Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez accused the Conservatives of filibustering a committee hearing after arguments about the Liberals’ online streaming legislation on Thursday.
Mr. Rodriguez was scheduled to appear before the Canadian heritage committee in the afternoon, but bickering between the Liberals and Conservatives over a motion about when MPs would have to submit amendments to the Online Streaming Act delayed his appearance. After more than an hour of back and forth over the motion, Mr. Rodriguez had to leave for other commitments.
“I’m very disappointed that I didn’t have a chance to speak today,” Mr. Rodriguez said before leaving the committee room.
In a tweet, Mr. Rodriguez said the Conservatives were “filibustering” the committee.
The minister was scheduled to appear after a flurry of hearings that appear to be aimed at getting the Online Streaming Act, known as Bill C-11, through the House of Commons before the summer recess. The legislation aims to level the playing field so streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify would fall under some of the rules that apply to traditional broadcasters, including a requirement to contribute to the creation of Canadian content.
Shortly after MPs started questioning the first round of witnesses, Chris Bittle, the parliamentary secretary to Mr. Rodriguez, tried to move a motion on behalf of the NDP calling for MPs to submit their amendments to the bill by Friday at 4 p.m. Conservative member Rachael Thomas accused the Liberals of trying to prevent Mr. Rodriguez from testifying and then proposed an amendment to the motion calling for more time to consider the week’s testimony before MPs are required to submit suggested changes to the bill.
Ms. Thomas said she also proposed the amendment to allow the committee to hear from more witnesses. Chair Hedy Fry, a Liberal, said the committee had already agreed on the number of witnesses and hearings and said Ms. Thomas was using her amendment to filibuster.
“You could read from the phonebook if you want,” Ms. Fry said. “If the good faith is for us to move with getting this bill to its amendments and to clause-by-clause [examination], then let’s do that and not just use your amendment to continue to just speak about anything.”
Ms. Thomas said the Conservatives had “every intent” of hearing from the minister on Thursday, but blamed the Liberals for prolonging his scheduled appearance by tabling their motion. The arguments continued for the rest of the meeting and the committee was unable to finalize the motion before adjourning.
Before Thursday night’s committee meeting, MPs heard deeply polarized responses to C-11 this week.
Speaking to the committee earlier on Thursday, Andrea Kokonis, chief legal officer and general counsel for the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, said the bill is needed to ensure online streaming services are required to financially support and promote Canadian creators, as traditional broadcasters do. The organization did not propose any amendments to legislation.
“We implore the government to require streaming services to play their part in making it easier to find Canadian music and stories on online platforms in Canada,” said Ms. Kokonis, who did not propose any amendments to the bill.
MPs also heard from streaming companies this week. In written testimony to the committee, Spotify said the bill’s requirement to showcase Canadian content could backfire for artists if the listener is not interested in the song or podcast it has to promote.
“Because streaming empowers listener choice, if compelled to listen to content that does not appeal, they will skip tracks, which is a bad outcome for creators, fans, and our business model,” said the written submission from Spotify, which was not invited to appear before the committee this week.
Spotify also urged the committee to update the rules defining Canadian content for radio because it does not have sufficient metadata to apply the current requirements to its list of Canadian content. Speaking to The Globe and Mail on Thursday, Nathan Wiszniak, Spotify’s head of artist and label productions in Canada, cited an example. He said that Canadian artists working in Nashville’s country music scene may not qualify as Canadian content under the current rules, as they are recording in the United States and working with U.S. producers and writers.
“Canada being the second biggest country market in the world, that would severely impact those artists if they were to be under the current definition,” Mr. Wiszniak said.
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