Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez accused the Conservatives of spreading misinformation about the Liberals’ online streaming legislation on Monday.
Bickering between Liberal and Conservative MPs prevented Mr. Rodriguez from testifying before the House of Commons Canadian heritage committee last week. The minister’s appearance was rescheduled for Monday. It followed a flurry of hearings that appear to be aimed at getting the Online Streaming Act, known as Bill C-11, through the House before the summer recess. The legislation aims to bring streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Spotify under some of the rules that apply to traditional broadcasters, including a requirement to contribute to the creation of Canadian content.
The Conservatives grilled the minister over concerns that user-generated content, such as videos posted by individuals on social-media websites, could be subject to government regulation. The minister said C-11 would focus on commercial content, not individual users. He later accused the Conservatives of spreading false information about the bill.
“What concerns me is the amount of misinformation that is shared by some members – not all, but some Conservative members – around this bill. They take up this bill and they create a parallel debate about things that don’t exist in the bill,” Mr. Rodriguez said in French.
The minister pointed to a tweet from last week in which Conservative MP Rachael Thomas accused the Liberals and NDP – who have a power-sharing agreement – of trying to control what Canadians see and say online. The tweet linked to a petition called “Kill Bill C-11″ – a play on the title of the 2003 film Kill Bill.
“How can we have a constructive debate about how to amend C-11 if already in her rhetoric she is saying that we need to kill this bill? I think every bill deserves well-informed and responsible debate,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
Senior department officials testified for the second half of the meeting. When it came time for the Liberals to ask them questions, Chris Bittle, Mr. Rodriguez’s parliamentary secretary, tabled a motion to move to clause-by-clause examination of C-11 by Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Mr. Bittle tried to table a similar motion on behalf of the NDP last Thursday calling on MPs to submit their amendments to the bill by last Friday. The motion set off the dispute with the Conservatives that prevented Mr. Rodriguez from appearing last week.
On Monday, Ms. Thomas proposed an amendment to Mr. Bittle’s motion that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause examination for C-11 after it studies the alleged involvement of Hockey Canada in sexual assaults in 2018. She did not explain how the matter is connected to Bill C-11.
Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge recently ordered a financial audit of an out-of-court settlement involving a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by junior hockey players after a Hockey Canada event in London, Ont. She said she wanted to ensure Hockey Canada didn’t use taxpayer dollars to settle the case. Last week, the House of Commons unanimously supported a motion calling on the heritage committee, which oversees sports, to study Hockey Canada’s role in the matter.
“I take the Minister of Sport at her word that she does in fact want to know whether or not public funds were used and that she does in fact want an audit in regards to those funds,” Ms. Thomas said. “The way that she can make good on those commitments ... is by allowing this study to go forward in a timely fashion.”
Mr. Bittle accused the Conservatives of filibustering. The committee dismissed the government officials to further discuss his motion. The NDP countered with a subamendment that the committee begin its clause-by-clause review of C-11 before its Hockey Canada study.
The committee adjourned before it could finalize the motion. It is unclear when the committee will wrap up its C-11 study and if the bill will pass before the summer recess.
MPs heard polarized responses to C-11 last week. While advocates of the bill said it is urgently needed to support Canadian artists and media producers, streaming companies expressed concerns.
YouTube and Spotify said C-11 could backfire for Canadian artists and creators if users don’t view or listen to the content the services would have to promote. This would tell the algorithms the content isn’t relevant to users, meaning Canadian creators could be demoted in search results around the world.
Streaming services also called for changes to the Canadian content rules. For instance, Netflix said titles produced or solely financed by the company wouldn’t qualify under the current content rules, even if Canadians hold most or all of the creative roles.
With a report from The Canadian Press
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Liberals proposed a subamendment that the heritage committee begin its clause-by-clause review of C-11 before its Hockey Canada study. In fact, it was the NDP who proposed the subamendment.
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