The House of Commons may have adjourned for the summer (and likely longer given speculation about an election call), but the Senate plans to keep meeting until next week as it seeks to wrap up several bills, most notably the government’s budget bill. The ongoing Senate work also means that Bill C-10 is back. The bill received first reading on Tuesday, which meant that it was merely tabled in the Senate. The government asked for it to go to second reading the following day, but some Senators objected, which was supposed to delay the bill’s second reading until next week. To the surprise of many, yesterday there was seemingly a deal struck that allowed the bill to go proceed to second reading immediately. The bottom line on these Senate maneuvers: Bill C-10 received second reading from Senator Dennis Dawson, followed by a pair of speeches on the bill from Senators Tony Loffreda and Paula Simons. Everyone agrees that the bill requires significant study and should not be rubber-stamped. The speeches are likely to continue on Monday, after which the bill will be sent to committee. Given that the committee does not meet in the summer, an election call in the fall would kill Bill C-10.
Midnight Madness: As Canadians Slept, the Liberals, Bloc and NDP Combined to Pass Bill C-10 in the House of Commons
The Liberal government strategy of multiple gag orders and a “super motion” to limit debate bore fruit last night as Bill C-10 received House of Commons approval at 1:30 am. The Parliamentary process took hours as the government passed multiple motions to cut short debate, re-inserted amendments that had been previously ruled null and void, and rejected a last-ditch attempt to restore the Section 4.1 safeguards for user generated content. The debate included obvious errors from Liberal MPs who were presumably chosen to defend the bill. For example, Julie Dabrusin, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, said that Section 2.1 in Bill C-10 “specifically excludes content uploaded by users.” Only it doesn’t as Dabrusin should know given that 2.1 covers users not content and she was the MP who introduced the amendment at committee to remove Section 4.1, which was the provision that excluded content uploaded by users.
Given the public support from the Bloc for cutting short debate, the outcome last night was never really in doubt. Perhaps the most interesting vote of the night came with a motion from Conservative MP Alain Rayes, which once again called for the re-insertion of Section 4.1. While the motion was defeated with the support of Liberal, NDP, and Bloc MPs, there were several notable exceptions. Liberal MPs Nate-Erskine Smith and Wayne Long both abstained and former Justice Minister (and now independent MP) Jody Wilson-Raybould voted in favour of the motion. The report stage was limited to one hour of debate, which meant that the 23 amendments were again subject to no real debate or discussion. Once the bill passed the report stage, it was on to third and final reading, which was limited to 15 minutes of debate per party. The vote followed just before 1:30 am with the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc once again supporting Bill C-10. Wilson-Raybould joined with the Conservatives in voting against it [full vote by MP here].
My Appearance Before the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications: Why Copyright Reform Isn’t the Answer to the Challenges Faced by the News Media Sector
Yesterday I took a break from talking about Bill C-10 to appear before the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications as part of its study on Bill S-225, Senator Claude Carignan’s bill that proposes copyright reform as a mechanism to address the challenges faced by the news media sector (the bill is the focus of this week’s Lawbytes podcast, featuring a conversation with Senator Paula Simons). I was joined by representatives from News Media Canada and Facebook, which made for an engaging discussion. My opening statement is posted below:
The government’s desperate attempt to pass Bill C-10 took another turn yesterday as the Speaker of the House of Commons declared many amendments “null and void”. The ruling came after the committee studying the bill voted on them despite a ruling from committee chair Scott Simms that doing so was a violation of the gag order limiting debate. As a result of MPs overruling the chair, the committee proceeded to vote on dozens of undisclosed amendments without any debate or discussion. The secretive law making process attracted considerable attention and once the bill returned to the House – complete with another attempt from Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault to limit debate – Conservative MP Blake Richards challenged those amendments on a point of order. The Speaker of the House agreed and declared the amendments null and void.
Guilbeault’s Gag Order, the Sequel: Time Running Out as Government Seeks to End Debate on Bill C-10 in the House of Commons
Fresh off imposing a five-hour gag order on committee debate on Bill C-10 and rushing through a secretive process in which dozens of amendments were passed without any debate, discussion or even disclosure of the amendments, the government is back for a gag order sequel. Yesterday, the Liberal government introduced another motion, this one designed to limit debate even further: one hour for debate at the report back stage and 75 minutes at third reading. In other words, less than 2 1/2 hours total for debate on the bill in the House of Commons. The motion was introduced before the updated Bill C-10 was even posted online, though it is now available.
The move led to hours of discussion on the motion last night, leading to a consistent drumbeat from Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs, who kept asking what was in the bill that presented a concern for a freedom of expression. Left unsaid, is that at least part of the answer is what is not the bill: