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Trudeau’s online harms bill threatens freedom of expression, constitutional lawyer warns

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8 minute read

From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

The legislation could further regulate the internet in Canada by allowing a new digital safety commission to conduct ‘secret commission hearings’ against those found to have violated the new law.

A top constitutional lawyer warned that the federal government’s Online Harms Act to further regulate the internet will allow a new digital safety commission to conduct “secret commission hearings” against those found to have violated the new law, raising “serious concerns for the freedom of expression” of Canadians online.

Marty Moore, who serves as the litigation director for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms-funded Charter Advocates Canada, told LifeSiteNews on Tuesday that Bill C-63 will allow for the “creation of a new government agency with a broad mandate to promote ‘online safety’ and target ‘harmful content.’”

“The use of the term ‘safety’ is misleading, when the government through Bill C-63 is clearly seeking to censor expression simply based on its content, and not on its actual effect,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Moore noted that the bill will also “open doors for government regulation to target undefined psychological harm.”

The new government bill was introduced Monday by Justice Minister Arif Virani in the House of Commons and passed its first reading.

Bill C-63 will create the Online Harms Act and modify existing laws, amending the Criminal Code as well as the Canadian Human Rights Act, in what the Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claim will target certain cases of internet content removal, notably those involving child sexual abuse and pornography.

Details of the new legislation to regulate the internet show the bill could lead to more people jailed for life for “hate crimes” or fined $50,000 and jailed for posts that the government defines as “hate speech” based on gender, race, or other categories.

The bill calls for the creation of a digital safety commission, a digital safety ombudsperson, and the digital safety office.

The ombudsperson and other offices will be charged with dealing with public complaints regarding online content as well as put forth a regulatory function in a five-person panel “appointed by the government.” This panel will monitor internet platform behaviors to hold people “accountable.”

He said that while the Commission’s reach is “only vaguely undefined,” it would have the power to regulate anyone who operates a “social media service” that “has a yet-to-be-designated number of users or is “deemed a regulated service by the government without regard to the number of users.”

According to the Trudeau government, Bill C-63 aims to protect kids from online harms and crack down on non-consensual deep-fake pornography involving children and will target seven types of online harms, such as hate speech, terrorist content, incitement to violence, the sharing of non-consensual intimate images, child exploitation, cyberbullying and inciting self-harm.

Virani had many times last year hinted a new Online Harms Act bill would be forthcoming.

Law opens door to secret or ‘ex parte’ warrants, lawyer warns

Moore observed that Bill C-63 also gives the commission the ability to seek secret or “ex parte warrants to enter people’s homes and to impose massive fines.” He told LifeSiteNews this will “likely coerce those operating social media services to exceed the Commission’s requirements of censorship on Canadians’ expression.”

Moore also confirmed that the Trudeau government’s new bill will “allow for” the creation of “secret commission hearings” simply on the basis that the “commission considers secrecy to be ‘in the public interest.’”

Moore told LifeSiteNews that the bill will also allow for the digital safety commission to be made an “order of the Federal Court.” He said this brings about a “serious concern that the commission’s orders, reissued by the Federal Court, could result in people being fined and imprisoned for contempt, pursuant to Federal Courts Rules 98 and 472.”

“While people cannot be imprisoned under section 124 of Bill C-63 for refusing to pay a Commission-imposed fine, it is possible that having a Commission order reissued by the Federal Court could result in imprisonment of a person for refusing to impose government censorship on their social media service,” he said.

 Lawyer: Trudeau’s bill will allow for ‘confidential complaints’

As part of Bill C-63, the Trudeau Liberals are looking to increase punishments for existing hate propaganda offenses substantially.

The Online Harms Act will also amend Canada’s Human Rights Act to put back in place a hate speech provision, specifically, Section 13 of the Act, that the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper had repealed in 2013 after it was found to have violated one’s freedom of expression.

The text of the bill, released Monday afternoon, reads that the Canadian Human Rights Act will be amended to add a section “13” to it.

Moore warned that the return of section 13, will allow for “confidential complaints.”

As fines top $50,000 with a $20,000 payment to victims, the new section 13, Moore observed, “will undoubtedly cast a chill on Canadians expression, limiting democratic discourse, the search for truth and normal human expression, including attempts at humour.”

Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leader Pierre Poilievre said the federal government is looking for clever ways to enact internet censorship laws.

On Tuesday in the House of Commons, Poilievre came out in opposition to the Online Harms Act, saying enforcing criminal laws rather than censoring opinions is the key to protecting children online.

During a February 21 press conference, Poilievre said, “What does Justin Trudeau mean when he says the word ‘hate speech?’ He means speech he hates.”

Thus far, Poilievre has not commented on the full text of Bill C-63. Many aspects of it come from a lapsed bill from 2021.

In June 2021, then-Justice Minister David Lametti introduced Bill 36, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act and to make related amendments to another Act (hate propaganda, hate crimes and hate speech).” It was blasted as a controversial “hate speech” law that would give police the power to “do something” about online “hate.”

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Fraser Institute

Bill Maher is right about Canadian health care

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Mackenzie Moir

Recently, popular American comedian and talk show host, Bill Maher, took aim at some of Canada’s public policy failings in one of his monologues. In entertaining fashion, Maher highlighted our high housing costs, unemployment rates and “vaunted” health-care system.

Indeed, citing work published by the Fraser Institute, he explained that after adjusting for age, Canada spends 13.3 per cent of our economy on health care (2020), the highest level of spending by a developed country with universal coverage that year. And that Canada has some of the poorest access to timely appointments with family doctors when compared to our peers.

Unfortunately, while that’s where his segment on health care ended, the bad news for the Canadian system doesn’t stop there.

On top of Canada continuing to be one of the most expensive universal health-care systems in the world, we get little in return when it comes to both available medical resources and wait times. For example, among high-income countries with universal health care, Canada has some of the lowest numbers of physicians, hospital beds, MRI machines and CT scanners.

And in Canada, only 38 per cent of patients report seeing a specialist within four weeks (compared to 69 per cent in the Netherlands) and only 62 per cent report receiving non-emergency surgery within four months (compared to 99 per cent in Germany).

Unfortunately, wait times in Canada aren’t simply long compared to other countries, they’re the longest they’ve ever been. Last year the median wait for a Canadian patient seeking non-emergency care reached 27.7 weeks—nearly three times longer than the 9.3 week-wait Canadians experienced three decades ago.

This raises the obvious question. How do other countries outperform Canada’s health-care system while also often spending less as a share of their economies? In short, their approach to universal health care, and in particular their relationship with the private sector, departs drastically from the approach here at home.

Australia, for example, partners with private hospitals to deliver the majority (58.6 per cent) of all non-emergency surgeries within its universal health-care system. Australia also spends less of its total economy (i.e. GDP) on health care but outperforms Canada on every measure of timely care.

Even with restrictions on the private sector, Canada has some limited experience that should encourage policymakers to embrace greater private-sector involvement. Saskatchewan, for example, contracted with private surgical clinics starting in 2010 to deliver publicly-funded services as part of a four-year initiative to reduce wait times, which were among the longest in the country. Between 2010 and 2014, wait times in the province fell from 26.5 weeks to 14.2 weeks. After the initiative ended, the province’s wait times began to grow.

More recently, Quebec, which has some of the shortest wait times for medical services in the country, contracts out one out of every six day-surgeries to private clinics within the publicly-funded health-care system.

Maher’s monologue, which was viewed by millions online, highlighted the key failings of Canada’s health-care system. If policymakers in Ottawa and the provinces want to fix Canadian health care, they must learn from other countries that deliver universal health-care at the same or even lower cost, often with better access and results for patients.

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Business

Federal government’s ‘fudget budget’ relies on fanciful assumptions of productivity growth

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Niels Veldhuis and Jake Fuss

Labour productivity isn’t growing, it’s declining. And stretching the analysis over the Trudeau government’s time in office (2015 to 2023, omitting 2020 due to COVID), labour productivity has declined by an average of 0.8 per cent. How can the Trudeau government, then, base the entirety of its budget plan on strong labour productivity growth?

As the federal budget swells to a staggering half a trillion dollars in annual spending—yes, you read that correctly, a whopping $538 billion this year or roughly $13,233 per Canadian—and stretches over 430 pages, it’s become a formidable task for the media to dissect and evaluate. While it’s easy to spot individual initiatives (e.g. the economically damaging capital gains tax increase) and offer commentary, the sheer scale and complexity of the budget make it hard to properly evaluate. Not surprisingly, most post-budget analysts missed a critically important assumption that underlies every number in the budget—the Liberals’ assumption of productivity growth.

Indeed, Canada is suffering a productivity growth crisis. “Canada has seen no productivity growth in recent years,” said Carolyn Rogers, senior deputy governor at the Bank of Canada, in a recent speech. “You’ve seen those signs that say, ‘In emergency, break glass.’ Well, it’s time to break the glass.”

The media widely covered this stark warning, which should have served as a wake-up call, urging the Trudeau government to take immediate action. At the very least, this budget’s ability—or more accurately, inability—to increase productivity growth should have been a core focus of every budget analysis.

Of course, the word “productivity” puts most people, except die-hard economists, to sleep. Or worse, prompts the “You just want us to work harder?” questions. As Rogers noted though, “Increasing productivity means finding ways for people to create more value during the time they’re at work. This is a goal to aim for, not something to fear. When a company increases productivity, that means more revenue, which allows the company to pay higher wages to its workers.”

Clearly, labour productivity growth remains critical to our standard of living and, for governments, ultimately determines the economic growth levels on which they base their revenue assumptions. With $538 billion in spending planned for this year, the Trudeau government better hope it gets its forecasts right. Otherwise, the $39.8 billion deficit they expect this year could be significantly higher.

And here’s the rub. Buried deep in its 430-page budget is the Trudeau government’s assumption about labour productivity growth (page 385, to be exact). You see, the Liberals assume the economy will grow at an average of 1.8 per cent over the next five years (2024-2028) and predict that half that growth will come from the increase in the supply of labour (i.e. population growth) and half will come from labour productivity growth.

However, as the Bank of Canada has noted, labour productivity growth has been non-existent in Canada. The Bank uses data from Statistics Canada to highlight the country’s productivity, and as StatsCan puts it, “On average, over 2023, labour productivity of Canadian businesses fell 1.8 per cent, a third consecutive annual decline.”

In other words, labour productivity isn’t growing, it’s declining. And stretching the analysis over the Trudeau government’s time in office (2015 to 2023, omitting 2020 due to COVID), labour productivity has declined by an average of 0.8 per cent. How can the Trudeau government, then, base the entirety of its budget plan on strong labour productivity growth? It’s what we call a “fudget budget”—make up the numbers to make it work.

The Trudeau fudget budget notwithstanding, how can we increase productivity growth in Canada?

According to the Bank of Canada, “When you compare Canada’s recent productivity record with that of other countries, what really sticks out is how much we lag on investment in machinery, equipment and, importantly, intellectual property.”

Put simply, to increase productivity we need businesses to increase investment. From 2014 to 2022, Canada’s inflation-adjusted business investment per worker (excluding residential construction) declined 18.5 per cent from $20,264 to $16,515. This is a concerning trend considering the vital role investment plays in improving economic output and living standards for Canadians.

But the budget actually hurts—not helps—Canada’s investment climate. By increasing taxes on capital gains, the government will deter investment in the country and encourage a greater outflow of capital. Moreover, the budget forecasts deficits for at least five years, which increases the likelihood of future tax hikes and creates more uncertainty for entrepreneurs, investors and businesses. Such an unpredictable business environment will make it harder to attract investment to Canada.

This year’s federal budget rests on fanciful assumptions about productivity growth while actively deterring the very investment Canada needs to increase living standards for Canadians. That’s a far cry from what any reasonable person would call a successful strategy.

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