Mr. Speaker, Toronto's CN Tower is a Canadian landmark that is known worldwide. When it was completed in 1976, it was the highest free-standing structure in the world. It is 553 metres tall, or about 1,800 old-fashioned feet high. That is the length of five and a half football fields. It has actually been named a wonder of the modern world, right up there with the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building. The CN Tower gets a lot of attention, and tons of people visit it: two million a year.
Some of those visitors got more than they bargained for on July 16, 2001. On that day, two radical activists decided to do a dangerous illegal stunt. The two men scaled the outside of the tower and unfurled a banner. That banner bashed the Liberal government and the U.S. government for allegedly being killers of the planet. Not doing enough to fight climate change was the charge. The men had to be rescued by firefighters, and they were later charged and convicted for their dangerous stunt. The court heard that the whole ordeal cost CN $50,000, but the two men only had to pay $3,000 in fines in total. I guess the punishment did not quite fit the crime.
Who were those two men who created such havoc and made headlines worldwide? They were both Greenpeace activists. One was a British guy, Chris Holden. The other fella has really climbed to new heights. He is now a Liberal cabinet minister, the heritage minister. Two decades after his last dangerous stunt, this radical guy is pulling another one. In some ways, it is even more dangerous than his first stunt. He wants to censor our online free speech.
By now many Canadians have heard of Bill C-10. It is actually interesting that hundreds of bills are discussed in the House and most people do not pay attention. If we mentioned a random bill, the average Canadian likely would not know what it is about and probably would not care. We realize that a bill is controversial when regular folks know about it and know it by name and number. I did a virtual meeting with students from a grade 6 class a couple of weeks back and they knew about Bill C-10. They were very concerned about it. They should be.
I have a special interest myself in Bill C-10. I worked as a journalist for three decades in radio, TV, newspapers and news magazines, so free speech is in my DNA. For many years I was an opinion columnist for the Toronto Sun chain. Opinion columnists at Sun Media were the lifeblood of that organization. Every survey we did showed that many people bought the newspapers, and sometimes just to read one of the regular columnists.
I am not going to bore anybody by dissecting the intricate legalese of Bill C-10. Lots of lawyers and legal experts have argued the finer points in detail. I know the government will tout this bill as being all about supporting Canadian content. It has already done that. It claims it is not out to stop free speech in any real way, but I do not believe it. Most Canadians do not either. It is no wonder that we do not believe it. The government has earned a reputation, and it is not a good reputation. It cannot be trusted. I do not trust it and Canadians do not trust it.
The Prime Minister and his Liberals have a long string of botched files, ethics violations, broken promises and cover-ups. They failed to quickly close our borders when COVID hit. Then they failed on quickly getting Canadians vaccines. They tried to do a deal with the communist Chinese regime to get vaccines. Of course that failed miserably.
The Liberals have failed on many, many fronts: the SNC-Lavalin affair, the WE scandal, cash for access, cancelled energy projects, disgraced cabinet ministers and MPs, blackface, the trip to the Aga Khan's private island, no serious plan to open our international border and cover-ups galore. Ler us consider a recent one. It is about the Winnipeg National Microbiology Lab and a refusal to provide vital documents to a key parliamentary committee. Look for that to be in the headlines for a long time.
Is it any wonder that Canadians do not trust the Liberals? Is it any wonder they cannot be trusted with something so sacred as free speech? Is it any wonder that people do not trust the minister proposing Bill C-10, a guy with a radical past, a guy who got hauled off in handcuffs and was convicted by a court of law?
We have already seen censorship raise its ugly head on the Internet. It is already happening at an alarming rate. I bet every Canadian with a computer knows someone who has had a social media post flagged or deleted by big tech. It could have been for something as simple as a personal opinion about COVID rules. I bet many of us know people whose social media accounts have been suspended or even shut down by big tech. It is ridiculous that some self-appointed 20-something is a judge at a big tech firm like Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.
It also seems like conservative voices are the ones often targeted by these censors. It is strange how that works. Can members imagine what kind of censorship will happen if the Liberal government controls our online speech? I shudder to think of it.
Some people might say that since I am a member of the official opposition, of course I will slam any Liberal bill. Well, it is not just the official opposition. There are a lot of people against this Big Brother bill. Every constituent I talk to wants me to fight against the bill. I cannot recall one person coming to me to say, “Hey, Kerry, you have to support Bill C-10.” In fact, I have heard so much opposition to the bill that I decided to start an online petition against it. I was inundated with people signing it. I told them that I would send a letter of protest directly to the Prime Minister on their behalf, and that is exactly what I did.
Speaking of opposition to Bill C-10, members should check out what Tim Denton said. He is a former national CRTC commissioner, and he is also the current chair of the Internet Society Canada Chapter. Mr. Denton had this to say:
C-10 is clearly intended to allow speech control at the government’s discretion. Ignore the turn signals, look at where the wheels are pointed. They are pointed at your right to communicate freely by means of the internet.
This is scary stuff. Who would members trust to pass judgment on this bill, our heritage minister, with his radical past, or Mr. Denton? I know who I would trust.
How about the comment from Peter Menzies? He is a long-time journalist and former CRTC vice-chair. I worked in journalism with Peter. He is a good guy, a smart guy. He has summed up the Liberal bill really well. He said that Bill C-10 “will place the internet under the control of the...CRTC. Its nine unelected, unaccountable commissioners will decide if your Facebook post or Youtube video is appropriate internet content.” My former colleague goes on to point out that the heritage minister “has promised more legislation to establish another regulatory panel to oversee what sort of things people may say on social media. All of this constitutes an outrageous abuse of government authority”.
We can see where this legislation could go. Maybe a person does not like a government program or a policy or a politician and speaks out. Maybe they will get blocked or cancelled. There is a lot of cancel culture out there to go around, and the legislation before us would only make things worse.
The bottom line is that the Liberal government cannot be trusted with our free speech. The minister, with his radical, checkered past, cannot be trusted with our free speech. Our free speech is too sacred to be imperiled by this terrible, dangerous legislation. Canadians are saying that loud and clear. Bill C-10 must be defeated. Our very democracy in Canada is at stake.