I had planned to speak against Bill C-11, but the Liberals and the NDP passed a motion to shut down the debate, and didn’t have a chance at Second Reading.
Make no mistake, what is contained within the legislation is extraordinary new powers for the government, through the auspices of the CRTC, to regulate wide swaths of what Canadians create and watch on the internet.
A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation on this bill and one commentator said and I quote, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
It took me back for a moment.
I had to fully understand why he made that reference, but it got the crux of the matter: no matter how noble the government’s intended goals may be, this legislation will be an absolute quagmire.
It gives the CRTC immense powers.
It will give them the power to regulate what Canadians listen to and watch on the internet, which has never been done before.
This bill also leaves the door wide open for the CRTC to even regulate content creators sometime down the road.
Millions of Canadians are rightfully alarmed about the Liberal government’s intentions.
With Bill C-11, they will have given the CRTC the power to regulate the internet and we know they will introduce a future bill to determine what people can say on the internet.
Internet expert Michael Geist, who has been following this legislation, said:
“for all the talk that user-generated content is out, the truth is that everything from podcasts to TikTok videos fit neatly into the new exception that gives the CRTC the power to regulate such content as a program.”
The reason why this is important is that Bill C-11 gives the CRTC the power to write its own regulations.
They will be able to determine what is considered a “program”, which will then fall under their purview.
Due to the vague nature of the bill, no one knows what could possibly be deemed as a “program”.
While the Liberals can get up and say that user-generated content is exempted, they cannot say that with any great confidence.
As a Parliamentarian, I am not comfortable with giving so much power, particularly on a topic as important as this, to a body that is not directly accountable to Canadians.
Before I go any further, let’s just step back and contemplate the size of the CRTC bureaucracy that will need to be established to undertake what Bill C-11 is trying to achieve.
The sheer magnitude of the daily content being created for audio-visual services is hard to wrap your head around.
Across online platforms such as YouTube, podcast apps, websites, and everything in between, thousands of hours of content is created in Canada every day.
Unlike traditional broadcasters the CRTC regulates, new apps and websites are constantly being created and released to the public.
Online platforms have cut out the middleman and dramatically reduced the overhead costs, which in previous generations made it difficult for content creators to find an audience.
As content creators have discovered, they now have the entire world to share their products with.
Not only have we seen an extraordinary rise in content creators, but we have also seen several new online companies and platforms emerge.
I for one welcome this innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, all done without needing tax dollars or regulations.
With this in mind, keeping up with all the new platforms for the CRTC to regulate would be impossible.
I can imagine it now, hundreds of new CRTC employees scouring the internet for hours and hours as they look for new platforms they intend to regulate.
Not only is it foolhardy to think the CRTC could ever figure out a way to manage this workload, but it would also be an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money.
And for what?
That question gets to the core of why this legislation is short-sighted and could have disastrous consequences.
What happens if CRTC says they cannot do the job?
Do they then come back to the government and ask for legislative powers to demand online platforms apply for authorization before Canadians can access their content?
Not only would that be a colossal headache for companies, but many could just walk away from the Canadian market.
And another big question: how can the CRTC even impose its jurisdiction on companies that operate outside Canada?
Unlike TV channels or the radio waves, there is no limit on the number of websites or online platforms.
A company might have its headquarters in Europe, have its servers in Asia, and have its IT developers in the United States.
While the CRTC might carry a big stick at home, there is no reasonable way for it to enforce its regulations on companies who don’t have a single employee in Canada.
These are the questions we must be asking.
It is simply impossible to regulate the internet as Bill C-11 will inevitably do.
As I see it, with this legislation, there will be very limited benefit to the vast majority of Canadians who create content, the Canadians that watch that content, and the companies that publish that content.
The real issue is: what problem is the government trying to solve?