Hugh Stephens,  Special to National Post, Published Mar 24, 2023
As Bill C-18, the Online News Act, continues its deliberate journey down the Canadian Parliamentary legislative track on its way toward enactment, the Bill’s prime targets (Alphabet, in the form of Google Search and Meta in the form of Facebook) are ramping up the full force of their lobbying efforts to derail the legislation. In a valiant but scarcely credible effort they and their surrogates, like the tech industry lobby group, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), try to argue that C-18 would violate Canada’s international trade obligations. Specifically, they argue the bill would violate national treatment commitments it made in the recently updated NAFTA accord.
C-18 is no more a violation of the national treatment principle than the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which targets the anti-competitive behaviour of “internet gatekeepers,” who happen to be prominently represented among U.S.-based tech companies. The U.S. government has not objected to the DMA on national treatment grounds (although Silicon Valley certainly has). Such criticisms accuse the EU of targeting U.S. “gatekeeper” companies in order to protect competing European companies. In the case of Canada, there is no suggestion that any provision of C-18 is designed to offer trade protection to Canadian companies competing with the “digital news intermediaries.”