Conservative Party Releases Platform – An Analysis (Part 2)

We continue our detailed analysis of the Conservative party platform. This thanks to how large the platform is in the first place.

Yesterday, we began our analysis of the Conservative party platform. We didn’t realize how long it would take or how much effort would be required to produce one. This is thanks to the platform being so large. Still, we are trudging ahead anyway. We left off at page 117 (PDF page 59), so we are basically just continuing to that point. Like last time, we’ll offer both the PDF page number as well as the actual page number due to the fact that two pages are on one page in the PDF. It’s a weird format, so we hope that eliminates any possible confusion.

Increase Broadband to Rural Indigenous Communities

One thing we noted in the previous part of our analysis was that there was a commitment to increase broadband access in rural communities. We noted that the platform sections we read didn’t say rural and indigenous communities. We really couldn’t make sense of why there was such an omission. We then got to this section on page 119 (PDF page 60) which makes up for that commitment:

Broadband in Rural Indigenous Communities

Indigenous peoples living in rural and remote regions of Canada face a significant connectivity gap, even compared to other Canadians living in rural and remote areas. Only 24% of households in Indigenous communities have access to high-speed internet compared to 37% for rural households and 97% for urban ones. Because of this, Indigenous peoples will be significant beneficiaries of our plan to connect all Canadians to high-speed internet by 2025.

However, Indigenous communities face additional challenges when it comes to navigating existing broadband programs. For example, complex application processes pose a barrier to small, isolated communities. It can be more difficult for Indigenous communities to access the funding they need.

To deal with these issues, Canada’s Conservatives will:

  • Streamline application processes for Indigenous communities.
  • Provide more support and develop more flexible funding arrangements.
  • Provide technical support during the application process.

So, combining this with the earlier section, there is a commitment to expanding broadband of rural and indigenous communities. It’s a bit odd that this was split into two separate commitments spread out in the platform. At this point, we can safely conclude that this was more of a clerical oversight more than anything else.

Commitments to Quebec High Speed Internet

On page 138 (PDF page 70), we see the following:

Canada’s Conservatives will:

  • Build digital infrastructure to connect all of Québec to high-speed internet by 2025
    • As the last year has made abundantly clear, high-speed internet is essential for Canadians to learn, work, and compete. The Trudeau government has moved much too slowly, as can be seen by Quebec moving ahead on its own. It is unacceptable that a third of Quebeckers in rural and remote areas still lack high-speed internet access. We will put a stop to the endless delays and become a true partner to the provinces, delivering broadband from coast to coast.
  • Canada’s Conservatives will:

    • Coordinate federal investments with the program recently announced by the Government of Québec.
    • Speed up the spectrum auction process to get more spectrum into use and apply “use it or lose it” provisions to ensure that spectrum (particularly in rural areas) is actually developed, with auction revenue dedicated to our digital infrastructure plan.
    • Require that Huawei equipment not be used, to protect national security.

We adjusted the formatting with the bullet points. It appears that the platform contained a formatting error and we thing this is how it was meant to be displayed. Anyway, this is largely a repeat of previous commitments found elsewhere. Only difference really is that it mentions Quebec specifically.

Repeating High Speed Broadband

In the section about rural communities, we, once again, see the same promise of better broadband access. This is found on page 145 (PDF page 73):

We will also take several specific steps to help rural Canadians, including:

  • Building digital infrastructure to connect all of Canada to High-Speed Internet by 2025
    • As the last year has made abundantly clear, high-speed internet is essential for Canadians to learn, work, and compete. The Trudeau government has moved much too slowly, as can be seen by provinces such as Ontario and Quebec moving ahead on their own. Far too many Canadians still lack high-speed internet. We will put a stop to the endless delays and become a true partner to the provinces, delivering broadband from coast to coast.

Canada’s Conservatives will:

  • Get rural broadband built over the next four years.
  • Speed up the spectrum auction process to get more spectrum into use and apply use it or lose it provisions to ensure that spectrum (particularly in rural areas) is actually developed, with the auction revenues dedicated to our digital infrastructure plan.
  • Require that Huawei equipment not be used, to protect national security.

(Format tweaked with respect to the bullet points) This is generally a repeat of a previous commitment.

Re-Igniting the Push for Privacy Reform

If there is anything that needed to be reinvigorated, it’s the push to reform Canada’s badly outdated privacy laws. Canada’s privacy reform bill, bill C-11, was introduced in 2020. By March of this year, the interest in moving it forward died out as the Liberals simply let the bill languish without further debates or getting it into committee. While some oppose specific provisions, the bill is generally a positive step forward to make a half-hearted effort to bring Canada more in line with the rest of the civilized world. When the Liberals completely ejected their digital agenda in October of last year in favour of their well documented war on the Internet, privacy reform became largely forgotten. When asked, the Liberals just blamed the opposition after.

So, it actually was a pleasant surprise to see this as part of the platform. This is found on page 147 (PDF page 74):

Canada’s Conservatives began and led the fight for human rights in modern Canada, most notably under the great Conservative Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker. We will continue to champion human rights for all Canadians by:

  • Protecting Data Privacy
    • Canada’s Conservatives believe that digital data privacy is a fundamental right that urgently requires strengthened protection through legislation and enforcement.
    • Canadians must have the right to understand and control the collection, use, monitoring, retention, and disclosure of their personal data.
    • We will pass strong legislation to protect privacy more effectively than the current government’s weak Bill C-11.

Generally speaking, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a great place to start in terms of figuring out what is good policy. The Conservatives could have mentioned a requirement by companies to report incidences involving people’s personal information. They could have also mentioned fining companies that are negligent with people”s personal information receiving fines. Unfortunately, we don’t see specifics like that here. Instead, the commitment is a bit more vague. It’s good that it’s in there, though it could have been more expansive with details in our view. After all, the area of personal privacy in a digital world is huge. Three little bullet points wouldn’t do this area justice.

Repealing Bill C-10

Bill C-10 was one of the Liberal governments major prongs in their war on the Internet. The legislation would have seriously negative implications on free speech and there were questions about whether or not it was even constitutional (probably unconstitutional). As we reported on Sunday, Bill C-10 died on the order-paper, so the legislation is actually dead for now. The legislation got a mention on page 153 (PDF page 77):

Canada’s Conservatives will repeal Liberal Bill C-10, which gives too much power to regulators while failing to provide businesses with the clear guidelines they need to operate. We will replace it with legislation that updates the Broadcasting Act to deal with the realities of an increasingly online market and the need to provide businesses with certainty and consumers with choice.

This is a continuation of comments made earlier by the party. It was all about repealing the legislation. Technically, the legislation is already dead, so no repeal is necessary at this stage as far as we know. Essentially, the Conservatives actually just won’t push it or table it if they are elected. From a digital rights perspective, that gets a thumbs up from us.

Investment Requirements

On the same page, we see this:

Our alternative approach will:

  • Require large digital streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video to reinvest a significant portion of their Canadian gross revenue into producing original Canadian programming, of which a mandated proportion must be French language programming.
    • If they fail to do so on their own in a given year, they will be required to pay the difference into the Canadian Media Fund.
    • The proportion chosen will vary based on the nature of the streaming service and would be determined based on the best practices of other jurisdictions, such as those in Europe and Australia, as well as the nature of the Canadian market.
    • Content reinvestment requirements will also recognize and incentivize partnerships with Canadian independent media producers.
  • Exempt the content Canadians upload onto social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Tik Tok from regulation in order to protect free speech.
  • Streamline and reduce the regulatory burden placed on conventional Canadian broadcasters and cable companies, including CRTC license fees and Canadian Media Fund contribution requirements, with the loss in revenue to be compensated by a portion of the revenue from the new digital services tax.
    • This will include abolishing CRTC Part II license fees.
    • The health of the Canadian cultural sector depends on the continued viability and success of its private broadcasters. Conventional Canadian broadcasters and cable companies have experienced significant losses in subscribers and revenue in recent years due to the rise of online streaming services.

For some observers, parts of this might actually seem redundant given that large streaming services already invest significantly in the Canadian market. If anything, this is just moving the money around a bit. Still, it is nice to see a mention given to smaller independent producers.

The exception to user generated content is in reference to the removed Section 4.1 of Bill C-10. Conservatives tried three times to put that critical exception back and the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc all voted it down all three times. So, they are pushing for this still which is good news.

As for the last part of this section, generally, broadcasters are already subsidized anyway. So, it sounds like the Conservative party wants to increase the subsidies for the private broadcasters.

Online Hate Speech

Online harms was, of course, the second prong of the Liberal party’s war on the Internet. It appears as though the Conservatives are going to continue this prong, but on a more narrow basis. This is found on page 154 (PDF page 78):

Protecting Canadians from Online Hate while Preserving Free Speech

Conservatives condemn and will always oppose the dissemination of hate speech, speech that incites violence and sexually abusive material. Canada’s Conservatives will combat the growing presence of online sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and extremist groups.

We believe that this can best be done by using the Criminal Code and our criminal justice system. To better protect Canadians, Canada’s Conservatives will:

  • Fight online incitement and hatred by clearly criminalizing statements that encourage acts of violence against other people or identifiable groups. Conservatives will also protect forms of speech, criticism, and argument that do not encourage violence.
  • Provide $25 million to law enforcement to allow them to follow up more rapidly and investigate online threats of violence, hate speech, sexual exploitation, human trafficking and disinformation campaigns by foreign governments or extremist groups.
  • Create a stronger legal duty for social media platforms to remove illegal content, such as content that incites violence.

What we do not support are restrictions on legitimate freedom of speech. Free speech, freedom of expression, and a free press are fundamental tenets of Canadian law and Canadian democracy. We will oppose government censorship of material that is not criminal in nature merely because some may find it to be offensive. Consequently, we have opposed Justin Trudeau’s attempt to create a national speech regulator for social media. Unlike the Liberals, we will not use the power of government to censor those we disagree with.

This appears to be more narrow in nature than the more broad “harmful content” that was pushed by the Liberals. What’s more is that it more narrowly focuses on large social media platforms. That, of course, is a much better improvement than the Liberals efforts to target any website in existence. The only question that we have is whether or not the Conservatives will employ the hair trigger 24 hour requirement that was also the subject of condemnation by the international community. That, of course, will incentivize automated filters which will, in turn, become problematic for free speech at a bare minimum. We ask because of the “stronger legal duty” in the last point.

Pushing for a Link Tax

The third prong of the Liberals war on the Internet is the push for the ill-conceived link tax. Disappointingly, the Conservatives are also pushing for a link tax. From pages 154-155 (PDF page 78):

Protecting and Ensuring the Independence of Canadian Media

Canadian media is in crisis. The loss of digital advertising revenue to American tech giants like Google and Facebook is putting local newspapers out of business, costing Canadian jobs, and undermining our ability to tell local, Canadian stories.

Canada’s Conservatives don’t believe that the solution is for the government to provide direct funding to hand-picked media outlets, something that undermines press freedom and trust in the media.

Instead, we will secure a level playing field for Canadian media, ensuring that Canadians are paid fairly for the content they create while encouraging the creation of more Canadian media and culture. Canada’s Conservatives will:

  • Introduce a digital media royalty framework to ensure that Canadian media outlets are fairly compensated for the sharing of their content by platforms like Google and Facebook. It will:
    • Adopt a made in Canada approach that incorporates the best practices of jurisdictions like Australia and France.
    • Include a robust arbitration process and the creation of an intellectual property right for article extracts shared on a social media platform.
    • Ensure that smaller media outlets are included, and that the government won’t be able to pick and choose who has access to the royalty framework.
  • Introduce a Digital Services Tax representing 3% of gross revenue in Canada to make web giants pay their fair share.
  • Significantly reduce the amount of money the government is spending on advertising with big foreign tech companies like Twitter and instead direct federal ad dollars to Canadian media, including community weeklies, regional media, and ethnic media.
  • Recognize and correct the adverse economic impact for creators and publishers from the uncompensated use of their works in a manner consistent with the unanimous recommendations of the Heritage Committee of the House of Commons Report in 2019.
  • End Trudeau’s $600 million media bailout. While we support Canadian media outlets, they should not be directly receiving tax dollars. Government funding of “approved” media undermines press freedom, a vital part of a free society.
  • Conduct a review of federal book publishing policy to enhance the commercial viability of Canada’s independent publishing sector.

Generally speaking, no link tax at all is the proper solution here. While the idea of expanding who would theoretically get the money is a positive step, this still has the overarching problem of actively discouraging people linking to each other. Content already shared on social media would easily fall into the category of fair dealing. This is because it is simply a small snippet, a thumbnail of a picture, and a link. That has greatly increased the viability of outlets because this encourages users to click on that link and go directly to that publishers site. The last thing any site needs is to discourage this behaviour. What’s more is that this policy very easily stands to solidify legacy corporations market positions while squeezing out the competition in the first place.

At any rate, this will have a huge negative impact on freedom of expression and it’s disappointing that the Conservatives are also championing this backwards idea in the first place.

Repeating the 3% Tax Promise on Large Tech Giants

On page 157 (PDF page 157), we see the following:

Making Foreign Multinationals and Big Tech Companies Pay Their Fair Share

While Canadian small businesses have suffered over the last year, major American tech companies like Amazon and Google have made record profits – while paying next to no tax on the money they make in Canada. It’s time for fairness.

Canada’s Conservatives will make foreign tech companies pay their fair share of taxes including sales tax and a digital services tax representing 3% of their gross revenue in Canada if they don’t pay corporate income tax here.

This is just a repeat of an earlier promise.

Concluding Portion

The platform’s concluding part on page 160 (PDF page 81) contains the following:

A crucial part of our plan is a set of new investments in Research & Development, high-speed internet access, and tax measures such as the patent box. These will have long-term benefits to the economy, making us more competitive and generating more future tax revenues. That is why our priority is to get businesses rebuilt and investing again and get people back to work.

This partly wraps up their platform for the most part. Nothing new is really introduced in this paragraph.

Summary

So, that concludes the Conservative party platform. In this section, we got the following:

  • Clarification that the increase in broadband access includes indigenous communities in rural areas
  • Reviving the push for privacy reform
  • Scrapping Bill C-10
  • Narrowing the scope of online harms to hate speech and other illegal content, though that left questions about how the Conservatives want to incorporate the widely condemned 24 hour window thanks to language surrounding stronger duty for platforms
  • Mirroring the notorious link tax pushed by the Liberals, though leaving the door open for smaller independent creators to getting the funding afterwards
  • Repeating the promise to tax large tech giants 3%

While we didn’t want to break this into two parts, the platform was quite huge and the promises related to tech were sprinkled throughout (not just in the dedicated sections). So, it was a bit difficult to find it all. Obviously, if we missed anything significant, we would like to know from you. Otherwise, we hope you found this analysis informative.

Further Reading:
Part 1 of our Conservative Party platform analysis
Conservative Party Platform (PDF)
Michael Geist’s more brief summary of his thoughts on the platform

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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