Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Thornhill.
I would like to start by giving a big shout-out and thanks to my colleague, the member for Lethbridge, for all of her exceptionally hard work in stopping this dumpster fire from happening, but here we are tonight.
I think it is really important for people to understand why we are here and what is happening, so I want to break down how what we are dealing with tonight would sacrifice Canadians' freedom of speech, destroy Canada's capacity for investigative journalism and divide our country into more extreme views. I will explain what has happened, who is winning and who is losing because of this mess, and debunk the information that the Liberals and their coalition partners in the NDP are using to cover up the impact that the bill would have on Canadian culture and the economy.
What would the bill do? It would create a link tax. It would make digital companies like Facebook, otherwise known as Meta, and Google, with the possibility of TikTok and Twitter following, according to officials, pay a tax to media companies when they post links to the story they create on their sites. The legacy, old media companies want this link tax, because their share prices are dropping, as they did not figure out how to create enough monetizable product to replace print advertising, so they need other, easier sources of income to provide returns to their shareholders and bonuses to their CEOs.
A simpler way of understanding this for someone who is watching is to try to remember the last time they bought a physical newspaper. It was probably quite a while ago. Companies that relied on someone reading the ads in those physical papers did not figure out how to make money when people stopped buying them, so now they want the government to step in with this link tax. To them, this makes sense. They hope that the link tax will be a cheap way for them to replace the revenue they lost from print advertising. However, that assumption is very wrong, and we have proof. This is where things start to affect Canadians in a very negative way.
When confronted with this link tax, Facebook and Google simply said, “Well, if you are going to make us pay this tax, we are just not going to post the links.” This kind of makes sense, because there is nothing that is actually forcing these companies to post the links, and they have more to gain from a business perspective than to lose if they do not follow through.
The administrative cost to these companies of setting up systems to monitor and pay this tax would be very high, while the revenue that news links, particularly Canadian news links, make up is a very small percentage of their overall traffic. Second, Facebook and Google, in posting media links, actually give free advertising to media companies, in that they expose their content to Facebook and Google's massive user base. I will bet that the last time members read a Toronto Star article, they clipped through it on a platform like Facebook, Google or Twitter, and that is free advertising for the Toronto Star.
In testimony, Facebook estimates that it provides about $230 million in free advertising to Canadian media companies and does not get a lot by way of revenue in return. Facebook has said that if the government passes the bill, it is just not going to post the links to these articles, and it has already started banning links to Canadian news sites for that very reason. The government wants Canadians to believe that these companies are the bad guys because of this, but it is this piece of legislation, which the government is insisting on ramming through, that would create big problems for everyone.
Here are a few of them. This would create problems for print media companies, like the ones that are asking for this link tax, because if they lose all the clicks that they would receive from their content being posted on Facebook and Google, they are going to lose a lot of revenue from people looking at digital advertising embedded therein. It also means that fewer people will find their way to their sites and take out paid subscriptions, which means less profits for their shareholders and bonuses for their CEOs. It also means that they are going to fire more journalists. This is why I think traditional media companies were playing chicken through the Liberals with Facebook and Google, thinking that they were just not going to ban the news, which they are clearly going to do.
The second big impact that Facebook, Google and potentially other platforms banning Canadian news links would have is that Canadians would have less access to the news, and some Canadians who post digital content but do not want to be part of this link tax scheme will have their voices silenced as Facebook and Google stop posting their content too.
Small independent firms, like The Line, Canadaland and Western Standard, have all said they do not want any part of this because they have adapted and built their business model around today's reality. They feel that when their links are pulled, their ability to reach Canadians will definitely be impacted, and they are probably not wrong. The fact that the government has not addressed this and has not allowed them to opt out raises a lot of very suspicious questions.
This link tax means that ethnically, regionally and gender-diverse viewpoints that may not have been platformed in the past by mainstream media outlets like the Toronto Star, new voices that have successfully started their own subscriber-based platforms, could be put out of business because of the Liberal-NDP link tax. That means that the same colonial voices in downtown Toronto that have always controlled the news in Canada will still control the news: that is, if their shareholders do not figure out that Facebook and Google are not going to play ball first. This means that the young indigenous woman who wants to start a Substack-based media outlet in her home might never get off the ground.
All this bill does is favour the profits of a few lazy corporate executives whose most creative business growth strategy has been to keep convincing their Liberal buddies to bail them out without any thought for what this means for the rest of the country. That is why we are standing against this bill.
It is going to cost taxpayers a lot. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, is supposed to administer this new link tax. How many more expensive bureaucrats are taxpayers going to have to pay for to administer a program that is going to censor diverse voices and line the pockets of a few corporate executives as they pull the parachute on their flaming wrecks of outdated companies? Could that money not have been better spent somewhere else?
When the Liberal and NDP coalition partners say that this is going to support more local media, that is flatly wrong. It is going to kill regional start-up media in their infancy by preventing their content from being exposed to countless people whom Facebook and Google will simply ban. They are serious about this.
The Liberal-NDP news-banning censorship link tax is not going to hire more journalism, as the Liberals claim. Any money that does come in is going straight to wealthy CEO bonuses and shareholder profit. If this bill was going to result in more journalists being hired, we would see more being hired. Instead, we had the CEO of Bell Media blame the cutting of countless newsrooms and radio stations last week, including the termination of some of Canada's most senior journalists, like Joyce Napier and Glen McGregor, on the instability caused by this bill. We saw the closure of college-level journalism courses for the same reason.
The bill is also going to create more silos, because it is going to force people into tiny silos of content as these other platforms shut down because of these link bans, so it is actually causing more divisiveness in our country.
The Liberals also say that Australia did this. It did not. What happened was that Australia changed its legislation to allow deals to be made outside of the content of this legislation, which is what Facebook did, yet the Liberals are still careening down this path, with the NDP in tow, with all of these negative consequences on display for everyone to see.
What the government should be doing instead is working to create a stable way to support actual investigative journalists, like Bob Fife, “Fife the knife”, the knife that cuts both ways, to be hired. Instead, we are seeing these people being fired. I think that is actually what the government wants from this, less scrutiny.
The government should be allowing people to opt out of this bill. If a journalistic outlet says that it does not want to be part of the ban, the government should allow that, but it is not. It has not amended the bill. It should be telling journalism students and journalists to get a good understanding of how AI is going to change their jobs, how to build a subscription platform and how to get good at research, writing, and video and audio content, because that is what journalism is going to look like. It is going to be so much harder while people are learning those new skills for them to get started as journalists, given how this bill is going to fundamentally transform Canadian journalism for the worse. The proof is already there. It is already happening.
Canadians need to know that the government is ramming this through. We are doing everything we can to stop it, but it is going to go through. The only way to change that is for them to subscribe to content from news articles they trust so it gets right into their inbox and goes around the ban, to punish the Liberals and the NDP for the censorship and for destroying democracy and diversity in journalism through this bill.