The concerns over witness intimidation and bullying targeting Bill C-11’s critics continues to attract attention on Parliament Hill as Senators spent more than an hour debating the issue earlier this week. The issue stems from a Globe and Mail report that Canadian Heritage Parliamentary Secretary Chris Bittle – together with his colleague, Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner – sent a letter to the Lobbying Commissioner to seek an investigation into the funding of Digital First Canada, a group representing digital first creators. DFC’s Executive Director, Scott Benzie, appeared before the Heritage committee in the spring and Bittle used his time to focus on the organization’s funding. The Lobbyist Commissioner letter was apparently filed more than two months ago and Benzie had been assured that he was compliant with the law. The story was presumably leaked to coincide with Benzie’s appearance before the Senate committee, a tactic that smacked of witness intimidation and bullying with the government seeking to undermine a critic of the legislation. Soon after, Conservative MP John Nater filed a point of privilege in the House of Commons, arguing that Bittle had attempted to intimidate a Senate witness and the matter escalated further at the Senate committee, where multiple Senators raised the issue.
Archive for October, 2022
When Government Investigates Its Critics: Why the Bill C-11 Witness Intimidation Issue is About Far More than a Strategically Timed Leak
Why the Online News Act is a Bad Solution to a Real Problem, Part Six: CBC Eligibility Harms News Competition and Its Public Interest Mandate
The blog series on why Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is a bad solution to a real problem continues with the first of several posts on the eligibility rules, starting with the decision to make the CBC eligible for the system that could lead to mandated payments. The inclusion of the public broadcaster should be opposed by its critics and supporters since it harms both competition and the public interest role of the public broadcaster. Indeed, critics will rightly note the market distortion it creates for private entities who stand to lose further advertising-related revenues to the CBC, while supporters should be concerned that the bill undermines the CBC’s claim to a public interest role and makes an ad-free version of the service even less likely. [Previous posts in the series: the risk to the free flow of information stemming from mandatory compensation for linking, how the bill encourages clickbait and other low quality news given the absence of standards in the definition of “news content”, the unprecedented government intervention in a sector where independence is essential, how the bill undermines Canadian copyright law and Canada’s international copyright law obligations, and a Law Bytes podcast episode based on my appearance before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.]
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 141: Why the Online News Act is a Bad Solution to a Real Problem, Part Five – My Appearance Before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage launched its hearings on the Online News Act (Bill C-18) with a pair of hearings late last month. At this stage, it remains unclear whether the committee will undertake the extensive study the bill deserves. I appeared in the very first hearing, using my opening statement to touch on four key concerns: the definition of “use”, government intervention, the risk of increased misinformation, and the breaches of Canada’s trade and treaty obligations. Coinciding with National Newspaper Week, this week’s Law Bytes podcast features an introduction to the bill and audio clips from the appearance.