Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and department officials appeared before the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications yesterday on Bill C-11. I posted a Substack of my live tweeting of the Minister’s appearance, which included continued gaslighting on the applicability of the bill to user content and an acknowledgement that it could lead to algorithmic manipulation. After Rodriguez departed, officials took questions for another hour. One of the most notable exchanges involved the express admission that the much-touted estimate that the bill would generate a billion dollars is massively overstated. In fact, department officials now admit that most of that money isn’t new at all. Rather (much as I’ve argued), it is simply a re-allocation of existing expenditures in Canada that is unlikely to result in significant increased economic activity or new jobs.
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No Billion Dollar Bonus: Officials Admit Most Bill C-11 Funding Isn’t New and Will Still Be Controlled by Foreign Streamers
Oops, He Did It Again: CRTC Chair Ian Scott Tries to Walk Back Bill C-11 Comments, But Officials Confirm Power to Regulate User Content is in the Bill
CRTC Chair Ian Scott returned to the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications last night, presumably hoping that his fourth House and Senate committee appearance involving Bill C-11 might allow him to say what the government clearly would like, namely that the bill will not lead to the regulation of user content. Yet Scott has failed each time, because the bill plainly does contain that power. In this instance, Scott embarrassed himself, the CRTC, and the entire legislative process as he demonstrably failed to defend the independence of the CRTC and zig-zagged between actively promoting the bill, claiming that was not his role, and even bizarrely offering to draft potential amendments.
In a day that started with Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault urging the Senate to focus on passing Bill C-10, Senators from across the political spectrum again signalled that they believe that Guilbeault’s bill requires extensive hearings given the flawed legislative approach in the House of Commons and a resulting bill that raises a wide range of policy concerns. Concerns with Bill C-10 were raised by virtually every Senator to speak during yesterday’s debate: Senator Donna Dasko noted that “public confidence is lacking at this point in time” in the bill, Senator Colin Deacon argued that the government has failed to address the core concerns involving privacy and competition, and Senator Pamela Wallin called the bill “reckless” and urged the government “to go back to the drawing board.” Those speeches came on top of the first day of Senate debate in which Senator Dennis Dawson admitted that “everybody recognizes the bill is flawed” and Senator Paula Simons said the bill reminded her of the Maginot Line.
The House of Commons may have adjourned for the summer (and likely longer given speculation about an election call), but the Senate plans to keep meeting until next week as it seeks to wrap up several bills, most notably the government’s budget bill. The ongoing Senate work also means that Bill C-10 is back. The bill received first reading on Tuesday, which meant that it was merely tabled in the Senate. The government asked for it to go to second reading the following day, but some Senators objected, which was supposed to delay the bill’s second reading until next week. To the surprise of many, yesterday there was seemingly a deal struck that allowed the bill to go proceed to second reading immediately. The bottom line on these Senate maneuvers: Bill C-10 received second reading from Senator Dennis Dawson, followed by a pair of speeches on the bill from Senators Tony Loffreda and Paula Simons. Everyone agrees that the bill requires significant study and should not be rubber-stamped. The speeches are likely to continue on Monday, 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.