Bill C-10 Fails to Pass Senate Before Break, Trudeau Says He’s “In Talks” With Senate

It was a close call, but Canadians are breathing a sigh of relief knowing that Bill C-10 failed to pass before the Senate adjourned.

It’s been quite a roller coaster of a ride for free speech proponents in Canada. Bill C-10, Canada’s speech regulation bill, has been bedevilling free speech proponents for months. In the early part of June, after issuing gag orders to silence debate in committee, MPs put a whole host of secret amendments to a vote. Shortly after, the secret bill was passed in committee in a rushed process. Things were looking bad because it seemed that the democratic norms were being circumvented one by one to make this bill law. Compounding the anxiety inducing scenario is the gag orders that were quickly pushed into the House of Commons. If the democratic norms could be circumvented in committee, then why not cancel democracy in the House of Commons in the process?

The thing is, those anti-democratic moves apparently had consequences after all. The Speaker of the House of Commons received a complaint about the handling of the legislation. Ultimately, Anthony Rota agreed and struck down the legislation on the reasoning that the committee overstepped its authority in silencing debate. With time rapidly running out, the idea that all of those secret amendments would need to be voted on again had us thinking that time running out might actually happen. The timeline was, indeed, exceedingly tight. However, the Liberals seemingly endless appetite to control free speech online would not be deterred.

Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault, attempted to “introduce” the legislation into the senate despite the fact that it barely made it to the House of Commons. Senators responded by saying that the move was an insult. Some even charged that the Minister was arrogant in thinking that they would simply rubberstamp the legislation. As we pointed out, if you are wanting people to pull strings for you, burning those bridges first is probably not a good idea.

Nevertheless, attention was then put back onto the House as amendments that were previously voted on were rammed through. An amendment to restore the protection of user generated content was voted down a third time, making it plain as day that this bill is, in fact, about regulating user generated content. Then, in the dead of night, while Canadians slept, MPs passed Bill C-10 at 1:30AM. While it was impressive that this legislation made it this far in such a short period of time, it still, thankfully, faced roadblocks with the senate. Senators made it clear that they wanted to study the bill and not rush through the process.

Things took a turn for the worse when, on the very last day of sitting, senators agreed to extend the sitting days. With that, Bill C-10 was seemingly resurrected from the grave. It opened up the possibility that senators would just keep extending the sitting days until the legislation was passed. Either way, things started looking hopeless once again.

Apparently, Steven Guilbeault according to a paywalled article, demanded that Senators just pass the legislation anyway. It would seem that this demand to do the Ministers bidding did not work.

Now, the Senate has adjourned for the Summer break. This happened without the passage of Bill C-10. So, now we are in a situation that is definitely out of the Heritage Ministers hands. If the speculation holds true and an election is called in the next while, then Bill C-10 will die on the orderpaper. This means that the bill would have to be introduced all over again after the election is over, restarting the process all the way back at square one. If, however, political analysts are surprised and an election is not called, then the bill moves forward with the Senate committee and the process carries on from where it left off before the break. At any rate, the speech regulation bill has stalled for the time being.

In an interview we witnessed today, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, spoke to a range of issues including Bill C-10. There were four big messages that Trudeau tried to make in regards to Bill C-10. The first is that Bill C-10 is only about making web giants pay more. Then, the second point is that this bill was the victim of Conservative obstructionism. The third message is that this bill is about supporting Canadian creators. Finally, the Prime Minister mentioned that we was in “talks” with the Senate to see this bill passed. Bear in mind the fact that the major Canadian media outlets are financially motivated to see this legislation passed because it stands to effectively wipe out all of their online competition in the process. We’ve seen this on full display on multiple occasions where outlets practically trip over each other to publish misinformation as part of the efforts to pass Bill C-10. So, we were listening not just to Trudeau, but the media’s response in all of this.

So, the first point about making web giants pay is, obviously misleading. While there are elements in the legislation that compels large tech giants to pay into various media funds, that’s not what this bill is exclusively about. As made painfully clear, this bill is about regulating user generated content. This was not only made evident in the text of the bill, but also in the voting patterns of MPs who voted against protecting user generated content three times. From what we were able to see in the press conference, though, the media didn’t even question this talking point.

The second talking point to discuss is that this bill was simply the victim of Conservative obstructionism. This, of course, is a bizarre point to be making given what we know actually went down during the debates. On multiple occasions, the Liberals passed so-called “gag” orders. In fact, we reported on it on multiple occasions even. On top of all of that, the Liberal’s used a so-called “super motion” which is a term we only ever heard about this year and even extended debate time to pass Bill C-10 in the House at 1:30AM. The whole point of all of that is, obviously, to shut down debate, silence the criticism, circumvent democratic norms, and ram through this legislation as quickly as possible. In response, one outlet asked the obviously ignorant question about whether or not the Liberals could have done more. From where we are standing, short of holding a gun to every opponents head to get them to pass the legislation, we can’t really think of what else the Liberal party could have done at that point.

The third talking point made by the Prime Minister was that this bill is about supporting Canadian creators. This point is, obviously, very misleading. What Bill C-10 does is protect large legacy corporations operating within Canada. This at the expense of smaller Canadian creators among everyone else. In fact, we took our analysis of the legislation and published a visualization of what the effects of Bill C-10 will be if it is passed. The concerns raised by those visualizations were, in fact, mirrored on the floor of the Senate after they were published as well. From what we heard in the press conference, the media did not challenge Trudeau on this point.

Finally, the fourth talking point is that the Prime Minister mentioned that they were in “talks” with the Senate to pass Bill C-10. We’re not exactly sure what he meant by that given that the Senate has adjourned for the Summer. The best we can deduce from this is that the Liberals are hoping for some additional special sitting times in the Senate to do whatever it takes to get this legislation as close to the finish line as possible. Maybe he knows something we don’t. Still, there was no clarification on that remark.

The feed we saw this from was from the CBC, so after the conference concluded, the reporters in the studio did their typical analysis. Throughout the exchange, there was no direct mention of Bill C-10. Instead, referring it broadly as part of two “key” pieces of legislation. Obviously, the talking points by the Prime Minister are laughably weak and organizations like the CBC were hoping to see this legislation passed. So, the less Canadians know about this legislation, the better from their perspective. So, the media simply chose not to really do their jobs on this front. While disappointing, not really that surprising either. Of course, we’re happy to do their jobs especially since the coverage of C-10 all this month has been downright minimal to non-existent on the larger outlets. Some articles are even hidden away behind paywalls on top of it all whenever there is coverage at all.

Still, despite the bad coverage of Bill C-10 today by major outlets, today is definitely a major win for free speech proponents across Canada. At minimum, it means the legislation won’t be passed until after the Summer. If an election is called, then this legislation will die on the order-paper. All things considered, this is actually the best case scenario free speech advocates could possibly hope for. The fact that they got it is a great sign. It signals that, maybe, for now, litigation won’t be necessary. It doesn’t mean this legislation is permanently dead, but free speech advocates can finally relax for the time being and reorganize for the next round whenever that might be. Finally, a good news story all around.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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