FERNANDO: Liberals Double-Down On C-18 Disaster

The Liberals Are Doubling-Down On The Bill C-18 Disaster, Risking Further National Division & Economic Decline 

By Spencer Fernando, Exclusive to the National Citizens Coalition


Of all the changes made during the recent cabinet shuffle, the shift of Pascal St-Onge – MP for Brome-Missisquoi – to the Heritage Minister role says the most about the Liberals’ strategy for re-election.

St-Onge, the former Minister of Sport & Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, has been a long-time activist in the Quebec cultural sector.

Here is how the government officially described that work upon her shift to a new role.

“Over the past decade, Minister St-Onge served as Secretary General then President of the Fédération nationale des communications et de la culture, where she worked to address the challenges facing the media, newspapers, and the cultural sector. In this role, she oversaw expert studies aimed at developing public policies, participated in the creation and adoption of programs to support the print media, and contributed to the implementation of policies and programs designed to help the media and cultural sectors adapt to shifts brought about by digital platforms. In addition, she was instrumental in the purchase of the Groupe Capitales Médias and its transformation into a cooperative that allowed its daily newspapers to survive and continue their mission.”

What does this tell us?

First, the Liberals continue to view the Heritage Minister role as key to their efforts to hold on to their support in Quebec.

Minister St-Onge won her riding over the Bloc Quebecois by fewer than 200 votes in 2021, and it is going to be closely contested again.

Given her work in the Quebec cultural sector, we can expect St-Onge to be just as aggressive – if not more so – than former Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez – also a Quebec MP – in pushing Bill C-18.

Second, it tells us that the Liberals are doubling down not only on Bill C-18, but in a desperate political approach to tech companies that risks further dividing the country and turning Canada into a ‘Luddite nation’ that falls behind in the critical tech sector at a time when our productivity is already stagnant.

Canada-Quebec gap

Desperate governments often don’t care about the consequences of their attempts to stay in power.

And the Liberals are certainly desperate, with the polls having turned even more negative in the past week.

In response to their worsening political fortunes, the Liberals are giving every indication that they plan to try and exploit a significant gap between English Canada and Quebec on how culture is viewed.

In English Canada, the idea of Canadian culture is closely intertwined with North America as a whole. Many of Canada’s top actors, singers, and athletes end up going to the United States, or becoming popular across North America and the Anglosphere. This doesn’t lead to them being seen as ‘less Canadian,’ rather Canadians take pride in seeing Canadian citizens succeed at a high level around the world.

Additionally, in English Canada, a substantial number of people consume American-produced content without ever feeling that content is foreign or alien in any way. English Canada and the United States are perhaps the two most culturally similar and culturally-linked regions in the world, and most people don’t view that as any sort of threat. 

The idea of culture in English Canada also shifts quite rapidly due to the welcoming attitude towards newcomers and English’s status as the ‘global language’.

In Quebec, things are much different. Quebec politicians regularly talk about the French language being under siege and seem to see threats everywhere. Given the dominance of English in most of Canada and much of the world, there is a widespread consensus in Quebec on giving the government expansive powers to ‘protect’ the French language and Quebec culture. From that perspective, huge tech platforms like Facebook and Google – owned by billionaires from an English-speaking cultural powerhouse – are seen as a massive threat. And since expansive use of government power is seen as justified in Quebec to battle that ‘threat,’ restrictive legislation is inevitable.

The problem of course is that this is a mindset largely limited to Quebec. Most of English Canada doesn’t think this way. People may dislike some tech companies or worry about the influence of social media, but few believe that shutting those platforms down or making them beholden to government orders is the right way to go.

The Liberal bet is that Quebecers will be more motivated to vote on cultural issues, while people in English Canada won’t care or won’t notice. But that is a huge risk for the Liberals, and for the country.

Whether we like it or not, there is a massive gulf between how English Canada views things like freedom of speech and cultural competition and how Quebec views those things. This gulf can be managed by respecting provincial jurisdiction, letting Quebec take a more restrictive approach (if that’s what people chose to vote for), while letting English Canada take a more pro-free speech, pro-free market approach.

But in their desperation, the Liberals are seeking to impose Quebec’s cultural consensus on the entire nation.

They want all of Canada to view tech companies as a threat, and they want all of Canada to be put under restrictive legislation that holds our economy and – ironically – our culture back by keeping us more separate and isolated from the rest of the world at a time when the most successful countries are doing everything they can to expand their embrace of technology.

So, just as it was inevitable that politicians from Quebec would seek to legislate against the ‘threat’ of tech companies, it is also inevitable that those efforts would generate a significant backlash in English Canada. 

People in English Canada – especially younger generations – have grown up with a very free and open internet. They will not just sit back and watch as restrictions, bans, and censorship are imposed.

People in Western Canada – already feeling quite alienated from the federal government – will not accept having the Western pro-competition, pro-free speech consensus crushed by the pro-state intervention, restrictive speech consensus of Quebec.

As the Liberals double-down on Bill C-18, we are going to see even further national division and discord, at a time when rising crime and economic stagnation have already deepened the level of polarization.

Canadians who value openness, free speech, and economic freedom will need to stand strong and continue to advocate for our principles in the face of the coming onslaught from a scared and desperate Liberal government.

Spencer Fernando is one of the most popular and prolific political voices in Canada. He is a Campaign Fellow for the National Citizens Coalition. For more from Spencer, visit his website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter

Click to join the mailing list so you can receive his exclusive weekly column for NCC supporters right to your inbox.