Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
I rise today to speak about my concerns related to Bill C-18. This bill should be strongly opposed. We Conservatives believe that Canadian news media deserves to be fairly compensated, while the Liberals continue to fail to create effective legislation to support Canadians.
First and foremost, the Liberals claim that Bill C-18 would help smaller newspapers and media outlets. However, they fail to mention the fact that, according to the government's Parliamentary Budget Officer, more than 75% of the funding would go to large media outlets, such as the CBC. Less than 25% would be left for small media companies. The Liberal government claims to support small businesses, yet it continues to funnel tax dollars to its friends at media companies. Small news outlets' main competition is from corporations, such as the CBC.
We Conservatives proposed amendments that would level the playing field and support local and ethnic media. These amendments were rejected. The Liberals want to pick and choose their friends instead. Is $1.2 billion to the CBC not enough?
In the Senate, Senator Carignan tried to bring forth a motion to fix this. It was rejected.
According to former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies, “Bill C-18 will only perpetuate a market already distorted by subsidy and it will punish independence.” He said, “If Parliament values a free press, it will not approve Bill C-18.” Do the Liberals admit that they do not like a free press? The Liberal government continues to help its elitist friends in high places and big corporations, while it forgets about the local and ethnic media outlets.
Dwayne Winseck, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication and director of the Global Media and Internet Concentration Project for Carleton University said, “Canada's largest media conglomerates—some with revenue multiple times higher than what Google and Facebook earn in Canada—will likely be the biggest beneficiaries of the bill”.
In December, the government cut off hearing from witnesses at committee, silencing experts from dozens of independent and digital news outlets who wished to speak. Rather than focusing on Canadian experts, the government relied mainly on non-Canadian critics of the digital platforms Google and Meta to tout Liberal talking points.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage deceptively stated that 400 news outlets had closed since 2008. However, he failed to mention that the same study he was referencing showed that hundreds of new news outlets had opened during the same time period.
After criticizing digital platforms for not disclosing the details of existing agreements with news outlets, the Liberal and NDP MPs on the committee rejected a proposal brought forward by Conservatives to require greater transparency. Now they have brought on time allocation to silence Canadians' concerns. The Liberal-NDP government has no interest in listening to these concerns. It wants to silence anyone with opposing views.
Furthermore, Bill C-18 poses a grave threat to privacy rights. The bill includes provisions that would expand the government's surveillance capabilities, allowing it to collect and analyze vast amounts of personal data without sufficient oversight. This erosion of privacy is deeply troubling. We should have the right to live our lives free from unwarranted surveillance and invasion of our private affairs.
By giving authorities unchecked powers to collect and analyze our personal data, this bill would put our privacy at risk and set a dangerous precedent for government intrusion into our lives. Just like Bill C-11, Bill C-18 would infringe on the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
Conservatives believe in the importance of a free and independent press. This bill would have significant implications for journalistic independence. Bill C-18 would empower the CRTC to obtain any information it considers necessary, including confidential information from news organizations. Conservative MPs brought forward amendments to guarantee the freedom of the press, but they were voted down by the NDP-Liberal coalition and the Bloc Québécois.
Another concern is that Bill C-18 would impact small businesses and start-ups. The bill would introduce stringent regulations and compliance requirements that would disproportionately burden smaller online platforms. This would create a significant barrier to entry for entrepreneurs, stifling innovation and competition. We must foster an environment that nurtures small businesses and start-ups, as they are often the driving force behind economic growth and job creation.
By favouring large corporations, the bill threatens to consolidate power in the hands of a few, reducing consumer choice and limiting opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship. The bill would enable the CRTC to pick winners and losers among media; to no one's surprise, the Liberals' friends are going to be picked as winners. Conservatives brought forward motions to fix this. They were rejected.
Many experts feel that the bill is on a path to destroying Canadian media. They agree that the bill has deep flaws, which would lead to millions of dollars in lost revenue. This would set back media by years, and the projected losses that would be incurred because of Bill C-18 are greater than the funding and the tax credits.
The Liberals have extended the eligibility to foreign news outlets, and they have the audacity to claim that this will help Canadians. Broadcasters who are licensed by the CRTC but do not produce news are eligible.
From the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai has warned that Bill C-18 would have serious trade implications for Canada. In a recent press release, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy stated the following: “We have...concerns it could impact digital streaming services and discriminate against U.S. businesses”. The U.S. has warned of trade retaliation, which would likely be equivalent to whatever the U.S. believed U.S.-based digital news intermediaries had lost as a result of Bill C-18. According to the PBO, this would be $300 million-plus. The Liberals have found a way to give Canadian taxpayer dollars to American companies, while at the same time, making trade relations with the United States worse.
Any government intervention into the free press must be carefully considered, as there is a potential to warp outcomes, stifle innovation, determine winners and losers, and compromise journalistic independence. In its current form, Bill C-18, the online news act, fails this test, according to the independent online news publishers of Canada.
Furthermore, the vague and ambiguous language used in Bill C-18 raises concerns about potential abuse of power. The broad definitions and discretionary powers granted to government agencies leave room for arbitrary decision-making and selective enforcement. This undermines principles of fairness and due process, which are crucial to the functioning of a just society. We must demand legislation that is clear and specific, while respecting the rights of individuals and the rule of law. The Liberals intentionally used vague language to deceive Canadians so that they can interpret the wording in a way that will allow them to give more and more help and funding to their friends.
The legislation before us fails to address the needs of Canadian media outlets. Conservatives have brought forward amendments to fix these issues, but the Liberal-NDP coalition, along with the Bloc, voted them down.
Conservatives will continue to stand up for Canadians, stand up for small businesses and push back against the Liberal government giving money to its friends. Canada needs more common-sense legislation without ambiguous words. We need legislation that uses strong wording that can be easily interpreted.
In conclusion, Bill C-18 represents a disregard for small businesses, as well as the principles of fairness and due process. The bill would help neither those struggling to survive nor those trying to enter the marketplace. We oppose the bill and demand a more balanced and thoughtful approach that respects our fundamental rights and effectively addresses—