2 Sitting Days Left: C-10 Passes House of Commons At 1:30AM, But Senate Resists

While C-10 passed in the dead of night while Canadians slept, it seems that circumventing democracy in the Senate is going to be more challenging.

Yesterday, we reported on how MPs voted down section 4.1. Section 4.1, as many know, was the section that protected user generated content. It’s removal meant that the legislation does explicitly regulate user generated content. With MPs from the Bloc, Liberal, and NDP parties voting to keep protecting user generated content out of the legislation, it made it crystal clear (if the first two votes weren’t a “read my lips moment”) that the intent is to regulate user generated content.

We are learning that MPs also went to the extreme of extending voting hours all the way to 1:30AM just to get this speech regulation legislation passed in the House of Commons. From Michael Geist:

The Liberal government strategy of multiple gag orders and a “super motion” to limit debate bore fruit last night as Bill C-10 received House of Commons approval at 1:30 am. The Parliamentary process took hours as the government passed multiple motions to cut short debate, re-inserted amendments that had been previously ruled null and void, and rejected a last-ditch attempt to restore the Section 4.1 safeguards for user generated content. The debate included obvious errors from Liberal MPs who were presumably chosen to defend the bill. For example, Julie Dabrusin, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, said that Section 2.1 in Bill C-10 “specifically excludes content uploaded by users.” Only it doesn’t as Dabrusin should know given that 2.1 covers users not content and she was the MP who introduced the amendment at committee to remove Section 4.1, which was the provision that excluded content uploaded by users.

Given the public support from the Bloc for cutting short debate, the outcome last night was never really in doubt. Perhaps the most interesting vote of the night came with a motion from Conservative MP Alain Rayes, which once again called for the re-insertion of Section 4.1. While the motion was defeated with the support of Liberal, NDP, and Bloc MPs, there were several notable exceptions. Liberal MPs Nate-Erskine Smith and Wayne Long both abstained and former Justice Minister (and now independent MP) Jody Wilson-Raybould voted in favour of the motion. The report stage was limited to one hour of debate, which meant that the 23 amendments were again subject to no real debate or discussion. Once the bill passed the report stage, it was on to third and final reading, which was limited to 15 minutes of debate per party. The vote followed just before 1:30 am with the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc once again supporting Bill C-10. Wilson-Raybould joined with the Conservatives in voting against it [full vote by MP here].

Given the woefully inadequate Canadian Heritage committee hearings with the exclusion of digital-first Canadian creators, technology companies, consumer groups, and numerous independent experts as well as the passage of amendments without debate, discussion or experts, Bill C-10 desperately needs a comprehensive review. If Parliament resumes in the fall, there will be an opportunity for that review in the Senate. If, as most expect, there is an election, Bill C-10 will die, providing a much-needed opportunity to start from scratch by developing forward-looking, balanced legislation that supports the creative sector, safeguards freedom of expression, and recognizes the risks of over-broad regulations overseen by the CRTC.

Indeed, this has always been one of the biggest problems with this legislation. Every time there was a decision on whether or not to debate the legislation, debate was always either cut short or eliminated entirely. As a result, there hasn’t really been an opportunity to officially study the legislation. Instead, it seems that there has always been a war on transparency in favour of ramming this legislation through no matter what – even at the cost of basic semblances of democratic proceedings.

A related problem is also, of course, the fact that whenever supporters or MPs that are pushing for this are faced with important questions about this legislation, there has never really been a rational or clear response. Instead, deflection and bringing up points unrelated to the question has been a common theme followed up by attacking those who ask these questions in the first place. The overwhelming conclusion wound up being that this bill is literally indefensible.

At any rate, the continued efforts to circumvent democratic norms to ram this legislation through is resulting in disturbing levels of success with the passage in the House of Commons.

Still, there is reason to believe that there will be resistance in the Senate. As we noted earlier, Senators responded to Guilbeault’s efforts to “introduce” the legislation into the senate by calling the move “insulting“. It also sparked comments from senators that they want an actual study of the legislation in question. Some have also said that this bill has “zero” chance of making it past the Senate before the break. Some have become hopeful that this legislation can be stalled long enough to time out. Technically, though, it isn’t over yet. It’s still theoretically possible to have an extra sitting on Friday. There is still no word on whether or not that will happen, though. We’ll have to reserve judgment on whether this legislation is actually not going to be passed before the break until after the clock officially runs out.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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