A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Bill C-10 and the future of online freedom

In the face of rising political discontent, politicians began presenting legislation targeted at ensuring political stability and to reduce extremism online. “We must counter the rise of fake news and online extremism… the bill is necessary for social order and to protect our values”, leaders argued. And thus, Russia and China both passed internet regulation laws, gradually expanding their power from the initial laws to engage in systemic censorship of the internet. While Bill C-10 as proposed by the Liberal government does not quite match the extreme legislation passed in those authoritarian states, it should be considered a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Seemingly innocent, the power it grants to the government would open the door to censorship and create the most regulated internet among Western democracies.

The decline of democratic freedoms and our rights in Canada was not something that one expected could happen so readily. Bill C-10 was proposed by Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault in November 2020 to provide clarity to the CRTC’s ability to regulate popular streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, YouTube and Spotify. The legislation provides broad power to the CRTC to require those services to make financial contributions in support of Canadian content and to ensure it can be found easily by consumers. How this will be administered remains to be seen. The “sheep’s clothing” that was meant to attract your support was the promotion of Canadian content. How could anyone disagree with that? It makes sense that we should be prioritizing Canadian content. To those concerned with the bill, the minister added Section 4.1 to exclude social media platforms from the category of broadcasters and assure us that the government would not step into regulation of user-created content. However, the “wolf” soon made itself known through the removal of that very clause protecting user-created content by Liberal MPs that would grant the CRTC enormous power to regulate social media content.

The firestorm that has emerged from this legislation has caught Trudeau’s Liberals by surprise. You are all right to be angry. Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, labeled the bill “an unconscionable attack on the free expression rights of Canadians.” The former chair of the CRTC Konrad von Finckenstein along with former vice-chair Peter Menzies spoke out against the bill, insisting that the bill “should not be passed in its current form” and calling it “a national embarrassment.”

Concerns over the legislation have not been helped by Minister Guilbeault’s public defenses of the bill in television interviews. When asked simple questions, he is lost for words and simply can’t explain why the section was removed nor understand the public’s opposition to the legislation. Instead, he has chosen to launch baseless attacks against the bill’s opponents, calling MP Rachael Harder’s defense of the Charter Rights “hypocritical” due to her pro-life stance when under intense questioning and falsely stating the Conservatives are bowing down to web giants, a claim which Mr. Geist debunks.

To make matters even worse, the Liberals used the bill as an excuse to promote Canada’s “social cohesion” and that enforcement must comply with “the government’s vision”. Sorry folks, you must all subscribe to the Liberal creed before you are allowed to engage in Canadian public discourse. This is the same Liberal government that withheld funding from charitable and not-for-profit groups until they signed a values attestation that their core beliefs would follow Liberal political ideology. The government’s vision is always right. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, and Oceania was at war with Eastasia, they have always been at war with Eastasia.  

Despite Prime Minister Trudeau’s assurance that amendments will be presented to ensure the exemption of user-created content, no such amendments were presented. Despite Minister Guilbeault’s insistence that social media users are not subject to CRTC regulation after several misstatements, he admitted in a CTV interview that “users with a large following” would be considered subject to regulation by the CRTC. Time and time again, the Liberals were presented with an opportunity to protect the Charter Rights of Canadians, but they failed each and every time. Many have noted that there is no direct link between the removal of the key clause and an unleashed regulatory CRTC that would remove individuals’ posts, but it would open a Pandora’s Box from which there is no return. It is essential that this bill undergo significant changes before it is presented in the House of Commons and I will be working with my Conservative colleagues to prevent the passing of the legislation. I look forward to continuing to stand up for you in Ottawa.

Seniors’ Fraud

As some of you may know, I have been a long-time advocate for cracking down on fraud. For many years, I have been meeting constituents in my riding of Edmonton West who have told me that they or someone they know has been targeted by fraudsters. Seniors are often targeted due to their higher rate of home ownership, likeliness of having a nest egg, and having excellent credit. I have worked to advise seniors on avoiding fraudulent schemes and have done online presentations on the subject as well. My original Motion in the House was adopted by my colleague MP Alice Wong as a Private Members Motion, calling upon the government to take action on fraud activities targeting seniors. This Motion passed unanimously in the House but have yet to see action taken by the government.  The Liberals need to recognize the impact this is having on our communities and take action to stop it.

Latest from Ottawa

Watch as I question Treasury Board bureaucrats, who admit to no oversight on the $100 billion in wage subsidies that went to hedge funds and profitable multi-nationals. (link)

MP Rachael Harder challenges Liberal Justice Minister David Lametti on Bill C-10, who simply struggles to defend the bill. (link)  

MP Tom Kmiec uncovered internal documents from the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) that detailed a $56,000 communications strategy to combat “disinformation” from patient advocacy groups and industry. (link)

MP Michelle Rempel Garner grilled PHAC officials on when vaccinated Canadians will be exempt from travel quarantines. (link)

MP Pierre Poilievre eviscerates former Bank of England governor Mark Carney on pipelines in a committee on Science and Industry (link)

Recent Headlines

The Globe and Mail reported that the $110.6 billion Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program was used by many major corporations and hedge funds that reported massive profits in 2020, such as Rogers, Bell, Couche-Tard and more. (link, subscription article)

Jody Thomas, Canada’s deputy minister of National Defence, says the Liberal government did not properly implement recommendations from the Deschamps Report, treating it as a “checklist” and did not pursue wholesale changes that were recommended. (CBC)

The Blackfeet Tribe at the Alberta-US border announced that their COVID-19 vaccination clinics, where they were offering vaccines for Albertans a stone’s throw from the border, have been stopped due to “government bureaucracy” on both sides. (Global News)

The Ontario Superior Court ruled that the downing of Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 was a deliberate act of terrorism by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.  (link)

The Liberal government is planning to revive “FairPlay”, Bell’s failed proposal to allow government to block access to websites through certain services. (link and link)

Local Business Spotlight

I want to give special attention to two local businesses in the riding who have done their best to persevere as this pandemic has raged on and public health restrictions have limited the ability of small business to make a living. Hansen Distillery in West Edmonton is a great local business that has prioritized “made in Alberta” products and produced the ever first made-in-Edmonton whiskey. I paid a visit, and I was exceptionally impressed by their incredible work.

Broken Spoke Cider is another great business in the riding that first opened its doors during the pandemic itself in July 2020. They are the city’s first ever craft cidery and while I, along with many others, have not been able to visit due to current restrictions, the owners have maintained hope and cannot wait to host Edmonton residents. I hope you all have a chance to pay these businesses a visit soon.

In your service,

Kelly McCauley

Member of Parliament for Edmonton West