The battle over Bill C-11 is nearing its conclusion as the government introduced a motion in the House of Commons yesterday that rejects the Senate’s amendment that would ensure that platforms such as Youtube would be caught by the legislation consistent with the government’s stated objective, but that user content would not. As I discussed yesterday, the decision leaves no doubt about the government’s true intent with Bill C-11: retain the power and flexibility to regulate user content. In fact, I noted that Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez wasn’t trying to disguise that objective since the justification for rejecting the change boiled down to the government wanting the power to direct the CRTC on user content today and the power to exert further regulation tomorrow.
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Government Rejection of Key Senate Bill C-11 Amendment Reveals Its True Intent: Retain Power to Regulate User Content
For more than a year, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has clung to the Bill C-11 mantra of “platforms in, users out”. When presented with clear evidence from thousands of digital creators, the former chair of the CRTC, and numerous experts that that wasn’t true, the Senate passed compromise language to ensure that platforms such as Youtube would be caught by the legislation consistent with the government’s stated objective, but that user content would not. Last night, Rodriguez rejected the compromise amendment, turning his back on digital creators and a Senate process lauded as one of the most comprehensive ever. In doing so, he has left no doubt about the government’s true intent with Bill C-11: retain power and flexibility to regulate user content.
Why Quebec’s Demand for Changes to Bill C-11 Are A Product of Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s Risky Policy Choices
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez took the stage at the Prime Time Conference in Ottawa on February 2nd prepared to take a victory lap on Bill C-11 before the industry crowd. Suggesting that royal assent was only days away, Rodriguez brushed aside Senate amendments to address user content regulation concerns and stated that he would not accept material changes to the bill. Yet within days, the Quebec government altered those plans, indicating that it was unhappy with the bill and demanding changes. The most notable change – reiterated in a motion passed in the National Assembly – would be mandated consultation with Quebec on policy directions from the government directed to the CRTC. Providing any province with a near-veto over federal communications policy should be a non-starter, meaning that Rodriguez risks going from culture hero in Quebec to the person who threatens its regulatory power over culture.
Quebec Demands Changes to Bill C-11 as it Wakes Up to the Implications of Losing Control over Digital Culture Regulation
Bill C-11 – and its predecessor Bill C-10 – have long been driven by the government’s view that the bill was a winner in Quebec. Bill C-10 was headed for easy passage in 2021, but was derailed by the government’s decision to remove safeguards over regulating user generated content that came largely from the Quebec-based music lobby. Nearly two years later, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and his staff have ignored the concerns of thousands of digital creators, disrespected indigenous creators, and indicated that he will likely reject Senate amendments designed to craft a compromise solution, all in the name of keeping Quebec lobby interests satisfied. Yet as the government considers the Senate amendments, the Quebec legislative assembly this week passed a last minute motion calling for further changes to the bill, including scope to enact its own rules and mandatory consultations with the province on the contents of a policy direction to the CRTC that Rodriguez has insisted on keeping secret until after the bill receives royal assent (a full copy of the motion is contained at the bottom of this post). The Conservatives have been calling for the Quebec motion and the Senate amendments to be sent back to committee for further study, which the Globe reports may delay the government’s response to the Senate amendments.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 156: Senator Paula Simons on Why the Government Should Accept the Senate’s Bill C-11 Fix on User Content Regulation
Bill C-11 is in the hands of the government as Canadians await a decision on which Senate amendments it will accept, which might be rejected, and then how the Senate responds. A key question involves a fix to the regulation of user content provision, which provides that sound recordings are in, but user content is out. Senator Paula Simons, an independent Senator from Alberta nominated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the Senate in 2018, co-crafted the compromise amendment and has been one of the most engaged and informed Senators throughout the Bill C-11 legislative process. She joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the hearings, her amendment, and what may lie ahead for both Bill C-11 and the upcoming Senate review of Bill C-18.