Canada's Original Think Tank

Question period – Regulation of Internet Services

Question period – Regulation of Internet Services

Question period – Regulation of Internet Services

Hon. Serge Joyal: 

Welcome, minister. I will call upon your legal training and remind you of two Supreme Court of Canada rulings from June 22, 2017, about a year ago, in Douez v. Facebook and Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc.

The Supreme Court stated the following:

. . . there was gross inequality of bargaining power between [Internet service providers and consumers].

It added that upholding constitutional rights is the government’s responsibility, and I quote:

. . . because these rights play an essential role in a free and democratic society and embody key Canadian values.

In other words, the Supreme Court told the federal government that it had both the power and the responsibility to take steps to bring some balance to the relationship between an oligopoly and ordinary consumers.

Minister, why can’t your government make the same decision that the European Union’s Council of Ministers made one year ago, on May 23, 2017, to increase European quotas in Netflix’s catalogue to 30 per cent?

Why can’t your government do what other European governments have done on the same legal basis? Is it because of a lack of political will or simply because of a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to the Internet market?

Hon. Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P., Minister of Canadian Heritage: Thank you for your question, senator. Internet giants play a fundamental role in our cultural ecosystem, and I have made that a priority since I first took office. I held the first consultations to determine how to protect and promote Canadian content in the digital age. We also introduced the first cultural policy that recognizes that we need to modernize the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act.

Just today, senator, I announced that we are going to modernize the Broadcasting Act, which has not been changed since 1991, when the Internet was not yet part of our lives. We have four objectives for the modernization of that act.

First, all the players who benefit from the system, including Internet giants, must contribute. There are no free passes. Second, we want to strengthen CBC/Radio-Canada’s mandate, which is included in the Broadcasting Act, particularly in a context where Internet giants are present. We must also ensure that we have a platform that will allow us to share our culture with the country and throughout the world. Third, we want to strengthen the CRTC’s mandate, which is also included in the Broadcasting Act. What does that mean? It means that, at a time when the industry is facing so many changes, we must strengthen our institutions rather than weakening them.

Finally, we want to ensure the sustainability of local media and journalism because the Broadcasting Act imposes obligations on broadcasters to support local news content.

That is a huge undertaking since the act has not been reviewed in 30 years. We have appointed seven extremely qualified individuals who are tasked to come up with the outline for new legislation that will address the issue you raised.