Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault is asking senators to focus on passing Bill C-10, broadcast legislation that has sparked controversy, a day before the Senate is set to break for the summer.
“We would appeal to senators to work diligently. This is a very important piece of legislation,” Mr. Guilbeault said on Monday morning.
“The more time passes, the more we’re delaying the entry into force of all the elements that are in Bill C-10.”
He made the comments at a press conference in Montreal, where he was discussing funding for the arts and cultural sector. On Monday afternoon, the Senate debated the broadcasting bill.
The House of Commons sent the bill, which updates the Broadcasting Act, to the Senate last week. The Senate then added two extra sitting days, Monday and Tuesday, to deal with last-minute legislation that it received from the House of Commons before MPs rose for the summer break.
Despite the additional days, however, senators have said they are not rushing the broadcasting legislation through without proper consideration and study.
“The substance of C-10 has raised many important and high-level questions,” said Senator Donna Dasko, a member of the Independent Senators Group.
“This legislation still needs further study. There are many good elements in this bill,” she said, citing how many stakeholders in the arts, cultural and broadcasting communities support the legislation. “But there are outstanding issues,” Ms. Dasko said. “I feel that public confidence is lacking at this point in time. And I see a positive role for us, in this chamber, to play in this regard.”
Leo Housakos, a senator with the Conservative Party of Canada, who has been critical of the bill, also spoke about C-10, saying although the Broadcasting Act needs to be updated, this legislation misses the mark.
“We should be using this opportunity to drag a very antiquated framework into the digital age, rather than dragging the digital age backward to fit an antiquated policy,” Mr. Housakos said.
Bill C-10 is meant to level the playing field between traditional broadcasters and internet giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus, according to the government. This means web companies would have to contribute financially to the production of Canadian cultural industries, as well as offer certain amounts of Canadian content on their sites.
Critics of the bill say it could subject user-generated content, such as videos posted on social media, to regulation meant for broadcast companies. The government maintains that there are provisions in the legislation to ensure the rights of Canadian citizens are protected.
Senators also debated the budget implementation act on Monday, the government’s top priority legislation, as well as climate change Bill C-12. Although the Senate may pass the budget and climate change legislation before it breaks for the summer, it won’t have enough time to study the broadcasting bill. A fourth bill that would add conversion therapy to the Criminal Code may also not receive Senate approval before the break.
If an election is called this fall, which has been rumored for months, all legislation that has not yet been passed would die, including Bill C-10.
However, there’s still a possibility of the broadcast legislation passing in the next couple of months.
Senators will discuss the broadcast bill again on Tuesday, their final sitting day. If the Senate approves the bill, it may also allow a committee to study the legislation over the summer. This raises the possibility that the committee could finish their work mid-summer, and senators could briefly reconvene to pass the bill before fall.
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