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Poilievre promises to scrap Online Harms Act after budget watchdog projects $200M cost


Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is promising to scrap the Liberals’ Online Harms Act should it become law.

He announced the promise on Thursday, just after the federal budget watchdog estimated that setting up the regulators proposed in the legislation could cost $200 million over five years.

The Parliamentary Budget Office analysis says the federal government provided estimates which indicate the Digital Safety Commission, ombudsperson and office will have 330 full-time equivalent employees at full capacity.

The estimates are based on other Canadian federal regulators and similar international organizations like OfCom in the United Kingdom and the eSafety Commission in Australia, the analysis says.

The analysis also noted that staffing levels needed to fulfil the mandates of the new regulators “may vary from the preliminary estimates.”

The Liberals say a Digital Safety Commission is needed to compel companies to better protect Canadians from online harms.

WATCH | Federal government introduces online harms bill

Federal government introduces online harms bill

The Liberal government has tabled bill C-63, which aims to protect people — especially children — from harmful content online, including sexual exploitation and hate speech, through the creation of a new regulatory body called the Digital Safety Commission and changes to the Criminal Code.

The government has said the bill would require companies to submit safety plans to the Digital Safety Commission that would outline how they will reduce the risk users face from seven different types of dangerous content.

They include images of sexual abuse of children, intimate images shared without consent, and material that can be used to bully a child or encourage them to self-harm.

The commission would field complaints and be able to levy hefty fines on platforms that do not comply.

The Conservatives have criticized the plans for a new regulator as nothing more than new bureaucracy and instead argue the Liberals should move faster by modernizing existing laws.

A spokesperson for Poilievre says if the bill is passed, a future Conservative government will repeal it.

Experts consulted by the government say the bill is needed to help protect minors online and warn that Canadian children are less protected than their counterparts in other countries.

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