Grave concerns on foreign interference
As Parliament prepares to adjourn for the summer, the Canadian Government focuses on a few “need to have” bills rather than its long list of “want to have” bills.
One of these bills is C-18, “An Act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada.”
Online platforms like Facebook and Google have upended the traditional business models of news organizations, leading to a decline in revenue and the closure of many local newspapers in our riding and across the country.
C-18 is the Liberal legislation to force online companies such as Facebook and Google to pay eligible Canadian media organizations when a link to their online content is shared on these platforms. Most of these media organizations sell their own online advertising, so the added traffic from links on platforms such as Facebook and Google helps their advertising revenue.
Charging platforms for every link shared by their users, who often want to raise awareness and discussion among their social media groups, raises concerns about how this law would impact not only the platforms but also the online media companies and everyday users of these platforms.
In response to C-18’s proposal for mandatory payments for such media links, large platforms like Facebook and Google have threatened to allow the practice no longer. If this bill were to become law, it would harm the bottom lines of large media organizations and make it extremely difficult for small and independent media to expand and build an audience.
In my experience, a government can have the best intentions, but it may inadvertently make the problem worse as it rushes to what it thinks are quick solutions. This is what is happening with this bill.
Bill C-18 is currently before the Senate, and my Conservative colleagues and I will continue to oppose it.
Much of the focus in Parliament remains on the serious topic of foreign interference in Canada by the Communist Government in Beijing.
This issue took a significant turn when Erin O’Toole, MP for Durham and the former leader of the Official Opposition, revealed that he was recently briefed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
According to the CSIS briefing, the Chinese Communist Party is suspected of paying funds “through the United Front Work Department (UFWD) to create specific products of misinformation” about Erin O’Toole as the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
The briefing further alleges that the UFWD “supplied human resources, providing workers to campaign against Mr. O’Toole.”
Mr. O’Toole is not the only Canadian Member of Parliament to receive such a briefing, that they were being targeted by Beijing, with fellow Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Chong and NDP Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan also receiving briefings.
While I am personally outraged that these briefings took years, after intelligence agencies and officials within the government were aware of them, I am also profoundly shocked that the government has only expelled one diplomat thus far.
I expect far more solidarity from our government.
Getting men and women of substance to run for office is difficult enough. While the House of Commons sets out its security protocols and tries to support all elected members to do their duties, when an MP or their family members are targeted, it should be the standard that the member in question is immediately apprised and that the government immediately respond accordingly.
So far, the vague assurances and promises to do better are not reassuring many of us in Parliament.
These are grave concerns.
With the ongoing stream of intelligence leaks that raise questions about the government’s apparent lack of response to foreign interference, coupled with former top intelligence officials, several diaspora groups, and all of the opposition parties in the House of Commons calling for an independent public inquiry, one would expect the government to heed these calls and work on creating such an inquiry.
However, Prime Minister Trudeau and his Liberal caucus refuse such a process. Their continued evasiveness has raised considerable debate on their motivation for not supporting such an inquiry.
This week’s question concerns foreign interference in Canada.
Do you support a fully independent public inquiry?
Contact me at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.