(OTTAWA) Bill C-11 modernizing the Broadcasting Act to include platforms like YouTube and Spotify will likely be sent to the Senate by MPs after a vote due Thursday night.
The Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party (NDP) have confirmed that they will vote in favor of the response that Justin Trudeau’s government wishes to send to the Senate regarding the amendments proposed by the Upper House in December.
Earlier this month, the Liberals signaled they wanted to roll back several changes, such as one to circumscribe what type of content the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) may or may not regulate at discretion.
In particular, the senators wanted to respond to the concerns of content creators who fear being limited or bullied in what they can share. The Upper House wanted to reassure several witnesses heard during the examination of the bill by specifying that the power of the CRTC, if exercised, could only target professional content and not amateur content, for example.
“We saw a way to clarify a few sentences so that people who read the bill are reassured. That counts, that too,” said independent Quebec senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, who had drafted one of the rejected amendments with her Alberta colleague Paula Simons, three weeks ago.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne had stressed in an interview that she supports the piece of legislation and that she does not believe that it would have a “censorship” effect or interfere with freedom of expression. In his view, this did not preclude the need for “clarifications” in the legislative text.
The Conservatives, who vigorously oppose Bill C-11, do not hesitate to make it a matter of fighting for “freedom of expression”.
On Thursday, they jumped in outrage as the Liberals rushed a vote on the response to send to the Senate.
With the support of New Democrats, Justin Trudeau’s troops passed a “closing motion” that effectively curtailed debate on the issue.
“Today the government took unprecedented action to censor debate on the bill that will censor what Canadians can say and see on the internet,” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said during the question period. He accused liberals of taking Georges Orwell’s 1984 dystopian novel as an “instruction manual”.
Government House Leader Mark Holland countered that it is precisely freedom of speech that allows “that MP to go all over the country and talk all kinds of nonsense.”
The government has maintained for months that the Conservatives are spreading misinformation, hammering that C-11 is only aimed at better “discoverability” of Canadian content on platforms such as YouTube, Spotify and Disney.
“The Conservatives have been throwing wacky conspiracy theories on the floor in the House of Commons for hours and hours,” NDP House Leader Peter Julian said during debate on the closure motion.
The Bloc, who are pressing for the adoption of C-11 since the bill is eagerly awaited in the culture world, did not go so far as to support the Liberals in their scheme.
“Too bad that we still come to this gag maneuver on such an important bill,” dropped their deputy Martin Champoux.
He nevertheless blamed the Tories for stonewalling “because they were absolutely adamant about their position”.
It remains to be seen how the Senate will respond to the House of Commons. Mr. Holland earlier this month ruled out the possibility of senators standing up to MPs.
“I am very confident that the Senate will accept our verdict,” he said.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez argued that the government found “a good compromise” by accepting some amendments, but rejecting “those that could create a privilege for some”.