The second reading debate over Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill, took a notable turn on Friday as Conservative MP Michael Kram called for the bill to be withdrawn, adding that politicians could do Canadians a lot of good by “rewriting it from scratch.” The House of Commons debate over Bill C-10 has run far longer than the government or Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault anticipated with the bill still not passing second reading and receiving a referral for committee study. The Conservatives have become increasingly critical, pointing (as I have done in my series on the many blunders in the bill) to the expansion of powers of the CRTC, the government secrecy on key policy issues, the uncertainty the bill creates, and the increased costs to consumers during a pandemic.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 76: Higher Consumer Costs and Less Choice – My Appearance Before the Heritage Committee on Broadcasting Act Reform
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last week started what it is calling a pre-study on Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill. The hearings raises some significant procedural concerns given that the bill has not yet passed second reading so the committee is technically conducting a study about the bill, rather than studying the bill itself. Moreover, committee members have indicated that they have already been invited to provide potential amendment to a bill that hasn’t even made it out to committee, much less been the subject of any study.
Despite those qualms, I was pleased to be invited to appear before the committee and discuss some of the concerns that I’ve identified with the bill. This week’s podcast features my opening statement and the full exchanges that I had with Conservative MP Keven Waugh and Liberal MP Marcie Ian. The audio isn’t ideal, but I hope that the recordings give a sense of both the policy concerns with the bill and the kinds of questions being asked.
Digital tax policy has emerged as major issue around the world. Canada is no exception. Late last year, the Canadian government announced plans to act on all three fronts: Bill C-10 seeks to address mandated Cancon payment and Finance Minster Chrystia Freeland has promised digital sales taxes by July and what sounds like a digital services tax in 2022.
What is a DST and how might Canada’s digital tax plans play out on the international front? I spoke with Georgetown University professor Itai Grinberg, a leading expert on cross-border taxation and digital tax issues on December 15, 2020, shortly after the government’s announcement. He joined the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the longstanding approach to multi-national tax policy and the emerging challenges that come from the digital economy.
The Law Bytes podcast took a breather over the holidays and into early January, but there seemingly is no break for digital policy issues. Over the past few weeks, Internet platforms have found themselves squarely in the public eye as company after company – from Shopify to Twitter to Facebook de-platformed former US President Donald Trump in response to the events in Washington earlier this month. Dr. Heidi Tworek of the University of British Columbia is one of Canada’s most prolific thinkers on Internet platform policies. She joins the podcast for a conversation about the role and responsibilities of Internet platforms, proposals for payments in the news sector, and insights what governments should be doing about better communicating with the public about the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The Broadcasting Act blunder series wraps up after a month of posts, two op-eds, and a podcast with a short summary of the case against Bill C-10. Notwithstanding some of the rhetoric, the debate is not whether the cultural sector should be supported (it should) or whether foreign Internet streaming services should contribute to the Canadian economy (they should). Rather, the issue is whether Bill C-10 is the best way to accomplish those policy goals.
Having spent a month dissecting the bill, it will come as no surprise that I believe the bill is deeply flawed. My concerns involve six main issues: Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s inaccurate descriptions of the bill and its impact, the negative effects on longstanding Canadian broadcast policy, the extensive regulatory approach, the uncertainty that comes from leaving key issues to the CRTC or a secretive policy direction, the questionable data underlying the policy, and its outlier approach compared to peer countries.