The Government’s Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act, Bill C-10, has passed the House of Commons by a vote of 196 to 112 and is now headed to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate. The bill seeks to update rules and regulations for broadcasters across Canada. It passed the House with the support of the Bloc and NDP MPs, while the Conservatives voted against it. Bill C-10 was met with significant criticism and delay when the Liberal government introduced and adopted an amendment in committee that sought to repeal section 4.1 of the legislation (which exempted user-generated content from regulation). Citing infringement on freedom of speech, Conservative MPs successfully stalled the bill and amplified awareness of its possible implications with this new (unexpected) amendment. The Liberal government has since introduced an amendment to clarify its position on user-generated content, which was adopted. After significant debate, delay and the re-certification of Charter compliance by the Minister of Justice, the bill, originally tabled in the House of Commons in November 2020, has passed Third Reading in the 11th hour.
Due to enhanced protections for the cultural sector in Quebec and for francophone content, the bill has the unwavering support of the Bloc, who positioned themselves as partners with the Liberals in order to facilitate the accelerated passage of the bill. With an election looming, the Trudeau Government hopes the bill will pass in the Senate before their adjournment for the Summer. Should the bill not pass, the Bloc will surely direct attention to the Liberal’s inability to safeguard protections for Quebec-based content creators, which may prove costly for the Liberals in a potential upcoming election.
What Comes Next
Bill C-10 now heads to the Senate for consideration. Given the controversy surrounding the legislation and the Senate’s composition, and the fact that some Senators have already voiced their own concerns about the bill, we can expect Bill C-10 to be scrutinized line by line. Should the Senate make amendments, Prime Minister Trudeau can recall the House of Commons to pass the bill so that it achieves Royal Assent before a possible election. However, citing Conservative delay tactics as leaving insufficient time, Senator Dawson has signalled that the Senate may simply not have sufficient time to study the bill. The Senate also has the ability to reject the bill entirely, which would mean that a completely new bill would have to be introduced.
The fate of C-10 will become more clear as Senate consideration of the bill proceeds in the coming days.