The 2019 Liberal election platform made Parliamentary reform a central commitment, promising to “give people a greater voice in Parliament, by improving the way Parliament works.” Yet Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill, does the opposite, cutting mandated reviews of policy directions to the CRTC in at least half. The implications of the change are significant since it would mean that House of Commons and Senate committees would not longer review policy directions and Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault would be poised to enact his secret policy direction without a full review. I have already written about the surprising secrecy associated with the bill including the failure to disclose how the government arrived at its estimated benefits, the secret content of the policy direction to the CRTC, and the removal of cabinet appeals.
Post Tagged with: "broadcasting act"
Circumventing Parliament: How Bill C-10 Dramatically Reduces Parliamentary Oversight and Review Over Broadcast Policy
Why The Secrecy on Bill C-10?: How the Liberals Abandoned Their Commitment to Consultation, and Transparency in Pushing Their Broadcast Reform Bill
I have not been shy about expressing my concerns with the Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill. From a 20 part series examining the legislation to two podcasts to a debate with Janet Yale, I have actively engaged on policy concerns involving regulation that extends far beyond the “web giants”, the loss of Canadian sovereignty over broadcast ownership, the threat to Canadian intellectual property, and the uncertainty of leaving many questions to the CRTC to answer. Yet beyond the substance of the bill, in recent days an even more troubling issue has emerged as Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, his Parliamentary Secretary Julie Dabrusin, and the Liberal government abandon longstanding commitments to full consultation, transparency, and parliamentary process.
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Broadcasting Act reform bill, took a notable turn on Friday as Conservative MP Michael Kram called for the bill to be withdrawn, adding that politicians could do Canadians a lot of good by “rewriting it from scratch.”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.
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.