Heritage Minister Admits Bill C-10 Does Regulate User Content

Steven Guilbeault’s Bill C-10 disaster and ensuing trainwreck somehow managed to get worse. He admits that it is about regulating user generating content.

Bill C-10 is increasingly becoming an increasing liability for the Canadian Liberal government. As we reported on last month, Bill C-10 would regulate apps and user generated content. This was thanks to a secret amendment that specifically removes a section of the legislation that explicitly exempts user generated content. The bill itself requires content to have discoverable Canadian content in it. In short, a certain percentage of the content needs to be Canadian in order for it to be legal. It basically takes similar regulation on large media giants in Canada and applies them to ordinary, every day users.

As backlash grew, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, tried to deny that user generated content was what this legislation was all about. He dismissed the concerns as fake news and said that regulating user generated content is not what the legislation is all about. However, admissions from the Ministry as well as documents suggested otherwise.

Then, Guilbeault made an appearance on the CBC seemingly in an effort to clear all of this controversy up. What ensued was a trainwreck where the Minister couldn’t even answer a simple question about the legislation. Specifically, he was asked about the exemption to the legislation that was removed through an amendment. In response, the Minister deflected the question and tried to change the subject. Observers and critics responded by saying that if the legislation isn’t enough cause for him to be fired, then the interview should have been.

Things continued to fly off the rails and it forced Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to step in and back up his minister. Trudeau commented, “We have clearly indicated that this is not about individual users or about what Canadians themselves publish online. As the Minister of Canadian Heritage said, we will propose an amendment to make this crystal clear to us and to everyone else.”

That amendment did make things crystal clear, as it turns out. The amendment explicitly says that the discoverability requirements do apply to Canadian content creators online. At that point, there are two possibilities here: either Trudeau has no idea what his own Heritage Minister is doing with this legislation or Trudeau is misleading Canadians in an effort to cover this scandal up. Neither outcome looks good for him.

Well, if things looked bad now, then things got a whole lot worse after the Heritage Minister somehow managed to outdo himself in giving disastrous interviews. Michael Geist is pointing to a CTV Interview with Evan Solomon. The interview starts off with the Minister continuing to deny that this legislation is about regulating user generated content. Then, towards the end, the Minister freely admits that the legislation is, in fact, about regulating user generated content.

With perplexed facial expressions (which has become common amongst those interviewing the Minister these days), Solomon asked what the threshold is for those who would be under the scrutiny of the government. That question is the question for all of us Canadian creators, really. It’s a very fair question to ask at that stage in the interview as well. After dodging the question, the Minister responded that this would be determined by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission). The CRTC, of course, is a government regulator.

Still, the Minister stuck to his guns that the government isn’t regulating user generated content. This time around, he suggested that the CRTC isn’t the government. This is like saying that the US’s FCC isn’t part of the American government. Um… it is. If there was any doubt about that, here’s a screenshot of the English home page of the CRTC taken just today:

The concern all along is that government is going to regulate user generated content. The most you can really say is that it is an organization that operates at arms length from the Federal government. It’s still publicly funded. It’s still a part of the Canadian government. Most importantly, it’s still suggested that they will regulate user generated content. This is what critics are decrying. What’s worse is the fact that we are talking about un-elected officials regulating user generated content. The question at that point becomes, does the Minister know what the CRTC is? It’s shocking that this even needs to be asked in the first place.

The other thing is that this admission basically makes Trudeau look like an idiot on top of it all. You have a Minister who originally denied that user generated content is going to be regulated. Then, you have the Prime Minister who defend the Minister by repeating the comment that user generated content won’t be regulated, giving the Minister an out. Then the Minister turns around, takes that out, wipes is rear end on it, then flushes it down the toilet. If I was Prime Minister, I would, at minimum, be pissed off at him for that. I just went to bat for you and then you pull that on me? Are you serious?

The question needs to be repeated: How does this guy even have a job at this point? He’s been, politically, nothing but a liability ever since Bill C-10 was being drafted and he continues to be the gift that keeps on giving for the opposition. If I was the opposition, I would get their friendly media outlets to have him on the air for as long and as many times as possible. The more he winds up admitting that the party is after your cat videos, the more the opposition looks good. Just let this guy keep talking and just let him continue to sink the party.

Conversely, if I was a Liberal strategist, then I would easily say, cut this guy out of the cabinet. Yes, we’ll take a hit for that now, politically, but the longer he stays on, the more liability we’ll take. Take the band-aid off now, let that sting hit, shelve C-10 so people forget about this whole nightmare scenario, then move on.

All of this really does feed into my theory that this legislation was written out of idiocy rather than malice. All of the evidence seems to point to that.

To expand on that, think practically to what leaving regulating every video on social media to the CRTC actually means. How many hundreds of thousands of videos get posted by Canadians on a daily basis. It’s easy to just see the ones that have millions of views and assume that not a lot get posted. Still, there are probably countless of videos from people who are hoping to make it big in some way shape or form only to realize, later on, that getting hundreds of thousands of views isn’t actually all that easy. Some aren’t even all that trackable in the first place given that some producers want to remain anonymous.

Generally speaking, enforcing this in any way shape or form is going to be, at best, a total impractical nightmare to begin with. At that point, the question is whether or not a whitelisting system can be implemented. That, alone, is grounds for a constitutional challenge because the government is then effectively censoring people. Then, what about an open registration process? I would still wonder if that is constitutional in the first place. The point here is that you quickly find yourself in a darned if you do, darned if you don’t scenario. Either a solution is probably illegal, or it is an excessive burden on the regulator. Nothing good is going to come from this.

If the Minister and his supporters aren’t in over their heads with this legislation, they will be very shortly. Unless you hate freedom of speech and the Constitution, or you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the legislation is about, there’s no way to even support this legislation in the first place. There really is no way you can support this legislation that we can tell.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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