As Parliament prepares to adjourn for the summer, the government is focused 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 (addressing) online communication platforms that make news content available to Canadians.
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 my riding and across the country.
Bill C-18 is the 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 their platforms. Most 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 stop the practice. If the bill becomes 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 audiences.
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 Chinese government in Beijing.
This issue took a significant turn when Erin O'Toole, MP for Durham and the former leader of the Conservative Party, revealed 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 O'Toole, who was then Conservative Party leader.
The briefing alleged the UFWD supplied human resources and provided workers to campaign against O'Toole.
O'Toole is not the only Canadian MP to receive a briefing after being told they were targeted by Beijing. Fellow Conservative MP Michael Chong and NDP MP Jenny Kwan also received briefings.
While I am personally outraged these briefings took years after intelligence agencies and officials within the government were made aware of (the targeting), I am also profoundly shocked the government has only expelled one (Chinese) diplomat so far. I expect far more solidarity from the 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 MPs in their duties, when an MP or their family members are targeted, it should be the standard that the MP in question is immediately apprised and the government immediately responds 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 the opposition parties in the House of Commons calling for an independent public inquiry, one would expect the government to heed the calls and work on creating such an inquiry.
However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal caucus refuse such a process. Their continued evasiveness has raised considerable debate about 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 [email protected] or call toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.
Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.