Bill C-10 is highly controversial. Originally intended to put multinational broadcasters like YouTube and Facebook on a more level playing field with Canadian broadcasters, amendments have now opened up the possibility of the CRTC monitoring and controlling online posts by ordinary Canadians. To make it worse, the Liberals are using every procedural trick in the book to push this flawed legislation through Parliament before the summer break. Transcript of the entire speech, and questions and answers, follows the video.
June 14th, 11:15 p.m.
Government Business No. 10—Broadcasting Act https://openparliament.ca/debates/2021/6/14/greg-mclean-1/
Madam Speaker, I am splitting my time tonight with my hon. colleague for Langley—Aldergrove.
It is my honour to address the House this evening and to address another faulty bill being pushed through Parliament by the Liberal government: Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. To begin, let us look at the title of this bill, which says “to make related and consequential amendments”.
They are consequential in that they have consequences.
In this case, it is safe to say that this bill, if passed as written and subsequently amended at committee by the government, will have serious consequences for Canadians. We could have a discussion about net neutrality, which Canadians have enjoyed largely in their online consumption choices these past decades. This bill would, in fact, seek to upend the very nature of what Canadians can do on the web. Of course that is not the intent. No, it could not be. It has merely been written that way, and amended and partially changed through a process Canadians became aware of through the efforts of stalwart parliamentarians: my colleagues in the Conservative Party in the House of Commons and the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. They identified the intrusion in not only the use of the Internet for uploads and downloads, and the overreach in regulating this activity, but the consequences it would have on the very notion of freedom of speech, one of the rights Canadians have enjoyed—
Madam Speaker, we were talking about the very notion of the freedom of speech Canadians enjoy, one of the rights Canadians have enjoyed since being introduced by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1960 and embedded in Canada's Constitution in 1982. Freedom of expression in Canada is protected as a fundamental freedom by section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter also permits the government to enforce reasonable limits.
I would say from experience that a large amount of Canadian communication between parties, individuals, businesses and organizations of all types, even governments and their agencies, happens via the Internet. Where does the problem arise in this legislation? Bill C-10 creates a new category of web media called “online undertakings” and gives the CRTC the same power to regulate them that it has for TV and radio stations. What is an online undertaking? Whatever one uploads onto the web is an online undertaking, such as videos, podcasts, music and websites. It is a huge regulatory stretch. However, Canadians should not fret as the CRTC will not act in the way the legislation is written, or so it has said.
Let us look back at that notion of freedom of expression and how we as legislators are supposed to ensure the legislation we consider abides by this fundamental piece of protection embodied in our constitutional bill of rights and freedoms. The Department of Justice Act requires the justice minister to provide a charter statement for every government bill that explains whether it respects the charter. The charter statement for Bill
C-10 directly cites the social media exemption in its assessment that the bill respects this part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Then, poof, at committee the Liberals removed the cited exemption from the legislation. When my Conservative colleagues rightly asked for a new assessment based on the new wording of the legislation, the Liberals decided to shut down debate at the committee.
At this point, I think Canadians would ask where the Minister of Justice is on this issue and why he will not seek and provide the legislative charter statement from his department. I have watched the Minister of Justice and let me illustrate how he operates in my opinion.
Regarding Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), admittedly no bill is perfect, yet this bill passed through committee here in the House of Commons and members from all parties voted in a free vote to pass the legislation. The legislation passed with the input of witnesses who wanted to respect the rights of disadvantaged Canadians and it worked through this House. The minister, despite that democratic process, manipulated the legislation with an amendment at the Senate and forced an amended bill back to this House, a bill that disrespects the input he received through witnesses and parliamentarians in the process. It was pure manipulation.
Regarding Bill C-15, an act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, after one hour of debate on a bill that my indigenous constituents are asking for clarity with respect to the defined terms in Canadian law and how it affects them, the Minister of Justice shut down debate, saying it had been debated enough.
Perhaps it is unparliamentary to state openly here that the minister's remarks are completely disingenuous. I have watched him during question period while he brazenly denies that his judicial appointments have nothing to do with Liberal Party lists. That is disingenuous. I know why Canadians are losing faith in governments.
Now we have this, the refusal to provide an updated charter statement.
Shame on the minister.
Coming back to the bill, if passed, Canadian content uploaders will be subject to CRTC oversight. Yes, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will be looking at uploads all day long. That is in fact who is writing the bill and in fact the government organization trying to gain some relevance with it, but Canadians do not have to worry because it will not enforce the law as it is written.
Let me quote Timothy Denton, a former national commissioner of the CRTC, who now serves as the chairman of the Internet Society of Canada, who stated:
...their fundamental [principle here] is...that freedom of speech through video or audio should be in the hands of the CRTC — including Canadians’
freedom to use the internet to reach audiences and markets as they see fit.... The freedom to communicate across the internet is to be determined by political appointees, on the basis of no other criterion than what is conducive to broadcasting policy — and, presumably, the good of our domestic industry. As always, the interests of the beneficiaries of regulation are heard first, best, and last. Consumers and individual freedoms count for little when the regulated sector beats its drums.
Finally, let me congratulate the government on this one step. We have been through 15 months of an unprecedented time in our modern history, with lockdowns, economic dislocation and devastation, and literally a pandemic.
The press does not cover what happens in the House and the myriad mistakes the government has made because governments make mistakes in unforeseen, unprecedented times. Canadians have given the government some benefit of the doubt about these mistakes and so do all people of goodwill, but it is our job in opposition to do our utmost for the country in oversight and to provide solutions to make our outcomes better.
I thank all my colleagues for the work in helping Canadians during these unprecedented times. I should thank the Liberal government for providing a coalescing issue that has Canadians from all backgrounds and political beliefs in my riding united in reaching out to make sure the bill does not pass. The bill and the government's responses to reasonable amendments to protect Canadians' rights show its ambivalence to Canadians and their rights.
Responses to Questions & Comments
Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona is always great with her questions, and I am pleased that she knows some of these amendments very well.
The issue we have is the blanket clause, whereby we are going to subject Canadians to some regulations by the CRTC when they upload videos. All kinds of amendments have been put forward at committee by my colleagues to make sure that this does not cover everyday Canadians and is only counting, as the government seems to indicate, certain web giants that have a large economic footprint, ensuring they are going to be regulated. However, the writing indicates very clearly that this applies to all Canadians. That is why we are trying to make it very clear in the amendments that they are not included. That clarity is required, and I have not seen that clarity in any of the other amendments to this point in time.
Madam Speaker, that is a very good question, and I thoroughly agree with my colleague.
We have to look at who is actually policing the web. Whether the government is policing it or it is policed through algorithms, somebody is limiting our freedom of expression, and that limit to freedom of expression should not be compounded by this legislation. We acknowledge that there are all kinds of tools used by social media giants that we have to get in check, but putting more checks in the hands of the government, which is usually a pretty inefficient operator, does not seem to be a very viable solution to the lack of democratic representation that my colleague seems to think is being constrained on the Internet right now.
As I said, I agree with him in several respects regarding content that was somewhat censored and not put up in the proper way. We do need to find a way through that, but I would say that going to government for a solution so that it can be the arbiter is not the solution.
Madam Speaker, I wish I knew. I wish I had a response, but I do not know why amendments 2.1 and 4.1 were not considered together to provide clarity on how changes would affect Canadian Internet users going forward.
I can speculate what the answer might be, but I am not going to put words in the mouth of the minister, who chose not to answer this question. However, I will put it back to the minister the next time we get to hear from him why he chose this path.