Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Abbotsford.
Today I am speaking, along with many others, about an issue fundamental to the future of our country.
Do we as Canadians live in a country that believes in the principles of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and supports free speech on the Internet, or do we deviate and support the principles of censorship and the pursuit of wokeness and conformity? What do we value as Canadians?
The fact is that the Conservative Party is the only political party in Canada that stands for freedom of speech and the rights of Canadians to express themselves freely on the Internet. Margaret Atwood called Bill C-11 “creeping totalitarianism”.
We have, and we will, fight this legislation to the bitter end. Is it a losing fight? Probably. We have heard many times, when the Prime Minister asked the leader of the NDP to jump, that the only question he gets in response is “How high?” That does not mean that Conservatives would not fight. However, it does mean that, when Conservatives form the next government under our new leader, we would repeal this horrible attack on free speech.
Much has been said about the obvious move toward censorship and government control over what we see and post. However, I want to come at this from a different angle, which is that of The Littlest Hobo. I grew up in the 1970s in rural Saskatchewan. We had colour TV, I am not that old, but our house only had two channels: CBC and CTV. It was the golden age of government censorship of what we could watch on TV.
Back then, the CRTC was not as concerned about political censorship as we would see with the result of Bill C-11, but it was very concerned that we watch Canadian programming, instead of that evil, awful American programming. Every day, after school, I had to endure a half-hour of the The Littlest Hobo, because it was literally the only thing I could watch on TV. Now some may have enjoyed the show. I did not.
This was the result of the government dictating to Canadians what it felt we needed to watch on TV. Thankfully, we eventually got U.S. TV channels in our house, and we were able to finally watch what we chose to watch and not what the CRTC told us we could watch.
Everyone who has grown up in the Internet generation has always had full control to watch whatever they want to watch on the Internet. The government has so far been unable to censor them and force them to watch the content it deems important.
With Bill C-11, the government would be throttling the Internet and forcing Canadians to watch things it deems important: The Littlest Hobo of this decade. Do not get me wrong. I am not against Canadian content in any way. I just want good content, wherever it comes from.
Canada produces some amazingly good content. For example, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood was written by a Canadian author and is being filmed on Canadian soil. It stars Canadian actors and it employs Canadian producers, but it fails to make the cut. It is not considered Canadian by the CRTC.
This just demonstrates the silliness of the government trying to dictate and control our creative industries. The last thing our creative industries in Canada need is more government control.
Canada has amazing content producers, from big-name actors, producers and artists down to small content creators on YouTube, Instagram and other platforms. We must keep them free to compete in a global world, rather have the government pick who are the winners and who are the losers.
How does Bill C-11 work? How does the legislation actually strangle the freedom of individual Canadians on the Internet?
At the heritage committee, one witness, J.J. McCullough, used a metaphor that I believe captures this law in a nutshell. He said, “It's like promising not to regulate books while [simultaneously] regulating...bookstores.”
The approach of the NDP-Liberal coalition is to regulate everyday social media platforms that Canadians use: Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and others.
This would directly affect every Canadian, as the platforms would be told by the government which of the content created is allowed or not. It is as if someone walked into a bookstore but would only be allowed to see the books on certain racks. They would not be allowed to see the books on other racks in the rest of the store.
The government agency overseeing this is called the Canadian Radio and Television Commission, CRTC. These are the same people who forced me to watch The Littlest Hobo as a kid. The CRTC has been around for a long time, and, in theory, it is responsible for ensuring Canadian content on radio and TV. They are the reason cable is so expensive and why many of us are cord-cutting.
Basically, the CRTC is a bunch of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa elites, appointed by the Prime Minister, whose jobs would be to decide what we consume and what we post.
This law would effectively give the CRTC the authority to set out conditions, requirements and exemptions for what is to be restricted or to be allowed. For example, the law would give the commission the authority to make orders imposing conditions affecting such things as “the proportion of programs to be broadcast” being “devoted to specific genres” and “the presentation of programs and programming”.
Despite its vague language, it is clear that the government plans to give the friends of the Prime Minister the power to decide what the people see, quite literally policing content.
They do this under the guise of promoting Canadian content, but that is just an excuse to grab more power and to limit the freedoms we enjoy. That is exactly what Bill C-11 does.
It gives the CRTC the authority over platforms like YouTube. These platforms would be forced to comply with regulations that prioritize content to be displayed to individuals over others, depending on what the CRTC deems to be the priority. That is exactly the problem.
This law would “encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity”.
Who will decide what content is reflective of Canadian opinions, ideas and values and exactly what those are? Of course it is the friends of the Prime Minister.
This one phrase would reprogram the algorithms of your platforms to show you what the government wants you to see, rather than having your preferences deciding what appears in your feed.
The NDP-Liberals do this under the banner of diversity and inclusivity. The truth is that, right now, open platforms allow for, and facilitate the exchange of, diverse and inclusive content better than a government with a political agenda ever could.
The party that prides itself on multiculturalism is now putting a rubber stamp on what is Canadian and what is not. Canadian culture and interests are always expanding and are being influenced by many different artists, genres, languages and the trends of the day. The government is the last organization I would want creating Canadian culture.
Ultimately this is the difference between the Conservative approach on this issue and the approach of the NDP-Liberals. They are concerned about government control and how to have power over Canadians. Conservatives are devoted to freedom. We want Canadians to be able to live their everyday normal lives on the internet. It is simple as that.
Let us talk about how this legislation would affect Canadians. As Neal Mohan, the Chief Product Officer for YouTube, has explained in countless interviews, Bill C-11 would harm Canadian content creators.
Some may argue that YouTube is a massive corporation simply looking after its own interests. Of course, on one level that is true, but YouTube contributes over a billion dollars to the Canadian economy and creates roughly 35,000 jobs in this country, so it does have a stake beyond the confines of Silicon Valley.
Bill C-11 would essentially decide who the winners and losers of this market are, based on the qualities and conditions set out by the CRTC. Rather than helping the little guy, this government plans on putting barriers that impede them from success.
By creating more red tape, we would not just harm the economy but, more importantly, we would harm each Canadian who depends upon the internet to generate income. Nowadays, that is a lot of people from all age groups and all walks of life. This law would cover any content individually generated that touches a user trying to make even the smallest dollar.
The Liberals will say that this bill would not touch personal content like cat videos but that is simply not true. Even the current Liberal-appointed chair of the CRTC told the truth by mistake and admitted that Bill C-11 would regulate content generated by individual users.
According to YouTube and others in this field, forcing content to be displayed in one’s feed may have a negative impact on content creators within Canada and would harm the very people the government claims that it wants to protect.
We all know what happens when the government tries to force-feed us content that we don’t want, like The Littlest Hobo.
We do not want to watch it, yet the government shoves it down our throats anyway. At least CBC TV shows are voluntary right now. Just wait until the algorithms are required by law to put these in our YouTube searches, then in our Facebook videos and then in our Insta stories.
There will be no escaping the government-approved content, so we will shut it off. One does not see what one wants, and the so-called Canadian content shoved down one’s throat will go unwatched. It is a lose-lose situation, like most things that this current NDP-Liberal government does.
Bill C-11 is a threat to our fundamental rights and is setting up the foundation for censorship. Whether one is a YouTube content creator, a social media influencer or even just a viewer, Bill C-11 would limit Canadians from seeing and watching the content they choose.
People in Saskatoon West are worried about what is to come if this legislation passes, and that is why we must kill Bill C-11.