Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge went on a media offensive late last week, granting interviews to a wide range of publications. St-Onge noted that she had “positive” talks with Google and Meta that she hoped would result in a compromise and improbably claimed concern for users’ rights to share information online, an odd position given that Bill C-18 undermines the free flow of information online with its mandated payments for links approach. St-Onge got the headlines she was no doubt looking for, but it was pretty obvious that not much had changed, with Meta confirming that she had requested the meeting and that it is continuing to end news availability in Canada. While that was typical of the English-language coverage, St-Onge’s comments to French language outlets such as La Presse and Journal de Montreal added another dimension, with the Minister suggesting that companies should negotiate deals by year-end in order to become “exempt” from the law.
St-Onge may want to leave the impression that there is an easy out for the tech companies, yet the reality is those comments fundamentally misunderstand how Bill C-18 works.