The Liberal government strategy to push through Bill C-10 bore fruit last week as the controversial Broadcasting Act reform bill, received House of Commons approval at 1:30 am on Tuesday morning. Bill C-10 proceeded to receive first reading in the Senate later that same day and after a series of Senate maneuvers, received second reading from Senator Dennis Dawson the following day. That sparked Senate debate in which everyone seemed to agree that the bill requires significant study and should not be rubber-stamped. Speeches are likely to continue on this week after which the bill will be sent to committee. Given that the committee does not meet in the summer, an election call in the fall would kill Bill C-10.
Peter Menzies is a former Vice-Chair of the CRTC and one of the most outspoken experts on Bill C-10. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to reflect on the last two months of the Bill C-10 debate, discuss the limits of CRTC regulation, and explore what comes next.
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Fresh off imposing a five-hour gag order on committee debate on Bill C-10 and rushing through a secretive process in which dozens of amendments were passed without any debate, discussion or even disclosure of the amendments, the government is back for a gag order sequel. Yesterday, the Liberal government introduced another motion, this one designed to limit debate even further: one hour for debate at the report back stage and 75 minutes at third reading. In other words, less than 2 1/2 hours total for debate on the bill in the House of Commons. The motion was introduced before the updated Bill C-10 was even posted online, though it is now available.
The move led to hours of discussion on the motion last night, leading to a consistent drumbeat from Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs, who kept asking what was in the bill that presented a concern for a freedom of expression. Left unsaid, is that at least part of the answer is what is not the bill:
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Several weeks after Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault introduced Bill C-10, I started a 20 part blog post series called the Broadcasting Act Blunder (podcast edition here). The series examined many of concerns with the bill, including issues such as over-broad regulation and discoverability requirements that would only garner public attention many months later. I thought about that series yesterday as I watched Guilbeault try in the House of Commons to defend the indefensible: a gag order on committee review of the bill, the first such order in two decades. While the bill is in dire need of fixing, what occurred yesterday was far worse than a blunder. It was a betrayal. A betrayal of the government’s commitment to “strengthen Parliamentary committees so that they can better scrutinize legislation.” A betrayal of the promise to do things differently from previous governments. A betrayal of Canada’s values as a Parliamentary democracy.
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Communications issues have been in the political spotlight in recent weeks with the controversial CRTC decision to reverse a pricing decision on wholesale broadband that swiftly led to calls for the resignation of Commission Chair Ian Scott as well as the ongoing battle over Bill C-10, which envisions granting extensive new powers to the CRTC.
Konrad von Finckenstein is a former chair of the CRTC, having led the Commission during a similarly contentious time during debates over net neutrality. He has since been outspoken on communications policy issues, including arguing that Bill C-10 should be scrapped and re-written. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the CRTC, the recent decisions, and what he thinks a better approach to Internet and broadcast regulation would look like.
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Earlier this week, Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet called for a “gag order” on Bill C-10, which would limit debate on the bill using a process known as time allocation. The irony of calling for a gag order on debate over a bill with profound implications for freedom of expression is likely not lost on many Canadians. But worse than a regional, separatist party with 32 MPs calling for a gag order is the Minister of Canadian Heritage doing so. That is precisely what happened last night, as Steven Guilbeault announced that the government would be introducing a motion to cut off debate on Bill C-10.
Guilbeault’s statement in support of the gag order is riddled with inaccuracies and omissions:
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