fantastic music will not get discovered, because she does not have a lobbyist. She will not able to get her content on every phone and computer in Canada because she has no influence over the CRTC. Her content, by law, is not Canadian, because “Canadian” means being registered with interest groups recognized as Canadian productions.
Bill C-11 does not define Canadian content. The content produced by the girl playing the guitar in her basement will not be considered Canadian content. In contrast, CBC content that is copied and pasted from a CNN story in Washington focused exclusively on American politics and produced in the United States will be considered Canadian content, because the CBC, a large corporation, produced it.
Those with political power will have a greater voice on the Internet, which will obviously reduce diversity. The Internet has given us access to enormous diversity. Before the Internet, if artists wanted to sell their music, they had to have space in a store. That space was limited, and it was only accessible to the most popular groups in North America. Now physical space is no longer necessary, since the Internet is not a physical place. On the Internet, there is unlimited room for everyone.
Let us imagine we feel like listening to something unique, like klezmer, which is Jewish jazz. In any given city, there may be only about a hundred people who like klezmer. Before the Internet, this type of music was not popular enough to be available locally. Now it is available online.
What the government is proposing is a system in which public servants will determine what is Canadian enough, and, once again, that will be what comes out of large corporations that will have had the opportunity to lobby the government. That will reduce the diversity of voices and concentrate power among oligopolies. If members do not believe me when I say that lobbyists will take control, I will prove it.
When a government grows, more and more money is spent on lobbying. There is one thing I agree on with the New Democrats: businesses and corporations like to make money. When the government controls the economy, corporations invest in their ability to influence the government so they can benefit. I will give members a few figures.
Since this government took power, government spending has risen by 55%. That is a huge increase. What does this mean in terms of lobbying? There has been an increase of over 100% in lobbying-related communications.
According to a study done by a U.S. firm, the more the government in Washington spends, the more corporations spend on lobbying. If the money and economic power lie with the government, lobbyists are a good return on investment.
When companies realize that earning money on the Internet depends on CRTC support, there will be a huge increase in the number of lobbyists paid hundreds of dollars an hour to control what Canadians can watch and listen to. Politicians will set the criteria for what Canadians can watch and listen to. Decisions will be based on a consensus within the government. Instead of Canadians deciding what to watch and what to say, politicians and public servants will manipulate the algorithms to their advantage.
It is incredible that the Bloc Québécois supports giving this power to a federal agency in Ottawa. It is a woke agency, here in Ottawa, that will determine what Quebeckers can watch and listen to. The Bloc Québécois is not a pro-independence party but a pro-dependence party. It is not a sovereignist party, it is a centralist party.
We, the Conservatives, will never force Quebeckers to listen to the words of a federal government in Ottawa or to submit to its dictates. We will give Quebeckers the freedom to have their own voice. When I am prime minister, Quebeckers will be masters in their own house by making their own cultural choices. We will never force Quebeckers to listen to a woke bureaucracy in Ottawa, which knows nothing about Quebec culture or Quebeckers.
We believe that freedom should be paramount. I will stand for the position of prime minister to ensure that Canada becomes the freest country in the world by giving back to Canadians, including artists, control over their lives. There can be no freedom without freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Our Conservative government will scrap this bill so that Canadians can choose their own path, guaranteeing that our system will be one of the freest in the world, instead of trying to replicate the Chinese dictatorship that the Prime Minister has said he admires so much.
We will continue to fight to prevent this bill from passing. The Conservative government will repeal it as soon as possible. The Conservative Party is the only party in the House of Commons to defend Canadians' freedoms and their culture by making it possible for them to create it. It will be the Conservative Party that will restore common sense in Canada.
Once upon a time there was a group of candle-makers who talked about a grave threat to their industry. They said we were “suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price”, to quote Frederic Bastiat.
Who was that competitor? It was the sun. The sun was firing beams right through the windows of homes in French villages across the countryside, which was providing daytime competition to the candle-makers, who therefore did not have as much in profit as they would have otherwise had absent this competition. Their solution was to ban windows to keep the light out. That way they could sell more candles for use throughout the day with less competition coming in from the outside world.
That is exactly what we are getting from the large broadcasting and entertainment corporations, the oligopoly that dominated the voice of Canadians for far too long until the windows opened and we got the Internet. The Internet opened up competition. This is ironic because we hear today that the news media is in trouble. They are hemorrhaging jobs and opportunities. They say that the cultural sector is suffering. What do they say is the cause of the suffering? It is that the cost of marketing, production and distribution has plummeted. Colleagues heard that right. Because costs have gone down, the industry is suddenly suffering. Actually, it is not suffering.
News media has never been more vibrant and more alive than it is today, but it is not the establishment, oligopolistic media that dominates the voices around Parliament Hill. Those voices are suffering. They are losing audiences because Canadians have a choice, for a change. For the longest time, the oligopoly in this country, which is controlled by Bell, Rogers, Shaw, now Corus, and a few other powerful corporate players, was able to use its might with the regulator to ensure its dominance across the air waves and into the homes of Canadians. It was able to use a large moat. That is to say that the difficulty of getting into the market comes from the fact that they used to have to produce paper and ink to send their product into homes, but now all of those things have been knocked down. The windows have been opened.
People can enter the marketplace with very few barriers, so those powerful oligopolistic corporations are trying to reinstate the barriers. In other words, they are trying to block the windows to keep the light and the fresh air out so they can dominate the candle-making or, in their case, the news and culture-making business. They do not want more Canadian culture. What they want is more control over Canadian culture.
On one side are the corporations that want economic control over news and culture, and on the other side, the government wants political control over news and culture. Therefore, we have this alliance of big government and big business ganging up on the customer, forcing, through this legislation, the customer to consume content they would not otherwise be interested in.
Right now, the big tech platforms' interest is very simple. They are interested in making money. Let us be blunt about it. How do they do that? They feed people the content they want to see. That keeps people on the platform longer. When this bill passes, those platforms will still be interested in making money. They will make just as much money because nothing this bill does would shut down Netflix, YouTube, Facebook or anything else. They will still be the dominant platforms.
What would change is that instead of having algorithms that give people things they want to see, algorithms would give people things the government wants them to see. The government would operate through the CRTC, a large, woke government agency that would then manipulate algorithms to promote so-called Canadian content.
What is Canadian content? The government cannot tell us. It suggests, for example, that Canadian content is a CBC article that is plagiarized in Washington about American politics. That would be an American-made story about American politics, but it would be Canadian content because it would be provided by the state broadcaster in Canada.
A single mother who produces a video about raising funds for her kid's local sports team would not be Canadian content because it would not be on the approved list established by the CRTC. In other words, a local Canadian story by a Canadian about local Canadians would not be considered Canadian content because the mother is not a news agency or registered with any of these so-called cultural bodies. Therefore, she will be pushed down the algorithm and given a smaller voice while more powerful corporate voices gain predominance.
We know that this is public choice theory. Those with money turn that money into influence, which they turn into more money, more influence, and so on and so forth. If people do not believe me, look at the amount that companies are spending on lobbying right now. Government spending is up 55% since the government took office. That is correlated to a nearly 100% increase in the number of paid lobbying interactions that have happened here in Ottawa as recorded by the lobbyist registry.
A company out of the United States did a similar study in Washington showing that the bigger the government spending there, the more corporations spend on lobbying the U.S. capital; there is nearly a perfect correlation between those two things. Why is this the case? It is because if we have a bigger and more powerful government in the economy, then those seeking profit will invest in influencing that government in order to turn that influence into more money. That is exactly what would happen here.
A small group of broadcasting corporations would have all the influence, as they had in the writing of this bill. They would be in the CRTC office every day asking for the algorithm to be tweaked a little bit more so they can end up in the newsfeeds or YouTube streams of Canadians more than their competitors do. It would be a race for political power rather than a race for better cultural products.
In other words, instead of pleasing the audience, they would get ahead by pleasing politicians and bureaucrats. That is what happens. The privileged elite would have more control and a greater voice, and the people on the ground would have less control.
Ironically, this would run against everything that the parties across the way claim they want. They claim they are for diversity. “Diversity is our strength,” says the Prime Minister. However, by giving a small oligopoly control over what Canadians see on the Internet, the bill would obviously mean less diversity because it would be only the programming that they favour.
Do members think the ethnocultural publications would get the same deal from the CRTC that the CBC, Bell Canada, Rogers and other telecommunications behemoths would get? Of course they would not. The small Punjabi paper in Surrey does not have a lobbyist in Ottawa that can work on the CRTC.
Those in a Jewish community may like klezmer, which is wonderful Jewish jazz music. Specialty cultural products like that might not have a big enough audience to generate political power at the CRTC. Under the current situation, at least through the tap of their thumb, they can get the music they want. However, that music would not be considered Canadian enough by the corporations who would generate the algorithm with the CRTC, and therefore, those more diverse and unique voices would be shut out and deprived of online oxygen. Thus, there would be less diversity.
They claim they want to take power away from big corporations, and yet this bill would do precisely the opposite. It would concentrate power in the hands of a small number of broadcasting and telecommunications behemoths: the ones who have been lobbying so hard for so long to get this bill passed.
They claim that they want more artistic expression, and yet the artistic expression of people who are not part of the established cultural scene would be snuffed out altogether. Even great Canadian artists who have never been associated with conservativism have spoken up against this bill. Let us look at the words of Margaret Atwood, who actually said that this bill represents “creeping totalitarianism”. That is exactly what it is.
When the government decides what the people can see and say, freedom of expression will not have long to live in this country. In this party, we believe in subsection 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “2(b), or not 2(b)? That is the question”, and Conservatives have an answer. We will repeal this antispeech censorship law and restore freedom of expression on the Internet right across Canada.
Inherent in this bill is the same old elitist mentality of the ruling class, that they know better: If Canadians are left to their own devices, they will consume the wrong kind of culture. Our Liberal friends would tell us that Canadians are just not sophisticated enough to make their own decisions about what to see and hear. There is a smarter class of more cultured, cosmopolitan types who understand culture in a way that the 37 million Canadians who do the work of the nation do not; therefore, we should have this cultural elite embedded in our bureaucracy, interlinked with our large corporations who would decide on their behalf. The assumption is that somehow these elites are more virtuous. What is more virtuous about them? What makes them so special? If they are the ones watching over the system of culture, who watches the watchmen? Who controls the controllers? These rules are made for the rulers and not for the common people. Canadian culture comes from the bottom up, not the top down.
To the suggestion that Canadians are not sophisticated or cultured enough to decide for themselves, what evidence is there that the groups of politicians in this chamber, bureaucrats over at the CRTC or lobbyists in the broadcasting corporations who would make the rules under this law are more sophisticated, culturally advanced and smarter?
I, for one, believe that if we want smarts and sophistication, we should look to the mechanic who can take apart and put back together an engine block; the electrician whose meticulous fingers send lightning through copper wires to illuminate our homes; or the farmer who is able to read the weather, soil and commodity prices to bring food from his field to our fork. Their minds are ever more advanced and capable of deciding what is and what is not good culture.
We in this House of Commons are servants and not masters. It is not our role to dictate from above what the people think, see and hear, but the contrary. They have the org chart upside-down. They think it is Prime Minister, then House of Commons and then the people on the bottom. Actually, it is the other way around. It is the people; then the members in this House; and then the Prime Minister, which means “first servant”. That is how our system was designed. Therefore, Conservatives will always stand for the common sense of the common people and united for our common home. Let us bring it home: their home, my home, our home. Let us bring home freedom of speech for all Canadians.