The federal government is looking to resolve concerns from the United States that Canada’s pending internet regulation bill will discriminate against American businesses, says International Trade Minister Mary Ng.
“There are going to inevitably be issues that we just need to work through,” Ng told the Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade committee on Dec. 15.
“I was clear with the U.S. Trade Representative that our bill that is going forward is trade-compliant, and so we had a conversation as we do on a whole range of issues between Canada and the U.S.,” Ng added, in reference to a conversation she recently had with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
According to a U.S. government press release, Tai told Ng during a virtual meeting on Nov. 30 that the U.S. government is concerned that Bill C-11, if passed, “could impact digital streaming services and online news sharing and discriminate against U.S. businesses.”
Bill C-11, which has passed the House of Commons and is currently being studied in the Senate, would amend the Broadcasting Act to give regulatory power over streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Under the legislation, the CRTC would have the power to govern what content is available to Canadians through online platforms. The bill’s stated objective is to promote Canadian content for viewers within the country.
“If they [the U.S.] take the position that it’s not trade-compliant, where’s the retaliation likely to fall? And what are we doing to prepare for it?” Sen. Michael MacDonald asked Ng at the committee meeting.
Ng answered that Canada and the U.S., being “rules-based countries,” will consult further on the matter.
“We would certainly expect that the United States would also follow the very rules that we negotiate together,” she said.
Bill C-11 has faced pushback from a number of digital-based companies and content creators, many of which are American streaming giants.
Representatives from Spotify and Disney previously told the Senate communications committee that Bill C-11 does not provide a “flexible” enough definition of Canadian content to achieve the legislation’s objective.
“No single factor should be determinative in determining what constitutes Canadian content,” said Disney’s vice president of global public policy, David Fares, while testifying before the committee on Sept. 15.
Fares said that Disney has produced a number of Canadian films and TV shows that wouldn’t be considered Canadian content under Bill C-11 because they are monetized by an American company.
Spotify executive Nathan Wiszniak pointed out a similar issue during the same committee meeting that he said would affect the music-streaming giant in Canada.
“The rules defining what qualifies as Canadian content should be updated,” he said.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has defended the legislation, saying that it will support Canadian artists and creators.
“It will foster the creation of good jobs in the cultural sector, make Canadian content more accessible and make it easier for people to find homegrown Canadian music and stories,” he said in the House of Commons on June 6.
“It’s long past time that the streaming platforms contribute their fair share to our culture.”