Snap federal election cuts Bill C-10 short

The future of the Broadcasting Act is now tied to the results of the Sept. 20 election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a snap federal election for September, marking the end of the road for Bill C-10.

The Liberal Party leader asked newly appointed Governor General Mary Simon to dissolve Parliament yesterday (Aug. 15), triggering a federal election on Sept. 20.

The dissolution of the 43rd Parliament of Canada means all bills that have yet to be passed through the House of Commons or the Senate are terminated or “die on the Order Paper.” Depending on the outcome of the pending federal election, the bill may be re-introduced after the 44th Parliament has formed, starting the process all over again with another First Reading at the House of Commons.

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault tabled Bill C-10 in November 2020 as an amendment to the current Broadcasting Act, which has been in place since 1991. The bill would bring streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video into the domestic regulatory system and grant more powers and flexibility to the CRTC. It would also ensure more support for Indigenous content.

The bill ran into trouble while under the microscope of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, when the Conservative Party, as well as other critics of the bill, sounded the alarm about the potential that the amendment would lead to censorship and the regulation of user-generated content.

While the Liberal Party stated it would amend Bill C-10 to clarify that content created by users on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or TikTok would not be regulated, the bill continued to see delays. The clause-by-clause review was temporarily halted in May, during which time the Department of Justice reviewed the bill to confirm it was not in violation of the Charter and an expert panel of Bill C-10 critics and supporters were invited before the committee to discuss the implications of the bill for freedom of speech.

In the meantime, Canada’s screen sector rallied together to support the bill. A raft of unions, guilds and organizations signed an open letter to Parliament to push the bill through, which said Bill C-10 is “a critical first step towards rules that are fair and effective, and reflect
the modern-day media landscape.” Among the organizations to sign were the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), ACTRA, the Director’s Guild of Canada, the Writers Guild of Canada, Women in Film and Television Canada Coalition and the Black Screen Office.

The screen sector urgency came as reports signalled that the Liberal Party was eyeing a snap fall election. In June, Trudeau told reporters that there was a concern over the “level of obstructionism and toxicity” in the House of Commons in their attempts to pass legislation before adjourning for the summer.

While Bill C-10 would eventually go on to pass at the House of Commons on June 21. The bill went through a second reading at the Senate and was sent for further review with the Senate committee for Transport and Communications by the time the Senate adjourned.

The future of the Broadcasting Act is now tied to the results of the Sept. 20 election and who will emerge as the head of Canada’s 44th Parliament.

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