Government Officials Admit New Money Figures from Bill C-11 Are “Illustrative”

After insisting that Bill C-11 means new funding, the Canadian government is admitting that the numbers are more or less made up.

The credibility of the claims that are supportive for Bill C-11 continue to dwindle. After the legislation passed the House of Commons stages in a secret and rushed process, the legislation was ultimately delayed at the Senate after the government adjourned for the Summer.

For the last couple of months, the credibility of Bill C-11 just kept taking hit after hit. One by one, claims about why Bill C-11 is “great” and “needed” went down in flames. One of the big talking points is that Bill C-11 does not regulate user generated content. That talking point ultimately went down in flames as the CRTC would confirm that it does regulate user generated content. Another talking point is that Bill C-11 does not manipulate the algorithms. The CRTC chair confirmed that, yes, Bill C-11 manipulates the outcomes of those algorithms. A third talking point is that those in the culture sector want this legislation. Testimonies from online creators and the music sector clearly spelled out that this is not the case.

For those keeping track, that is a huge swath of talking points that turned out to be false. These hits have left a huge gaping hole in the defence of Bill C-11. The question is, in what way do Liberals still defend Bill C-11? One of the last remnants of Bill C-11 revolves around money. For months, government officials have been touting that Bill C-11 would bring in desperately needed funding for the creation of Canadian content. The idea that Canadian content is in need of saving in the first place in the world of online platforms have always been a dubious talking point at best. Dubious talking point aside, it’s hard to argue with new funding going towards the creation of Canadian content, right?

Well, there is one tiny problem with that. That problem is, where is the money coming from? Defenders of Bill C-11 would say “Bill C-11”. The problem is, Senators are already pointing out that there is no provision in Bill C-11 that allocates a single penny towards the creation of new content. Indeed, we looked, but we were unable to find it. Canadian senators have stated that Bill C-11 is merely a framework to which to build off. The allocation of money could theoretically come out of new policies based off of Bill C-11’s framework, however, the bill directly doesn’t move any money around.

Yet, government officials insisted that Bill C-11 does, in fact, allocate money. One claim hovering around was that it would allocate $1 billion for the creation of new content. Before the break, this claim was apparently tested at the Canadian senate. Government officials were asked where this “$1 billion” claim came from. The answer from the government is that the money figure is merely “illustrative”. In other words, the figure was basically made up:

.@SenatorHousakos asks about $1B claim of new money. Where does this come from?
A. It is meant to be “illustrative”. Estimated revenues and potential payments by streamers of either 30% or 5%. CRTC to decide.

This was apparently repeated:

When Heritage officials were asked to explain the claim Bill C-11 will generate $1B at the Senate committee yesterday, they called the figure an “illustrative” estimate.
Same question at House committee sitting with @pablorodriguez, there was no such equivocation.
Funny that.

So, it sounds like there was a walking back on that claim as well.

The question then becomes, what is left in terms of defending the legislation? Honestly, we’re not really sure.

So, cutting out and moving aside all the lies about Bill C-11, what is left? What you have left over is a piece of legislation designed to get platforms to manipulate their algorithms so the governments handpicked “winners” always come out on top. You have traditional outlets upset that people went online to try and build something only to not only be successful, but rival their success on more traditional mediums. For traditional outlets, that is what needs to be changed. They want the captive audience they enjoyed for decades to return and to squeeze out all the competition from the online market in the process. That is what is left in this debate that is still standing. All evidence, so far, points to the fact that this is a true assessment of the legislation and what the aims of that assessment is.

Let’s face it, the government could have put together a much smaller bill that says that the big platforms must pay into a designated fund. There would be very spirited debate, but it would have certainly been less controversial than a bill designed to also ruin the lives of online creators. However, that is not the path the government chose. Instead, they chose to listen to corporate lobbyists and then make claims about the legislation after that were exposed to be lies. The end result is a piece of legislation that the Senate is having serious questions about and, what’s more, vulnerable to a constitutional challenge in the court. That is the situation we ended up with today. It didn’t have to be this way, but it is where we are now.

So, what can the government do today now that they are in such a big hole? Scrap Bill C-11. Admit that the approach was wrongheaded and go back to the drawing board. It would mean a bruising to the ego, but it would be, for once, a correct move by the government at this stage. All signs point to the government not wanting to do this and simply pushing to pass this legislation at all costs, however. So, the chances of that happening are slim at this stage. That is unfortunate given how many people stand to get hurt by this legislation.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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