The Conservative Party appears to have successfully blocked the swift passage of Bill C-10, which would update the Broadcasting Act, as the Senate sponsor of the bill says there is a “zero-per-cent chance” the Senate will approve it before the Chamber breaks for summer next week.
Senator Dennis Dawson told The Globe and Mail on Friday that because the legislation has received extensive amendments in the House of Commons, senators will want to give it a closer look in the fall and hear witnesses on the impact of the revisions.
The House and Senate are scheduled to rise for the summer on Wednesday, and MPs have yet to give C-10 a final vote to send it to the Senate.
Whether MPs and Senators resume sitting as scheduled in September is an open question, given that the minority Liberal government is widely expected to call an election in late summer or early fall.
Mr. Dawson, a former Liberal MP who now sits as a member of the Progressive Senate Group, said Conservative delay tactics have left insufficient time for the Senate to approve the bill before the break.
He said the bill has a “zero-per-cent chance of success” before Wednesday’s scheduled recess.
“There is no scenario by which the Senate will get this bill and study it in June, and we’re not scheduled to sit in July, so, end of story,” he said. “I’m not happy. I’d rather study it and I’d rather adopt it, but the House delayed it extensively and there’s nothing the Senate could do about it. … The obvious filibustering by the Conservative MPs on the committee made it impossible in a minority situation to get amendments through in a timely fashion.”
The legislation was introduced in November with the stated goal of bringing international streaming services such as Netflix and Disney Plus under the regulatory authority of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). As a result, these streaming platforms would face similar obligations to those of traditional broadcasters, including to contribute financially to the creation of Canadian cultural content and to ensure Canadian content is promoted on their platforms.
Debate on the bill heated up in April, after the committee reviewing the legislation approved a Liberal amendment that removed a section that provided a blanket exclusion for user-generated content. The Liberals said this was necessary because otherwise, professional content such as music videos on Youtube could go unregulated.
The Conservatives sided with critics, including academics and some former CRTC commissioners, who warned that the removal of the clause created freedom-of-speech concerns. A later Liberal amendment aimed at addressing those concerns failed to win over detractors. The legislation has broad support from groups representing Canada’s arts community.
Speaking virtually with reporters on Friday from Rideau Cottage, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed frustration that Bill C-10 has not yet become law.
“The Conservative Party, that has never been there to support creatives or artists or our cultural industries in this country, is choosing to block and obfuscate and spread misinformation and disinformation,” Mr. Trudeau said. “We are hopeful that we’re going to continue to advance this, but the level of partisanship and the low level of support for our artists from the Conservative Party is indeed of concern.”
Conservative MP and Canadian Heritage critic Alain Reyes said in an e-mailed statement that his party is fighting “for the freedom of speech of Canadians.”
Mr. Reyes accused the Liberals of “wasting time” in committee and then resorting to procedural tactics to shut down debate.
“They decided to remove important protections for social-media users from their own bill and refused to address widespread concerns about freedom of speech,” he said. “Conservatives will continue to fight for the many Canadians who are concerned about this bill’s implication for their social-media and internet use.”
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