Calls for Steven Guilbeault to Be Fired Grow After Disastrous CBC Interview on C-10

Steven Guilbeault has been pushing Bill C-10, which critics argue will regulate speech online. After a CBC interview, critics are calling for him to be fired.

As the speech regulation bill continues to move forward, Canadian Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault, has been on the defensive. Many point out that the legislation will regulate online speech and user generated content. Guilbeault has denied this and says that it is all misinformation. Of course, adding fuel to the fire is the fact that documents have shown that the legislation will, in fact, regulate user generated content.

So, after a week of criticism, it seems that more mainstream outlets are finally catching on to this story. CBC apparently decided to conduct an Interview with the Minister. Bear in mind that the CBC is famous for being the most Liberal Party friendly news outlet out of all the large outlets in the country. So, chances are, there was political strategy at play. It might be that they thought that they would bring the Minister into the interview, ask him about the amendment, he would explain what it really does, and the CBC would get another chance to lash out at critics after for spreading misinformation.

That’s not what ended up happening.

The interview, which appears to still be available on the CBC website, shows the whole thing.

In the event it does get taken down, we’ll offer a rundown of how the interview went.

The interview starts with the CBC interviewer welcoming the minister. He then starts the interview by noting how C-10 is supposed to bring accountability to large tech giants. He then notes a section about protecting user generated content and how the Minister touted this part of the bill. Then, after an amendment, the section was removed and he asked what changed.

The Minister then responded by saying, weirdly, that nothing changed at all and that the legislation was meant to ensure that large tech giants pay their fair share for Canadian culture. Obviously, this is now what is being asked. The minister says that this bill is not about content moderation. He then said that the allegations made by the Conservative party are completely false. Of course, the concerns raised about the legislation were made by independent experts and observers. In fact, to this day, we haven’t actually seen these concerns echoed by the Conservative Party, but maybe their comments got lost in the shuffle. Who knows? At any rate, this was not answering the question by the CBC interviewer.

So, in response, the CBC interviewer took a second kick at the can with that question. He said that there was specifically an exclusion in the bill so that it doesn’t touch user generated content. Then, an amendment means that this exclusion is gone. He asks how that exclusion was valuable enough to put it into the bill before, but not valuable enough to keep it now.

Dodging the question completely, the Minister responded by saying that the bill is about ensuring that the companies pay their fair share to Canadian culture. He then denies that it is about user generated content.

Trying to keep the interview on track, the interviewer asks why the amendment was there in the first place. The Minister ignores the question and continues with is comment about how it’s not about going after user generated content such as cat videos. He attacked another interviewee by saying it is ridiculous that the CRTC would go after user generated content. The Minister says that the government has laws and regulations protecting free speech (clearly the Minister isn’t aware of the state of defamation laws today). He also cites the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as another way in which the government protects freedom of speech. The Minister says that the Ministry of Canadian Justice must review all legislation to ensure that it would comply with current regulations.

The Minister then says that if YouTube is acting like a broadcasters, then that is what the bill is going after.

After that, the perplexed interviewer then circles the interview back to the original question which has, up to that point, not been answered. He repeated how the exclusion was there and now its gone. Taking a third kick at the can, he asked about why the exclusion was important enough to have in the bill in the first place.

The Minister sputters and says that the bill is not about content moderation.

Seeing the interview getting derailed again, the interviewer takes a fourth kick at the can and asked why the exclusion is now gone. He asks about the thought process of the committee in removing that exclusion.

Grasping at straws at this stage, the Minister responds by saying that the committee does what it wants. The Minister, searching for an answer, then says that the committee isn’t done with the work on the bill. Stuttering, the Minister says that because the work isn’t done, then we don’t have a full picture of what the bill looks like in a final form.

Taking a fifth kick at the can, the interviewer then asks if the Minister would like to see the exclusion back in Bill C-10.

At that point, the Minister appears panicked and says that the exclusion wasn’t necessary.

By that point, the interviewed asks about why the exclusion was there in the first place.

The Minister then tries the vague approach by saying that the bill was being worked on for months and that the bill can always be perfected. Seemingly flustered, the Minister says that it isn’t the purpose of the bill (very likely grasping at the talking point about how the bill is not about moderating user generated content). After that, the Minister starts making no sense by saying that it’s not required to be in the bill (if the section was not required, what purpose does it serve to remove it from the bill? If the Minister is to be believed, then having a redundancy isn’t going to hurt anything. Every other possible line of thinking that might have been going through the Minister’s head makes less and less sense).

After sputtering through talking points, the Minister then latches back on to the talking point of how there is no basis in reality of the idea that the CRTC is going to be moderating user generated content. The Minister says that the CRTC, over the last 40 years, doesn’t have the power to moderate content and the bill doesn’t grant that power. Some regulation experts might find that point rather odd, but the bizarre interview carries on. The Minister, waving his hands in the air, says that this whole conversation makes no sense (which we will agree, but not in the way the Minister says it doesn’t make sense).

The interviewer then cites former CRTC chairperson, Peter Menzies. The interviewer quotes him saying that granting the CRTC legal authority over legal user generated content doesn’t just constitute an infringement of free expression, but also a full blown assault on it as well.

In response, the Minister stutters, waving his hands more in the air, says that he could cite many people including a CRTC chairperson who says that platforms like YouTube does need to be regulated. He then says that he could quote many different cultural organizations representing two thousand artists, musicians, technicians, and businesses saying that the Conservative Party wants to sacrifice culture on the alter of partisanship. Where that came from in this context, we have no idea. The Minister then started rubbing his hands and appeared to smile a bit when he went on to say that one Conservative member criticized Bill C-10 for not going far enough because it doesn’t ensure that YouTube paid their fair share.

Meandering further away from the question, the Minister then says that Google, the parent company of YouTube, isn’t happy about the bill. He says that the Conservatives wanted to support the legislation and that the large tech companies are very large and very powerful. The minister stutters a bit and says that these companies are among the wealthiest in the world. He then says that the Conservative party got cold feet and they’re running for the hills. He insists that this is what’s really happening. The minister then says that the Bloc is supporting them, the NDP are supporting them, and the Green Party is supporting them. He says that the Conservatives are the only ones not supporting them and siding with the web giants.

Seeing the interview go on for 7 minutes, the interviewer then thanks the Minister for his time and ends the interview.

If you can see the interview for yourself, it truly is a sight to behold just how disastrous of an interview it was. We tried tn encapsulate what went on in text form, but it’ll obviously never beat the full video version. You have a full 7 minute long interview that consists of just one question – and that question was never answered. Instead, you have deflection, blame, and even shades of Vic Toews with the comment of ‘you are either siding with us or you are siding with the web giants’.

You can almost visualize the whole control room after looking at each other and saying, “wow… that just happened.” Undeterred by the insanity that just went to air, the posting says the following:

Changes to the government’s broadcasting bill would allow the CRTC to regulate user-generated content uploaded to social media platforms. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says the exemption for user-generated content was ‘not necessary.’

You have to wonder that the editorial decision to summarize the interview in that manner was to assume that people would get that the context was that other laws protect free expression, no harm, no foul. Out of context, though, the quote above suggests that the Minister doesn’t think it’s necessary to protect user generated content. That probably makes the whole situation look worse than it really is (which, to be fair, is a heck of an accomplishment). The summary provided by the broadcaster isn’t inaccurate per se, but it’s very easy to get a misinterpretation from it. In short, the summary really puts a hilarious cherry on top of this disaster. The only way to really put a closer on all of this is to say, “the Aristocrats!”

Obviously, observers reacting to this interview are borderline speechless. Michael Geist, responding to the interview, says that if Bill C-10 wasn’t grounds for Guilbeault to be fired, the interview is. The usually analytical professor who typically breaks things down into components and offers his thoughts only had this to say:

If Bill C-10 isn’t a fireable offence, this interview should be. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault is simply unable to respond coherently to basic questions about his own legislation and flailing for talking points that seek to blame tech companies or opposition parties for the fact that he introduced legislation that exempted user generated content, removed the exception, and has no answer for why. Watch the interview and decide whether Canadians can trust Guilbeault to defend freedom of expression online.

That is literally his whole post sans video. If he needed to go walk around his yard or a park just to clear his head after witnessing that train wreck, I honestly wouldn’t blame him. If there was any doubt that Guilbeault doesn’t know what he is doing, that doubt was effectively nuked from orbit.

At minimum, a minister should have a basic understanding of what is going on in the bill. The Minister didn’t even come close to that bar. It was clear that the cited section was something he was completely unfamiliar with. Even if you subscribe to the notion that one MP won’t know every single section and sub-section of the bill, then, at the very least, understand the sections and subsections that are drawing controversy (be it something in the bill or an amendment being proposed). At that point, you can form a line of defence against the criticism. The interview showed that the Minister didn’t even have a defence.

Chances are, the Minister is going to draw a lot more criticism after what happened. After such an interview, he probably will deserve a good portion of that criticism.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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