Canada

Bill C-10 hits speed bump as Speaker voids dozens of ‘secret’ amendments

Spokesman Anthony Rota nullified dozens of amendments added to the committee after debate time had expired and ordered the bill to be reprinted without them

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The Liberal government’s push to speed up the controversial C-10 Broadcasting Bill through parliament came in one fell swoop on Tuesday when the House spokesman invalidated dozens of amendments to the bill.

The Heritage Committee voted on these changes last week without debate or the opportunity to consult experts. The unusual process, in which the public only knew what the MPs were voting on days later, was criticized as “secret” legislation by law professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa.

The changes were posted on Monday when the amended bill was tabled in the House of Commons. Conservative MP Blake Richards urged the House spokesman to make these amendments, arguing the committee had exceeded its powers, and on Tuesday the spokesman agreed.

Spokesman Anthony Rota nullified dozens of amendments added to the committee after debate time was over, and ordered the bill to be reprinted without them.

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“In a way, it’s an indication of how the Liberals handled this bill almost from the start. You had a minister who could not effectively communicate the content, you withdrew a provision that has clearly created enormous concern across the country, “Geist said on Tuesday. “And now, in a rush to get this bill through without real debate, it is overstepping the boundaries of the committee. And especially for this government that has come to power, it is quite revealing to argue that if reprimanded in this way by its own spokesman, they will give the committees more power and make them more independent. “

The committee had been limited to five hours of debate by a motion in the House of Commons supported by the Liberals and the bloc to ensure the bill passed the House of Commons before the summer recess. It was a seldom used move that marked the first time in 20 years that the House was limiting the debate time in committee.

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The two parties decided to move after the committee’s clause-by-clause amendment process took longer than expected due to concerns about the law’s impact on freedom of expression. These concerns emerged after government changes lifted a user-generated content exemption, placing social media platforms under the authority of the CRTC, although the CRTC’s powers were later restricted in another government change.

Rota said Tuesday his decision must be made without precedent.

The rare move to narrow the debate in committee sparked a slew of events, said former MP Derek Lee, who served in parliament for 23 years.

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“You let something out of Pandora’s box and then the other side reacts and someone else reacts to that reaction,” he said. “Like a little pinball machine, the silver ball goes back and forth and up and down and sideways until it finally comes to rest for the final vote on the bill.”

Conservative cultural critic Alain Rayes said in a statement emailed that the speaker’s decision “is just the latest example of how liberals have completely botched this law”.

Reyes criticized the other parties for “closing the debate on a law widely condemned for its attacks on freedom of expression”.

The spokesman’s decision also created further uncertainty about the bill.

Changes can still be introduced in the House of Commons in the reporting phase of the draft law. The Liberal government is still determined to get the bill passed by the House of Representatives before it goes live for the summer, with only six scheduled days of sitting in the house before that happens. She proposed to limit the debate time in the next stages of the parliamentary procedure.

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“We remain committed to the progress of Bill C-10 and will work with all opposition parties to get it passed in the House and Senate before the end of the parliamentary session,” said Camille Gagne, spokeswoman for Culture Secretary Steven Guilbeault, said in an email on Tuesday.

Developments on Tuesday make it less certain when exactly the bill will reach the Senate. Once that is the case, it will be up to the senators whether to speed up the bill or, as some stakeholders have called, have a Senate committee conduct its own study.

Given the short time ahead of the summer recess, such a study wouldn’t take place until September – and if there were elections in the fall, the law would die before it becomes law.

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