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This time last year, the Liberals were pushing Bill C-10, a suite of online controls that would have seen Canada subjected to the most tightly regulated internet in the free world. Among other provisions, it would have empowered the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to regulate social media the same as it would a TV or radio station.
Bill C-10 died on the order paper as a result of Election 44, but no sooner had parliament returned before the feds were tabling Bill C-11. Despite Liberal assurances that C-11 would avoid the “controversial” excesses of its predecessor, this new bill was also broad enough that it could similarly impose government controls on the content of everything from podcasts to YouTube channels. If passed, it would create a new position, the Digital Safety Commissioner of Canada, who would have the power to order 24-hour takedowns of “unauthorized” web content.
The ostensible reason for much of this is because of the Trudeau government’s fears of what they call “online harms” or “misinformation.” Last month, for instance, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly announced government plans to pursue controls on social media that would compel them to “prevent propaganda” and “counter any form of disinformation.”
In the National Post, Jesse Kline writes that Canada’s march towards countering Russian disinformation is uncomfortably similar to how Russia ratcheted up government control over its internet. Russian online controls “started as a way of blocking content related to harmful activities and quickly turned into a means of subverting internal dissent and preventing outside information from getting in,” wrote Kline. While Ottawa doesn’t have quite the same authoritarian tendencies as Moscow, the end result of C-11 would be bureaucrats trusted with trying to weigh fact from fiction in the “the deluge of content that’s posted on social media each day.”
A Toronto Sun critique of C-11 was blunter: “The last thing Canadians need is even more attempts to censor and regulate their social media.”
University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist has been one of the leading critics of both Bill C-10 and Bill C-11. In his latest blog post on the legislation, Geist accused the feds of being persistently “misleading” in their characterization of the bill’s contents, including false claims that the bill applies only to “companies” and that “users of social media services would never face obligations.”
For now, the bill appears to be taking a pause as the Liberals pass it to an “expert advisory group” to recommend changes. The group includes many of C-11’s more prominent critics, including Geist and fellow University of Ottawa professor Vivek Krishnamurthy, who has said the bill’s passage would “jeopardize Canada’s claim to being a leader in advancing free expression.”
WAR IN UKRAINE
In the immediate days after Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a worldwide plea for foreigners to journey to his country to take up arms in its defence. Now, amid a flood of untrained volunteers (including many Canadians), Ukraine is officially asking would-be foreign legionaries to stay home. At least one Canadian has already returned from Ukraine stating that the international brigades were beset by “organizational chaos,” including a severe deficit of proper weaponry.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apparently raised the prospect of kicking Russia out of the G20 for its invasion of Ukraine. Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Trudeau said Russia had “upended economic growth for everyone around the world and can’t possibly be a constructive partner.” Russia used to be a G8 nation until it was kicked out in 2014 for its annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea (the club is now called the G7).
Friday was April Fools Day, a day increasingly characterized by political actors posting awkward jokes to social media …
- People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier expounded on his newfound love of vaccination. “I’m getting my four shots and booster shots all at once this morning,” he wrote on Twitter.
- The right-wing group Canada Proud simply posted an image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with the caption “here’s a fool.”
- Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley posted a two-minute video purporting to be an audition tape for a fictional film entitled Jason Kenney’s Hot Boy Summer.
- A not-bad effort comes courtesy of the Americans: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy posted the text of a hoax executive order changing the state bird from the American Goldfinch to the middle finger in order to “reflect New Jersey’s culture and values.”
IN OTHER NEWS
Pope Francis seemed to surprise the more than 200 Indigenous delegates visiting the Vatican this week by issuing an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in operating the majority of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. “I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry,” Francis said Monday. The gesture spurred tears among the Inuit, First Nations and Metis delegates in attendance, some of whom were survivors of abuse within the schools. Nevertheless, the visit ends without much clarity on some of the more specific demands sought by delegates, such as the church releasing school records. Cynics may also note that Francis’ words aren’t all that difference from a 2012 statement on Indian Residential Schools by Pope Benedict XVI, in which he “expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the church.”
It wasn’t too long ago that when Canadians were asked to name their leading priorities for the federal government, they often put “climate change” in the top spot. Not this year; on the eve of the next federal budget a new Ipsos Public Affairs poll found that a majority of Canadians are chiefly hoping it will “help with the soaring cost of every day needs due to inflation.” Also leading the pack were “lowering taxes” and “greater investments in healthcare.”
Speaking of the federal budget, one of the most anticipated line items is that it will dramatically boost military spending as a direct counter to Russian expansionism. Writing for The Hub, economist Trevor Tombe broke down the numbers on where Canada could find all this extra defence cash. Basically, we could raise the GST to seven per cent, raise the retirement age to 67 or just do what we always do and blow out the debt a little more.
Whenever a federal election happens, the usual gist of the NDP’s messaging is that their guy would be a better prime minister than the Liberals. Once the votes are counted, however, the party has a noted penchant to go right back to propping up Liberal governments. Writing for the Washington Post, J.J. McCullough calls this “the most breathtakingly dishonest traditions in Canadian politics.” After providing the receipts to show that this trend goes all the way back to the 1970s, McCullough argues it would be more authentic if the NDP framed themselves as desirable coalition partners, rather than constantly claiming that they can form government.
Conrad Black also has some thoughts on NDP/Liberal cooperation, most notably their recent deal to keep Trudeau in power until 2025. He said it puts Canada on a “conveyor-belt to socialist oblivion.” Black also called it “socialist nonsense” and a “socialist fantasyland.”
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