The House’s pre-summer sprint continues. While we can’t predict which, if any, MPs will appear in the nude or drop an unparliamentary F-bomb this week, we can share which three pieces of policy and politicking we’ll be following.
Updating the Broadcasting Bill
That new TikTok dance you’re choreographing had better be set to some catchy CanCon — or not, depending whose messaging on the government’s broadcasting bill is landing with you.
Background: The Liberal government introduced its amendments to the Broadcasting Act in November 2020, aiming to level the playing field for the Canadian broadcasters that are regulated by the current act and the international tech giants sending content to Canadians’ devices on a daily basis with nary a tip of the Stetson to Shania or a salutatory chest thump to Ms. Dion.
Everything was going well enough, until late last month when the Liberal members on the Canadian Heritage committee removed a clause from the bill that would exempt user-generated content on social media from CRTC regulation.
Why it matters: Canada’s Broadcasting Act hasn’t been updated since 1991, so it has a lot of catching up to do to address the technological advances of the past 30 years. The concern of opposition parties and some experts is that the bill in its current iteration goes too far and will infringe on free expression online. A Conservative member of the heritage committee has moved that the bill be put on a 10-day pause while the justice committee determines if it violates Canadians’ rights.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted in the House this week the bill “it isn’t about what Canadians do online. It’s about what web giants don’t do, which is to support Canadian-made stories and music.”
Next steps: The Canadian Heritage committee continues clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-10 on Monday. Expect a lot more back and forth about the social media sovereignty of individual Canadians in the meanwhile.
Second reading debate of the government’s omnibus budget bill is slated to continue next week.
Background: Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled “an act to implement certain provisions of the budget” on April 30 and it has since been the subject of second reading debate in the House. That bill was hot on the heels of Freeland introducing the Liberals’ first budget in over two years on April 19 and the minority government surviving initial votes approving of the budget “in general.”
Why it matters: There’s a lot in Bill C-30 the Liberals would like to push through as soon as possible, especially with a summer hiatus on the horizon and rumours of an election continuing to swirl.
In addition to extensions of COVID-19 aid, incentives for businesses to re-hire employees laid off due to the pandemic and the introduction of a $15 federal minimum wage, the omnibus bill also includes non-monetary policy, like a change to the Elections Act that would make it illegal to “knowingly” make false statements about political candidates or party leaders.
Budget bills are matters of confidence, so the Grits will need to get at least one opposition party onside for the bill to pass and to avoid their government falling.
What next: The budget implementation bill is back in the House on Tuesday.
In addition to the electoral amendments in the government’s budget bill, debate is scheduled to continue on a bill that would make Canada’s elections COVID-safer — though it’s not going anywhere fast.
Background: The elections bill was introduced in December 2020 and has had a paltry three hours of debate since then. The Liberals are pointing the finger at the Tories for stalling it, including through tactics to delay the start of second reading, but it’s also been bumped to prioritise other legislation.
C-19 would make temporary changes to the Elections Act to make voting during the COVID-19 pandemic a safer affair, like stretching election day over three days and extending the chief electoral officer’s powers to put various health and safety measures in place.
Why it matters: Minority governments tend to last around around 18 months on average — or about as long as Trudeau and co. have been in power this go around. It’s really just a matter of time until Canadians are sent to the polls, so having policies in place to do so as safely as possible are sensible. In fact, it was chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault’s concerns over the country’s preparedness for a mid-pandemic election that led to C-19 being tabled.
What next: Second reading debate of the government’s elections act continues on Monday.
For more on these issues as they unfold — and everything else happening on the Hill — visit iPolitics.ca. And catch up on all things #cdnpoli with the iPolitics/Toronto Star No Talking Points podcast.