One of the most publicly contested pieces of federal legislation in 2021 was Bill C-10, where the government looked to update the Broadcasting Act to provide regulatory oversight of digital platforms and digital content creation to the Canada Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
That bill ultimately did not go forward when the prime minister triggered last year's snap election. It was revived as Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act.
While the bill's name has changed, all the past legislation's flaws returned.
Bill C-11's proposed purpose is to support Canada's digital artists and content creators within Canada over that of their international competitors by updating the Broadcasting Act to create new enforcement of Canadian content regulations in digital media. Basically, the yet-to-be-defined provisions would dictate where and how content appears on digital platforms.
By using the CRTC as the policy creator and enforcer of changes to the Broadcasting Act, the government is giving the agency, which currently regulates television broadcasts and radio waves, extraordinary power over what you can see, share and post to online digital platforms. The government is essentially regulating free speech on the Internet.
The government tried to sidestep that by saying the regulations will not apply to Canadians’ YouTube videos or Facebook posts. However, the current chair of the CRTC, Ian Scott, confirmed to the House of Commons Heritage Committee the bill will provide the CRTC with the "provision" to regulate individual users creating content.
Requesting the CRTC to approve the "Canadian-ness" of every generated video posted online is well beyond the ability of the entire Canadian government, let alone the 500 employees of the CRTC. Such inability will only invite broad, blunt, and forced approaches that will potentially leave Canadians with less free viewing of the Internet than seen today.
But even if applying decades-old Canadian content regulations to how we interact with digital platforms daily were possible, it would still be a solution in search of a government-invented problem.
The government said it will not release its policy directive to the CRTC until after the legislation passes, leaving many unanswered questions.
It is also concerning there is no clear definition of discoverability which would artificially promote some digital creators over others.
Right now, some Canadian content creators are succeeding on digital platforms with the support of fellow Canadians, making their full-time living creating digital content, while receiving billions of views.
We know Canadians are succeeding in these spaces because if they weren't, why would the federal government have spent $600,000 last year to pay personal “influencers” to sing the government’s messages through digital platforms.
Overregulation is the swiftest eliminator of innovation. That's why so many Canadian artists and content creators came forward to testify to Parliament that they didn't need this legislation to succeed and were more worried about burdensome regulation harming their ability to grow internationally and at home.
Their words fell on deaf ears as Liberal and NDP MPs moved to curtail debate on C-11, cutting off dozens of expert witnesses who were scheduled to testify. That shortening of debate, however, did not stop the government from forcing through over 100 amendments and dozens of clauses to Bill C-11 without explanation or debate.
It's no wonder Prof. Michael Geist, the University of Ottawa's Canada research chair in internet law, claimed the government "badly bungled the entire process."
Bill C-11 continues to be as concerning as the previous iteration Bill C-10, and as your voice in Ottawa I will continue to fight against the government’s attempts to regulate what you see and post on the internet.
Arbitrary deadlines, pushing aside witnesses and rushing debate to pass legislation as potentially transformative as Bill C-11 is not how Parliament should serve Canadians in making our laws.
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(Editors note: The bill was passed by the House of Commons earlier this weekend now heads to the Senate for consideration before it can become law.)