By Ian Croft
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With social media and online streaming services being a far more ever-present issue in modern life, the Canadian government is still finding themselves playing catch-up as Bill C-11 (An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts) was returned to the House of Commons after the Senate requested amendments to be made to the bill.
With the return of discussion to this bill, Martin Shields, MP for Bow River, rose in the House to question if this is actually needed to support artists within Canada.
“I have sat beside my colleague at the Heritage Committee a number of times over the years, and I very much appreciate the discussion on artists,” said Shields on March 9. “I remember one time in the committee when the minister was there asking how many of us have memberships to the national gallery and the National Arts Centre. It seemed like I was the only one in the room who did. When they say they will do what they say by actually practising what they believe, I am not so sure. I have been in Quebec City, and I have purchased art in Quebec City and Île d’Orléans that is on my wall and in my office. In my home, I have several pieces of art that I acquired in Quebec. Why does he believe that they need social media to sustain Quebec artists, when I find that there are a lot of people there, a lot of people who buy this fantastic art? Why does he believe that they need social media to support it?”
Martin Champoux, Bloc MP for Drummond (Québec), responded to Shields’ inquiry.
“Now, visual arts — painters and that whole side of things — are holding their own,” said Champoux. “However, in today’s world, a world where things are opening up and borders are disappearing, the digital world, social media and major broadcasting platforms have to be accessible. It is much harder for a small francophone market in an anglophone sea to gain access. That is why Quebec artists, francophone artists, our very own creators, need that support in order to be seen, to get their names out there. They do not want to force themselves on the rest of the world. They just want a way to be visible on those platforms. That is what this is really about.”
On the next day Shields rose in the House once again to outline his major concerns with Bill C-11.
“Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau once said, ‘there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.’ That is exactly where the government intends to be with Bill C-11,” said Shields. “If the NDP-Liberal coalition gets its way, the CRTC’s regulatory claws will sink into the Internet to tell Canadians what they should be watching 24-7. The Liberals say Canadian content must be pushed to the top, but no one can define over there what Canadian content is, so the next time Canadians turn on their favourite streaming service, they will be in shock. The government may creep its way in late at night and while citizens may grow tired of looking for their favourite show and might finally settle on the billion-dollar sleep aid called the CBC, the government should kill Bill C-11, heed the words of the former prime minister and get out of the nation’s bedrooms.”