3 Sitting Days Left: Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Vote Down Protecting User Generated Content a Third Time

The motion to re-instate Section 4.1 has been defeated, marking the third time the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP voted this critical protection down.

While C-10 supporters are desperate to try and fool people into believing Bill C-10 doesn’t regulate user generated content, the votes are once again not lying. Section 4.1 was the section that specifically exempted user generated content from regulation. Without it, users who upload content would have their content regulated.

The first vote against protecting user generated content occurred in April when MPs voted to strip out 4.1. This seemingly at the behest of corporate lobbyists who also pushed to also include the users who upload the content into the regulations. Of course, at the time, there were questions over whether or not it was voted to be removed by mistake.

Then, in June, the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc were confronted by a motion to restore Section 4.1. After all, the uproar started because this critical protection was removed, why not put it back in place to, at least, satisfy the observers? With so much debate surrounding the legislation and many experts and digital rights observers crying foul, maybe it would make sense to put it back. As it turns out, the vote to strip out protections for user generated content was very deliberate. The fact that it was no accident was proven when the three parties voted against the free speech provision. The vote made a few things abundantly clear:

  1. That this legislation is, in fact, about regulating user generated content despite the unconvincing cover story of “levelling the playing field” and “making tech giants pay”.
  2. That MPs know full well that this legislation is about regulating user generated content.
  3. That MPs are knowingly voting to regulate user generated content.
  4. That the last vote was no accident
  5. That MPs are aware of the criticism and just don’t care. Regulating user generated content is the intention, full stop.

Of course, this might have been the end of the debate, but an interesting development occurred that might have single-handedly saved online free speech in Canada. The Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that the Heritage Committee overstepped their authority by engaging in their secret lawmaking and struck down the amendments made in the legislation in the process.

This allowed one MP to table a motion to re-instate user generated content protections. This would allow MPs to publicly vote for or against the very section that is at the core of this whole controversy. As it turns out, even with all of Canada watching, the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP all voted against this motion to protect user generated content:

CPC MP @AlainRayes motion to restore s. 4.1 user generated content safeguards into Bill C-10 defeated 200-117. Liberal, Bloc, and NDP MPs vote against with notable exceptions of Liberal MPs @beynate and @WayneLongSJ who abstain. Former Justice Minister @Puglaas supports motion.

Shortly after, MPs voted to pass this legislation, restoring the previous version to what it was before:

Bill C-10 passes report stage with “null and void” amendments restored. Vote 203-118 with Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs supporting. CPC MPs + @Puglaas
opposed. The bill moves directly to third reading with 10 minutes per party + 5 minutes for debate. Final vote coming around 1 am.

For those interested, the version of the bill we analyzed is the version that seems to be restored. If you are interested in a clause by clause analysis as it relates to user generated content and freedom of expression, you can read it here.

So, it seems that the second gag order was successful in getting this passed. Still, it’s worth pointing out that Senators have already been annoyed by the shenanigans by the Heritage Ministry in all of this. Some senators have pointed out that they intend on studying this bill further and not act as a “rubber stamp” for the Heritage Minister. The pushback may have more significance than normal given what the sitting calendar shows for the Senate. Tomorrow is literally the last official sitting day. It’s technically possible to have a second sitting on Friday, but we haven’t heard anything on whether or not that will be happening as of yet.

At any rate, after seeing the Speaker slap the legislation down, it was like watching free speech opponents wake up to a 3-0 game deficit in a Stanley Cup Playoff. At the moment, those opponents managed to squeak out a win by voting down 4.1 a third time. The second win is passing the legislation in the House of Commons. Despite managing to make this a 3-2 game, the odds are still stacked against the free speech opponents. Not eliminated yet, but still a long way to go to complete the upset.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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