EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story said Justice Minister David Lametti had yet to re-introduce Bill C-22. This was incorrect — he did so in December.
The Liberal government’s self-imposed clock for its first 100 days is ticking down to midnight, setting the stage for what is expected to be a busy first week back in the House of Commons with promises of bills to tackle online hate and ban mandatory minimums for some offences on the agenda.
Members of Parliament have been on winter break since the House of Commons rose on Dec. 16, 2021, and Monday will mark the first return to the chamber — either virtually or in-person — in just over six weeks.
And while the government managed to tick off four items from its first-100-days to-do list before the break, six more are still waiting for their moment in the parliamentary sun.
Bills banning conversion therapy and the intimidation of health-care workers passed in December, as did legislation implementing a mandatory 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated workers.
The government also passed legislation authorizing promised changes to COVID-19 benefits.
Here’s what’s left on its to-do list for the first 100 calendar days, which the government says started when the new cabinet was sworn in on Oct. 26, 2021, and runs out on Feb. 3.
Can Ottawa better regulate social media platforms?
One of the big promises still on the Liberal agenda is a pledge to fight online harm.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the spread of hate and extremist content online, as well as turned health-care professionals, journalists and public leaders into bigger targets for abuse and threats.
Last year, the government introduced proposals to create a new digital safety commission authorized to regulate hateful content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pornhub.
That proposal vowed to place the platforms under a new legal category that deems them “online communications service providers” and under the authority of the new commission, which would require the companies to remove five categories of hateful content and review complaints within 24 hours.
The plans announced last summer also included a vow to amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act to more broadly prohibit the sharing of hate speech online.
While the latter is not a specific first-100-days pledge, the former is. It’s not clear whether the two could be bundled together into one piece of legislation, or broken into separate parts.
The Liberal platform vowed to “introduce legislation within its first 100 days to combat serious forms of harmful online content, specifically hate speech, terrorist content, content that incites violence, child sexual abuse material and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.”
“This would make sure that social media platforms and other online services are held accountable for the content that they host,” the platform said.
It also noted the legislation would take a “balanced” approach to protect freedom of expression while cracking down on hateful and harmful content.
Tackling COVID-19’s impact on arts sector
Another pledge from the Liberal platform focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts and cultural sectors, which have been hit hard, like many others, by restrictions on in-person activities over the past two years.
The platform promises to “hold a summit, within the first 100 days, on plans to restart the industry.”
That had been scheduled to take place Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, but has been postponed indefinitely until the COVID-19 situation improves.
Connected to that is another promise that the Liberals have billed as a way to protect and promote the creation of Canadian music, film and television content.
Within its first 100 days, the government has promised to “reintroduce legislation to reform the Broadcasting Act to ensure foreign web giants contribute to the creation and promotion of Canadian stories and music.”
That legislation is expected to reflect in large part elements of Bill C-10, which the government put forward in November 2020 but which died when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an election in August 2021.
Bill C-10 proved controversial.
The Liberals argued it offered a vital update to the rules governing broadcasting in Canada by bringing streaming platforms like Netflix and YouTube under the rules that Canadian broadcasters have to play by when it comes to creating and promoting content made by and in Canada.
Critics, though, warned it could effectively penalize user-generated content, and that it would bring non-traditional online media services under the authority of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission without clear enough rules for how that new regulation would work.
Any new proposal will likely face serious questions about its impacts on smaller creators, as well as the practicalities of whether a piece of legislation widely viewed by experts as outdated can be properly updated to reflect the realities of a streaming-focused world.
LGBTQ2 and equality reforms
The Liberals also made three other promises for their first 100 days that haven’t yet been fulfilled.
One of those is a promise to complete a federal action plan on equality for LGBTQ2 Canadians, which ties in with a promise that was upheld during the fall session of Parliament to ban conversion therapy.
Another pledge takes aim at official language equality with a promise to introduce a piece of legislation tentatively titled An Act for the Substantive Equality of French and English and the Strengthening of the Official Languages Act.
A bill of the same name was introduced in June 2021, just after the House of Commons rose for the summer and just weeks before Trudeau triggered an election.
It was billed as a modernization of the Official Languages Act, which hasn’t been updated in 30 years. The government has laid out a number of proposed amendments, including making explicit reference to Indigenous languages.
It would also formally extend the requirement for fluency that is in place now for federal court judges to justices appointed to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada.