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Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez says Canada’s cultural sector wants the bill to pass as soon as possible, and urged the Tories not to further slow down its progress, as it approaches the finish line.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Conservatives accused the federal government of trying to regulate videos that average Canadians post online, including “your aunt Betty’s cat video,” after it rejected a Senate amendment taking user-generated content on platforms such as YouTube beyond the scope of Bill C-11.

As the online streaming bill reached its final stages in Parliament, Conservatives and Liberals traded jibes on the floor of the House of Commons, with Chris Bittle, the heritage minister’s parliamentary secretary, accusing the Tories of acting as mouthpieces for the big tech platforms.

On Wednesday, Conservative heritage spokeswoman Rachael Thomas proposed a Commons motion to “kill the bill” in a last-ditch attempt to stop the online streaming proposal from becoming law, after marathon scrutiny in the Commons and Senate.

Bill C-11 would update Canada’s broadcast laws to cover streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube. Under the new rules, those platforms would have to promote and support Canadian creative work, including songs, TV programs and films.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told The Globe and Mail that Canada’s cultural sector wants the bill to pass as soon as possible, and urged the Tories not to further slow down its progress, as it approaches the finish line.

“Now Conservative MPs have a choice: Will they continue repeating tech giants’ talking points and try to kill the bill, or will they finally stand up for Canadian artists and Canadian culture?” he said.

The minister told reporters “that this is the bill that spent the most time in the Senate in the history of Canada.”

The government on Tuesday accepted 18 of the Senate’s 26 amendments to the online streaming bill, but rejected a key Senate change designed to clarify that the bill would not lead to the regulation of user-generated content – such as amateur videos – on platforms such as YouTube.

The decision was criticized by digital-first creators who accused the government of dismissing their concerns.

YouTube has warned that the bill’s wording is unclear and could lead to the regulation of amateur videos on digital platforms, despite the minister’s assurances that this is not the government’s intention.

In a blog post, Jeanette Patell, YouTube’s head of government affairs, launched a last-ditch attempt to try to change the wording of the bill, calling on Canadians concerned about the rejection of the amendment to e-mail their MPs, and “make their voice heard on social channels.”

She said it was “deeply troubling that a reasonable compromise was rejected.”

“The Senate amendment gave digital creators hope that their livelihoods would be protected under Bill C-11,” she said in a statement. “It is inexplicable and deeply unsettling for tens of thousands of Canadian creators that the Senate’s efforts to add common sense clarity to this legislation could be rejected.”

But on Wednesday cultural organizations, including documentary filmmakers, called on Parliament to make the bill become law as soon as possible.

Jérôme Payette, executive director of the Professional Music Publishers’ Association, said the bill was “long overdue.”

Marie Kelly, national executive director of The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, a union representing actors and other performers, urged MPs to pass the bill and “support the government motion on the Senate amendments.”

Reynolds Mastin, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Media Producers’ Association, added: “We have long called for the government to level the playing field between foreign streaming services and domestic producers, creators and broadcasters.”

Mr. Bittle, the parliamentary secretary, paid tribute to NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs for supporting the bill, but accused the Conservatives of filibustering to delay its passage through the Commons, saying they were acting as spokespeople for the tech giants.

He said in the Commons debate on Wednesday that as the bill is “just shy of the finish line,” MPs should collaborate to get it passed. The online streaming bill – and its predecessor – had been discussed in Parliament since the fall of 2020, he said.

In the Commons debate about the government’s position on the Senate amendments, Conservative heritage critic Rachael Thomas said C-11 was a “terrible piece of legislation” that would give the government “control over our search bars.”

It would not just cover large streaming platforms but “the things that normal everyday average Canadians would post online – ordinary content: your aunt Betty’s cat video – it’s captured by this legislation.”

She said the government’s rejection of the Senate amendment clarifying that it would not cover videos posted by ordinary Canadians was “very telling” and said it would “stagnate the progress that is being achieved by modern [digital] creators.”

She argued the bill would give the government influence over what Canadians listen to or watch online, adding it would make YouTube rank material according to government priorities, rather than what individual Canadians want to see.

The bill will ask platforms to promote more Canadian content, including songs and films, so they are visible to Canadians choosing what to watch or listen to. Ms. Thomas said influencing what Canadians see – rather than presenting them with options based on their own tastes – was a form of censorship.

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