The federal government is getting a lot of flak over its controversial Bill C-10, including from Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison.
The bill was put forward by Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault. It started out as a proposal by the federal government as a way to “level the playing field” between internet streaming giants like Netflix and traditional Canadian media outlets, according to Aitchison. “Traditional television and radio stations have to have a license issued by the (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), there’s a lot of rules they have to follow,” he says, adding part of those rules is that they have to contribute to Canadian stories.
In the original bill, user-generated content that gets posted to platforms like YouTube was exempted, but an amendment was made to remove that exclusion. “They argued that they did that because they wanted to ensure the streaming giants couldn’t somehow use a loophole to get around the Canadian content laws,” Aitchison says. The MP is also a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and says what Canadians do on YouTube, Facebook, or on podcast platforms should not be regulated. “It was a very clumsy and clunky way to try to solve another problem they had,” he goes on to say.
Aitchison says an amendment should have been proposed to cover off that loophole, rather than entirely removing a section of the bill.
The bill is being put forward to update the Broadcasting Act, which became law in April 1968 and saw the introduction of the CRTC. Aitchison says when the bill was introduced it was designed to limit the choices Canadians had in terms of media so they didn’t get, “engulfed by the media empire to the south,” which he believes is part of the problem. Aitchison points out how “completely different” the media landscape is now compared to the late 60s.
Since the bill has been put forward, he has been harsh in his criticism of it, arguing you shouldn’t play “fast and loose” with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, especially when it comes to freedom of expression. Guilbeault has also been the target of criticism with Aitchison criticizing him for having multiple “disastrous” interviews talking about the bill and not answering questions about why the section exempting individual Canadians was taken out.
Aitchison says the government has had time to “be creative” with how they want to handle this, but have failed to do so. He calls what they’ve come up with “half a measure” and “desperately late” which is why he thinks it’s being rushed through the process to becoming law. “I think they’re feeling the heat,” Aitchison says.