For the second consecutive year, the government is using the Budget Implementation Act to quietly pass concerning legislation with minimal oversight or public attention. Last year, the BIA was used to extend the term of copyright in order to comply with the USMCA. This year, it is privacy that is at issue, with provisions related to political parties. Why would the government squeeze in privacy rules on political parties in Bill C-47?
Earlier today, the Liberal party convention approved (subject to a final vote) two stunning policy resolutions with enormous implications for freedom of expression. First, as discussed yesterday, it approved a resolution that seeks to “hold on-line information services accountable for the veracity of material published on their platforms and to limit publication only to material whose sources can be traced.” If enacted, the policy would undermine freedom of the press and could even spark widespread censorship on Internet platforms. In addition, it passed a resolution to develop “truth in political advertising” legislation to be administered by an oversight body. There are legitimate concerns about the “truthiness” of all political parties communications, but political truth oversight bodies carries great risk and is unlikely to foster enhanced public trust.
The Liberal Party policy convention is underway in Ottawa with delegates preparing to debate a series of policy proposals that could ultimately make their way into their national election platforms. Party members voted on the top 20 proposals for discussion and included one involving the media and online information that seems obviously unconstitutional and a direct threat to a freedom of the press. The proposal, purportedly aimed at addressing misinformation, calls for more government funding for the media and that the government explore options to “hold on-line information services accountable for the veracity of material published on their platforms and to limit publication only to material whose sources can be traced.”
The debate over Bill C-11 was frequently marked by politician and lobby group claims that failure to act would place the future of Canadian film and television production at risk. While internal government documents admitted that claims regarding the contributions from Internet streaming services understated the actual contributions by failing to account for “unofficial Cancon”, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez was happy to feed the narrative that the bill was a critical support for an industry in jeopardy.
Profile 2022, the well-regarded annual report on the state of industry funding was released yesterday. It conclusively demonstrates that the claims on the state of Cancon production are wildly exaggerated. Indeed, the data speaks for itself: record production, record Cancon production, record French-language production. Over the past decade – as streaming services has grown in popularity, Canadian film and television production has more than doubled. The following three charts and graphics taken from the Profile 2022 report tell the story. There is no Cancon emergency and no risk to film and TV production in Canada. The Bill C-11 panic over the viability of the sector was little more than a fraudulent lobbyist-inspired talking point with little basis in reality.
I was pleased to appear yesterday before the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communication on Bill C-18. The discussion focused on a wide range of issues, including the risks of mandating payments for links, the non-compliance with international copyright obligations, why the CBC should not be included in the payment for links system, and how a fund would be a better approach. My opening statement, which tried to identify some fixes to the bill, is posted below as text and as a Youtube video.