Editorial: It is long past time for digital giants to pay their share

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The federal government has introduced legislation aimed at ensuring that mega-giants of the internet pay their share and maintain the same Canadian content regime that smaller domestic broadcasters must meet—that includes ponying up for a program that funds Canadian productions.

The bar for access to the CanCon fund is set fairly low, almost to the point of qualifying if the crew caterer is a Canadian company, but it has proven to be a bulwark for Canadian culture (yes, we do have one, as the last four years should have firmly established by now).

In order for the playing field to be anything remotely resembling level, foreign content providers accessing the Canadian market should be required to meet the same bar as the homegrown variety.

As with any new legislation aimed at an emerging industry, there is a real and present danger of tossing several babies out with the bathwater should due care and diligence not be applied, but this is a move that should have taken place ages ago. For far too long our domestic content producers have been working at a disadvantage to multinational giants and that issue needs to be addressed.

While the Conservative position that Canadian’s rights and freedoms, especially freedom of speech, must be protected, it is hard to credit that party’s argument that the undebated legislation that has yet to be vetted and amended in committee should be sent back to square one, starting the tedious legislative process all over again, is anything but disingenuous political gamesmanship.

There is no question that Bill C-10 needs some serious work, but that reflects its genesis from a work in progress to a proclaimed law of the land. It is in committee, and in that much-maligned chamber of sober second thought, the Senate, that such crafting should and can take place.

The Conservative policy wonks and communications team would be well-advised to resist the lure of channeling Chicken Little to achieve short-term political gain. Constantly declaring the sky is about to fall and demanding that everything start over from square one before taking another step forward does little to secure the kind of solid competent brand that party has tried to drape across its shoulders since the early days of Confederation.

It is gratifying to know that there are those among our elected officials who seek to safeguard our rights and freedoms from threats real and perceived, but deliberate and knee-jerk obfuscation and obstructionism does not take the place of considered critique and debate.

Instead, Canada’s opposition parties should see the developing threat posed to Canadian culture by large internet corporations unshackled by any oversight or regulation.

Bill C-10 seeks to amend and level the playing field in this brave new world of content creation and distribution and to bring the mandate of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission into the 21st century. In its present form the bill needs changes. It is the job of her Majesty’s Official Opposition to shine a light on the bill’s shortcomings, but also, as agents of the Crown, provide productive routes forward that are in the best interests of all Canadians.