Harder comments have cost her the respect of artists

By Letter to the Editor on June 12, 2021.

An open letter to the Honourable Rachael Harder, MP.
Many of us in the arts community have shown tolerance to your wildly inaccurate objections to Bill C-10, and even been lightly amused by your confusion between the Charter of Rights and The Broadcast Act. However, your latest proclamations regarding Canadian artists, particularly in Quebec, has served to do nothing but cost you the respect of artists across this country.
You recently stated the following:
“These artists (many of whom originate in Quebec) are not able to make a living of what they are producing so they require grants that are given to them by the government. And so these little, niche lobby groups composed of outdated artists are going to the Liberal government and asking them to charge these large streaming companies in order to bring about more money to put into these grant funds so these outdated artists can then apply for that money so they can continue to create material Canadians don’t want to watch.”
It’s painfully obvious that you have no experience or actual data as to what artists are seeking, and are clearly oblivious to the fact that the issues are not only a Canadian matter, but a correction to technological injustices that are worldwide.
First of all, the entertainment industry in Canada is larger than mining, lumber and tourism combined, although it has been decimated by the pandemic. Hardly a niche, lobby group.
Big Tech has, in most countries around the world, considered themselves above the law, as copyright and remuneration models that were applicable in the analogue world were disdainfully ignored and dismissed as technology evolved. The result has been wholesale exploitation of musical artists and the expropriation of their intellectual property by giant corporations that have a single agenda – to accumulate, control and monetize all content for little or no cost.
Bill C-10 begins to level the playing field. If Big Tech wants to act like a traditional broadcaster, through the production and exhibition of programming and content in Canada, then the existing rules and obligations must apply. Further, they must not be allowed to escape bargaining fair wages, benefits and distribution by the unions and guilds which represent musicians, actors and stagehands within the TV and Film industry.
Big Tech is desperate to retain absolute power and avoid regulation by any means, one example being the $36 million USD that Google spent in an attempt to scuttle the EU Article 13, whereby internet tech giants – including Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – would have to install “effective technologies” to ensure content creators, artists, and authors receive fair pay for their work online. In the United States, Alphabet (parent company of Google) spent over $18 million lobbying politicians in 2017, according to federal disclosure records. Facebook spent $11.5 million on lobbying, Amazon over $12.8 million, Microsoft $8.5 million, and Apple spent $7 million.
So the question must be asked, why are you so adamant that the insatiable corporate greed of these multinationals goes unchallenged in Canada through modernizing legislation? Why are you determined to ensure that artists in this country be kept muzzled, controlled and prevented from exercising their inalienable rights to fair compensation for both their work and intellectual property? It certainly can’t be that you are that afraid of losing your ability to upload cat videos (which was a total red herring).
As an elected representative, expectations are that you would exhibit more pride in Canada’s artistry and talent, support their development and accomplishments and encourage the protection of our culture from being overshadowed by our neighbours to the south. So many of our artists have become world-famous, not in small part due to Canadian Content initiatives.
Yes, artists throughout the world were once able to scratch out a modest income through record sales and live touring. Streaming services paying a tiny fraction of a penny per stream coupled with a system weighted to pay only the highest stream earners, has decimated their earning potential.
It’s not the artists who are “stuck in the ’90’s,” but the antiquated laws which allow for a system that pays everybody but the artist. When you find it preferable to berate and humiliate the artists in this country (and in particular Quebec) in order to defend the morally corrupt corporations that threaten the future of music as a viable career, you invite questions as to your ethics and suitability. An apology is certainly in order.
Alan Willaert
AFM Vice-President from Canada American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada

Previous articleWalking through Asia’s water tower – the challenge of climate change on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
Next articleLocal tourism businesses uncertain but hopeful as Nunavut eases travel restrictions