Elections Canada polling station 2015 by ishmael n. daro https://flic.kr/p/z3z7Su https://flic.kr/p/z3z7Su

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Podcasts

The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 27: Digital Policy and Election 2019 – Laura Tribe of OpenMedia on Where the Parties Stand

Digital issues were expected to garner attention in the 2019 Canadian federal election campaign. Over the course of the past few weeks, all the main political parties have had something to say about the high cost of cellphone prices in Canada and the prospect of implementing new taxes on tech companies. Laura Tribe, the Executive Director of OpenMedia, joined the podcast to talk about election 2019 and digital policies in a conversation that focused on wireless services and Internet taxes as well as privacy, intermediary liability, trade, and copyright.

The podcast can be downloaded here and is embedded below. The transcript is posted at the bottom of this post or can be accessed here. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify or the RSS feed. Updates on the podcast on Twitter at @Lawbytespod.

Credits:

Global News, Canada Election: Justin Trudeau Announces Cell Phone Cuts, Change to Taxes
CBC News, Andrew Scheer’s Full Post-Debate Scrum
CTV News, NDP Unveils Plan to Reduce Canadian’s Internet and Cellphone Bills
CTV News, Elizabeth May Unveils Green Party Platform in Toronto

Transcript:

LawBytes Podcast – Episode 27 transcript powered by Sonix—the best audio to text transcription service

LawBytes Podcast – Episode 27 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text in 2019.

Michael Geist:
This is Law Bytes, a podcast with Michael Geist.

Justin Trudeau:
Canadians shouldn’t have to choose between having a cell phone and heating their homes. So we need to get to a place where the cost of cell service is more affordable. That’s why a re-elected Liberal government will cut cell phone bills by 25 percent, saving the average Canadian family of four up to nine hundred seventy six dollars a year.

Andrew Scheer:
We believe in in ensuring that robust competition in Canada is that we believe that robust competition is the best way to make sure that Canadians have affordable services.

Jagmeet Singh:
This is one of the most frustrating things that Canadians go through. We pay the highest amount for our data, for our cell phone bills and for our broadband broadband in the world. This is incredibly frustrating when so many people rely on this. This is something that is necessary for work, for school. This is necessary for accessing services for so many people. So what we’re gonna do is finally take on this very important role that conservative liberal government have essentially neglected. They haven’t taken on making sure these rates are affordable. So our plan is going to make rates more affordable. It’s going to make your cellphone bills more affordable.

Elizabeth May:
We’re going to deal with the problem of e-commerce. These companies that first came to us that seemed virtual and cool, and how could they be damaging? Not only are these companies, whether they’re Facebook or Google or Amazon or Airbnb or Netflix, they operate in this country, take billions of dollars of profits out of this country, pay virtually no tax.

Michael Geist:
Digital issues were expected to garner attention in the 2019 Canadian federal election campaign. As the clips that opened this episode suggest, all the main political parties have had something to say about some policies, notably the high cost of cell phone prices in Canada and the prospect of implementing new taxes on tech companies. With this episode scheduled to be released less than a week before voting day, I sat down with Laura Tribe, the executive director of OpenMedia, to talk about election 2019 and digital policies. The conversation focused on wireless services and Internet taxes, but we also found time to discuss privacy, intermediary liability, trade and copyright. Note that the episode was recorded in the afternoon on Thursday, October 10th. The Conservative Party had still not released its full platform, so to the extent possible, we relied instead on comments made throughout the campaign.

Michael Geist:
Laura, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast.

Laura Tribe:
Thanks for having me.

Michael Geist:
OK, that’s great. So as you know, we both know digital issues were expected to play a significant role in the 2019 federal election. And as we record this on Thursday, October 10th, we’re eleven days from voting day. I think it’s fair to say that the reality is, has that been a bit more hit and miss. Students on our campus here at the University of Ottawa have been able to vote for several days already. Advance voting starts tomorrow for everyone else. In fact, we still don’t even have a Conservative platform as we record this. So digital on its own may not have been a huge issue, but it does crop up in a few places. You can see it in the different platforms and even come up in a couple in a little bit in some of the debates, or at least the French language debate around things like affordability and wireless services, cultural policy and economic fairness. So I’m hoping that we can unpack some of those issues, recognizing that we’ve got platforms for everybody but the conservatives. But if you haven’t put something forward 11 days before the election, we’ll go with what we’ve got. Why don’t we start with wireless Internet services, which is of all the issues, certainly is probably attracted the most amount of attention largely through the prism of affordability. What are the parties that are saying something saying about the cost of Internet and wireless services?

Laura Tribe:
Yeah, I would say this is definitely the issue that’s gotten the most attention. For the longest portion of the election period to date, so far, we’ve heard things from the Liberals, the NDP and the Green Party who are all talking about affordability in their own right. The Green Party hasn’t put forward any really specific policies. It’s just that they want to address affordability and cell phone bills and increase competition. The two policies that have gotten the most attention are the Liberals and the NDP. The NDP who came out with their plan first is looking specifically at lowering cell phone rates for customers by an average of $10 per person. So they want to do that through rate regulation. That will actually require the providers to lower their prices and make sure that depending on the type of plan, it could come down $7 and $12. But across the board, it would be an average of $10 per person. And they’re also looking at introducing mobile virtual network operators or mvno’s, which are a different type of cell phone provider that will bring a bit more competition into the marketplace. The Liberals following suit promised 25 percent off cell phone rates, which, you know, depending on your plan is probably more than $10. But the way they’re going to do it has really been the thing that they’ve been slammed for. And essentially what they’ve said is they’re going to ask big telecom nicely to lower their rates by 25 percent.

Laura Tribe:
And I think that’s really something that they’ve been slammed for and deservingly so. They’ve been in government for four years. We’ve been asking nicely at open media and elsewhere for them to lower their rates for a very long time. And we’ve clearly seen that that’s just not going to happen. So that’s sort of the first piece around how they will lower rates. They’re sort of follow up threat if rates are not lowered is that they are going to also bring in mvno’s to try and lower cell phone rates and bring in more competition. But they’ve introduced it in a bit of a phased approach. So what they’re saying is they will bring them in to some extent if they meet certain criteria. Whatever those qualifications might be that the liberals have decided that include things like the infrastructure and the types of plans that they’re offering and a few other pieces, sort of the values they represent, which I think is problematic in that it’s hard for a company to necessarily match a political party’s values in the same way. But that’s sort of a really minimum entry. And they said that if in two years the cell phone prices have not come down by 25 percent, then they will look at fully mandating mvno’s. And so those are sort of the two biggest platforms. We’ve heard nothing from the Conservative Party other than I think in one article when they were asked. They said they would consider tax rebates with no indication as to what that meant or looked like or how that would work.

Laura Tribe:
But I think that fundamentally when it comes to cell phone affordability. It’s really good this is an issue and I will be the first to criticize the policies they’re putting into place to try and do it, but it’s something that people have been talking about for decades and it’s really good to see that it’s on the agenda. I think the problem is that the way the parties are trying to do it and in part it’s just because it’s an election cycle and they’re trying to make sure they can get to voters is by promising the end piece, which is how it will impact your cell phone bill. And really forgetting why our cell phone bills are so high in the first place, which is fundamentally because we do not have enough competition in Canada. And so, you know, the NDP understands there will need to be some government intervention, which is good. They’re talking about mvno’s, which is good. But there is a proceeding in front of the CRTC right now that’s reviewing all of our wireless services and trying to figure out if we do need mvno’s. And I think it’s in all cases really great to see that ? registered, but also raises some questions about if they actually understand why this is the case and how to fix it or if they just think it sounds like a nice promise.

Michael Geist:
Right. So, I mean, I agree with you. I think it is good that the issue clearly resonates. And I know that there’s been a number of political commentators have said this is one of the issues of all these issues the parties have been raising that they can see it resonating in part because people can really relate to high cell phone bills. There’s there there’s very little debate anymore as to whether or not we pay very high rates relative to other countries. And so promises to do something about it would intuitively seem attractive. I guess the question becomes, is any of this going to work? So let me ask you a couple of specific questions on the. From the NDP perspective, the rate regulation side, have they talked at all about how that would work, how if they were if we were to have government come in and effectively set rates or set maximum rates or set with the mandated reduction in the rate happens to be? It’s not clear. Have they specified how they would intend to go about doing that?

Laura Tribe:
There haven’t been a lot of details into how they would do it. I know they’ve been trying to demonstrate other countries that have had mvno’s mandated and trying to point to those as examples. Not so much in saying they would do it exactly the same way, but to try and say we know that intervention and regulation on mvno’s can work. I think the question in the way that they are approaching mvno’s and the way that they’re approaching affordability in general is that they’re coming at it from the end retail price. And fundamentally, mvno’s are about competition. They’re about bringing more providers in, hopefully lowering the rates themselves. And so I think, you know, getting really deep into the policy weeds of telecom, there’s two layers to that. Mvno’s need wholesale rates to be set, which are then indicative of what the retail rates can be set at. And so it sounds like the NDP is working in reverse. They’re actually saying, here’s it, we want the retail rates to be set at. And there’s an assumption that is not from what the NDP has said, but just in understanding how telecom works, that they will then have to work backwards and say, if we’re going to bring all the retail rates down by 10 percent, then any rates that are for roaming or wholesale will need to therefore be X percent lower to make sure that we can’t increase competition. It’s a pretty complicated approach to fix all those layers. It would definitely require the CRTC to be involved, although that hasn’t sort of how that would work together hasn’t explicitly come out from the NDP. A lot of it’s trying to apply what I know and we know about how telecom policy actually works in Canada to the promises that are being put forward and trying to reverse engineer how it would actually play out.

Michael Geist:
Right. Okay. So the NDP promise focusing on prices faces some real implementation challenges. The Liberals have both this notion of we can cajole or talk or talk to her, convince the the incumbents to lower their prices. And I think you’ve made it pretty clear, as most would, that that historically hasn’t didn’t seem to work. And there’s little reason to think that that it would work now. So it sounds like a lot of this talk is being placed in mvno’s as the source of competition. But it sounds as well that with respect to the liberal plan, even that isn’t an immediate solution. It’s kind of like will dip our toe in the water. And if it works, great. And if not, we’ll do more that kind of what they’re saying.

Laura Tribe:
Yeah, I think that the Liberals have set the bar for something that is probably going to be achieved with or without them. So their election promises that they can check off when it comes to prices coming down by 25 percent. If you look at your cell bill right now and I think you’re just going to get a 25 percent discount when the Liberals get voted in, I think you’re wrong. But what we do know is that the data that we have right now is so far behind in Canada that there are some that believe and I do not have the evidence to prove this, but there are some that believe that the prices have already come down enough that the liberals will be able to say that they did it just by virtue of when the data is published next. So that’s a, you know, bar they can say that they reached. And when it comes to mvno’s with the CRTC already looking at MVNO is already having them on the table. Essentially what the liberals have promised is the minimum viable product out of that consultation. Which again, doesn’t require them to do anything. It’s just predicting the writing on the wall from the CRTC, whose own consultation and then saying in two years if nothing has happened on those two fronts. Then they will take action, which to me reads like they’re not going to touch telecom for two years, which is why it’s pretty frustrating as someone who’s been working on this for so long to hear them say that we have to keep waiting.

Michael Geist:
And it’s a bit surprising, I think, from a liberal perspective, because it’s not as if they haven’t done anything on telecom or at least tried to do something on telecom. When we think of the policy direction or the requirement that CRTC re-examine some of these issues, you’re talking about MVNO’s. The Liberals have tried to push for that. So one would have thought they might have been able to say we’ve been pushing and trying to move in this direction. Here’s what we’re gonna continue to do. They seem to have sort of almost ignored much of what they’ve done in the past in favour of, as you’re suggesting, policy recommendations that they don’t really have to do very much about.

Laura Tribe:
Yeah, I think the the policy direction that now requires the CRTC to take things like customers into consideration, which is not the case before, to make sure that affordability is a consideration that they’re looking at for smaller providers like those are really big shifts that we haven’t had a chance to see if and how they truly play out at the CRTC. So there is a really good chance that by virtue of that policy direction, the CRTC is on decision on wireless actually is much better for customers, for smaller providers by virtue of following the policy direction. And there are a lot of pieces that have been put into play, but fundamentally this government’s approach to the CRTC has been like we will keep asking them and hope they get it right. So they have sent the decision on mvno’s back to the CRTC and then when they didn’t get a right kind of like, okay, next tactic and keep sending messages to this year ATC. And I think fundamentally what this platform shows me is that they are unwilling to just own it as a file, that they want to make sure that they are continuing to leave that to the CRTC to solve. And I think that it’s going to take a while to see if the policy direction actually works and where those decisions come to you. But the CRTC is not a fast moving institution. Their decisions understandably take a really long time and we’re not going to see change overnight no matter what the decision is that comes out of the CRTC is wireless proceeding.

Michael Geist:
Well, I mean, as you say, it’s good that the issue is is now risen to the level being a true political issue, but I suppose a little discouraging in the sense of some of the solutions that are being proposed because it doesn’t seem like they’re advancing things all that much. One of the other issues that has also attracted some amount of attention, although I think with a fair in a fairly confusing way, is what’s often described as a Netflix tax, which often is said to mean different things. In fact, just this week as we’re recording it, there was, I think, more confusion, where the OECD, advanced the ball a little bit in terms of dealing with corporate tax. And I noted at least one article that said that had at least a couple of political parties saying, well, we want to go further than the OECD. But what they were talking about was not necessarily what the OECD was dealing with to begin with, which is part of the challenge where there’s a catch all term and it’s taken to mean any number of different things. So can you tell us a bit about what are the parties have had to say generally about either a Netflix tax or perhaps even more broadly? We can unpack it that way. Taxation, digital services and I guess Canadian content gets thrown in there as well.

Laura Tribe:
If we could put the definitions of a Netflix tax and Internet tax, sales tax, all of the taxes to rest once and for all, it would be beautiful. But I think the Netflix tax is a catch all phrase that came up in the last election with Stephen Harper, which is fundamentally a tax on over-the-top streaming services like Netflix that would have to pay and to fund Canadian content in the same way that cable providers do. Now, in the last election, it was very clear that was off the table over the entire course of the Liberals last four years. Everything we’ve heard out of Canadian heritage was that everything’s on the table except a Netflix tax that was always the one thing that was off the table. And we’re seeing it start to creep up again in this election. But over the past four years, taxing things like Netflix to make sure that they’re paying into Canadian content has always been off the table. Other things that we have seen coming up since that all get looped into that Netflix tax bucket are things like an Internet tax or an ISP levy that would require all Internet service providers to pay into Canadian content the same way that cable providers do with the idea that people are cutting the cord and using the Internet. So therefore they must be using the internet to stream content and we must make them pay into Canadian content. That’s something that fundamentally OpenMedia does not support. We already pay some of the highest prices in the world for Internet, which is why we’re talking about cell phone prices, why we talk of Internet prices. And there is no question those fees would be passed on to customers.

Laura Tribe:
It also implies that the Internet only has one purpose, which is for streaming Netflix, which is not the case. It would require businesses who have servers to be paying into Canadian content by virtue of trying to host data for their own companies. There’s a ton of examples as to why it doesn’t work. We also have sales tax, which somehow never gets put into the conversation, even though it’s the most obvious solution for a lot of these. And that’s really around companies like Netflix, Amazon, International companies that operate in Canada with services that are not charging their customers GST or HST and therefore not remitting it to the government. That one is mostly not the case because it’s just been hard for governments to figure out how to enforce it, but there’s nothing fundamentally stopping them from doing it. And it does look like in this election the Liberals have put that back on the table. So it does look like sales tax will be in consideration.

Laura Tribe:
And then we also have the new tax that the Liberals declared around online advertising, which is a 3 percent tax on all of the major online advertisers. I don’t remember what the billions of dollars they have to make ad revenues to qualify for, but that would be an additional 3 percent tax. And depending on how you read the comments from the Liberals and the NDP and the Green Party, there’s a really good Q&A with them on big tech in the Toronto Star. Reading through their own platforms, they are all consistently vague and ambiguous on them, but it looks like the Netflix tax is very much back on the table to require everyone to pay into the Canadian content system, as well as requiring companies like Netflix, like YouTube in some cases, depending on how you read it, to actually produce the same amount of Canadian content that cable providers are as well. And so, you know, there’s we can get into as deep as you want any one of them. But fundamentally, the policies that seem to be on the table right now have taken us back to an era before the 2015 election and actually seem to be taking us back into an era of cable TV where instead of being able to look at what the Internet looks like now and how we want the world to look, instead of having these sort of forward looking, innovative policies, we’re just stuck and going back to how do we make it look more like the thing that we’re used to on TV because we don’t know what to do with us. So it’s pretty discouraging.

Michael Geist:
Fair enough. So just to make sure because, you know. Outlining the various tax proposals that are out there, but I take it on the sales tax issue. So applying it to foreign services that don’t have a presence here, of course, if when we’re talking about sales taxes are not paying sales tax themselves or merely collecting or collecting and remitting on behalf of their customers. That sounds like that’s on the table really for all the parties that have a platform at this point in time, they’re all willing to say we need a level playing field with respect to sales tax. Yeah. Okay. So we’ve got that on the.

Laura Tribe:
Haven’t heard anything from the Conservatives or. I haven’t heard anything from the Conservatives. I know definitely from the Liberals and it’s been implied from the other party.

Michael Geist:
Fair enough. I think actually Scheer may have, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer may have provided some indication that they’re willing to look at this as well. But you’re right, as we record this, we still don’t have a platform, so we don’t know what if that’s the case or what it looks like. And in a sense, it’s a good illustration of why it becomes a problem, because these issues become take on different mean different things to different people. It’s really helpful to get a clearer articulation to extend to which we get a clearer articulation of where things stand. So say it sounds like digital sales taxes are on the way pretty much regardless least of the parties that have put that forward. Yeah, the corporate tax, it sounds like the various parties are also at least entertain the possibility of saying we want to find ways to ensure that large international technology companies who have the ability to move dollars around more easily perhaps than others, that they pay some amount of essentially corporate income tax in Canada. By way of some sort of levy or something like that, although back I guess could be worked on internationally first. Or maybe Canada just jumps in and says, this is what we want until there’s an international solution.

Laura Tribe:
It sounds like all of the parties are on board for following the international solution and trying to figure out how to go further. But that’s about the level of detail you’ve been given. And getting into more specifics, I’d be trying to guess.

Michael Geist:
Yeah, no, that’s and then that’s fair in this part of the problem. Is it. Yeah. You know, there’s there’s there’s votes to be had at least the parties seem to think there is by saying that you’re going to prepared to take on Big Tech so to speak. But the specifics sometimes are missing. It’s that last one that becomes I think really relevant, this issue of whether or not there are mandated contributions, which was, I think the original thinking behind what a Netflix tax to Stephen Harper did that somewhat cheesy video about no Netflix taxes and how he was a fan of Breaking Bad. So it sounds like the parties have shift in that regard. So, for example, the current government, a Liberal government, Pablo Rodriguez previously and he’s been his predecessor, Melanie Joly seemed to be hedge a little bit when it came to these issues. Take it, Mr. Rodriguez and the party itself have kind of jumped in more aggressively about the prospect of mandated payments.

Laura Tribe:
Yeah, it looks like the line of if you’re benefiting, you have to pay, I think which you’ve dealt with previously and talk much about seems to be their underlying principle. And there’s ways to pick that apart for a whole other podcasts. But it looks like there there are multiple layers of how they’re trying to go about it. So they want financial contributions into the Canadian Media Fund to be coming from international over the top providers, which could include not just Netflix, but Amazon Prime, Disney plus if it comes to Canada and as it comes to Canada to paying into the system. But then there’s a second layer, which is also to require them to provide the same amount of Canadian content that TV providers are actually required to have, which I think raises a lot of questions around what would a Disney plus rollout in Canada look like when Disney doesn’t have a very large Cancon catalog? And what does Cancon mean? And I think that’s the piece that has really been missing in the conversation when we’re talking about Canadian content and then looking at something like YouTube, where there is a ton of content that’s on there by people in Canada who are Canadian made in and about Canada. But because they don’t meet sort of the industry’s qualifications of Cancon wouldn’t count. And so I think there’s a lot of questions around not just what does it mean to have them hosted, but if you’re Netflix and all of a sudden, you know, there’s been a lot of criticism about Netflix deal with Melanie Joly and how they said they would invest more in Canada. And it was a four year deal and they’ve already done it in two and they’re proud of how much they’re investing in Canada. But does it count as Canadian content? And if you’re Netflix and let’s say that 10 percent of your catalog is Canadian, but you have to hit 30 percent. Are you gonna go make 20 percent new Canadian content or are you going to drop part of your catalog that’s available to Canada? And so I think there’s a lot of questions around what that actually does to our access to content in Canada by making those contributions and really fundamentally threatens the idea of what it means to have an open Internet. When you’re mandating what people need to be providing and obligations of content being put online.

Michael Geist:
Right. So it really does get into that Internet regulation writ large when it’s early if you start getting into what you’re required to do. And I know that there’s been talk certainly of requiring promoting of Canadian content, perhaps having a certain amount of Canadian content as well as, of course, funding that Canadian content. What is all of this say with respect to the government’s broadcast and telecommunications legislative review panel? Because these are the kinds of issues that the government had, depending on your perspective, either punted or at least wanted to ensure got a fulsome review by an expert panel that struck this panel. We’ve now had at least an interim report from the panel. But it sure feels like at least when it comes to liberals and I suppose with all the parties that have at least put forward platforms, that they’re in a sense not even looking to wait to hear what this panel has to say, they’ve already decided what they want to see done.

Laura Tribe:
Yeah, it’s really frustrating. Minister Rodriguez comments in June when the butyl our panel put out their interim report was a real shot at the people who participated as an organization that funneled thousands of people’s comments into this and, you know, as an act of good faith took the government at its word to say, we want to let the experts think about it and we want a fulsome review to have halfway through the minister, who is in charge of half of this project say that’s great, we can’t wait to do this thing. We’ve already decided. So looking forward to your final report. It felt like a slap in the face. I think. All of the parties that have comment on this obviously have a position on what they want to see come out of the report. If any changes are made, the ones who actually seem to have the strongest view are the liberals who actually implemented the overhaul and the review itself, which seems the most confusing because they’re the ones who said we want to wait and see. And now they’re the ones who seem to have a vision predetermined. But fundamentally, even when the report is done and it’s due at the end of January, that will take into consideration recommendations for everything that needs be changed on broadcasting and telecommunications. That’s just the start. That’s just really the recommendations. And in the same way you got recommendations from committees back to government, it’s really up to the government of the day to decide what to do with it. And so as frustrating as it is to have political parties trying to predetermine an outcome, it is an election. And it does mean that at least we know who we’re voting on, who’s going to be picking up this ball when when it comes to them. But it looks like regardless of where you stand, people have decided this is something they need to have a really strong position on. And I hope that I really, really hope that the report that comes out from the BTLR panel does take into consideration what they heard. It does take into consideration where we need to go and does not take into consideration the political context, because that’s the second phase of the fight.

Laura Tribe:
And right now, this is really looking at a system that is the foundation of all of our communications in Canada. It’s how we talk to each other. It’s how we do business. It’s everything about how we operate now. And it can’t just be a political football that we’re using to toss around. So it’s it’s been really discouraging to see it politicized, but it’s also not that surprising. And hopefully over the course of this election, whoever forms the next government or takes into consideration that, you know, this was something that people went into in good faith.

Michael Geist:
Now, that’s really well said. And I suppose we will have to wait a few months to see what the report says, and of course, less than that to see what the government happens to be. But it is, I think, for a lot of people and I participated as well, discouraging to see the the government, at least the government. But it really almost all the parties sort of take a stake on where they want to where they want to see things go in effect without really taking into account this entire process. What do we do four Quick Hits on other on other issues we really unpack. I think these were the really the two biggest that have captured attention, the next four less so. But let’s just make sure we cover all of our bases. Privacy is an issue that people talk a lot about. Has there been much from any of the parties with respect to what they may do on privacy?

Laura Tribe:
Privacy is the one they’ve been the most quiet on. I would say when it comes to Internet issues, the Green Party has actually issued the most fulsome plans on privacy of any of the parties to date with a lot of ideas around strengthening the privacy commissioner and their powers, a lot of pieces around making sure that there are data protections in place. I think the one thing that is of concern in the Green Party platform is removing anonymity online for social media platforms. I think it’s well intended to try and curb bullying and a lot of harassment online. But fundamentally, anonymity is something that is critical for people who who are the most marginalized in a lot of cases. And so I think that’s something that, while well-intended, might not have come across correctly in the people they were trying to help. The conservatives have said that they will launch a new parliamentary committee around cybersecurity and data privacy with no details on what that looks like. The Liberals have talked a lot about privacy around innovation and data and what that looks like in it’s part of their new digital charter. But it’s really vague on what that actually means for me is as an individual and as a user, there’s not a lot of clarity around how we can minimize the amount of data being collected. And fundamentally, the biggest criticism I have of all of the parties on privacy is that not a single one of them, with the exception of the Green Party, thinks that they should be held subject to any privacy laws. And in an election when they are collecting data on us, when they are, you know, using it to try and target us and manipulate us to get our votes. The fact that they’re holding themselves to a lower standard than they hold anyone else is appalling. And someone who’s trying to uphold democracy. So I think that’s my biggest criticism across the board, with the exception that the Greens have said they would bring that. It wasn’t that fast for your rapid fire.

Michael Geist:
No, that was great. And no, and I and I certainly agree with you, have been a recipient of clearly targeted stuff, which raises some questions, too. And I think a lot of Canadians have. There is a long history of political parties of all stripes being willing to impose certain obligations on the private sector, but unwilling to take them on themselves. I mean, that’s that’s been the case for years. When it comes to political parties closely related to this is that question of platform liability. You touched on it a little bit with respect to the Greens, anything else in terms of hate speech or other sorts of rules when it comes to what.

Laura Tribe:
We have seen, the liberals say that they will require platforms to take problematic content down within 24 hours and they give a specific definition of what that problematic content would be. It includes hateful content, terrorism content, terrorism related content, incitement to violence. A few others that I can’t recall at the moment. But, you know, fundamentally trying to follow in the steps of some European models and following the German model of a 24 hour takedown notice. I think the questions that come up and it’s actually a little surprising that content, moderation and some of these issues haven’t been more central in the election. But I think the biggest question around that is whose job is it? Is it the governments or is it the companies? And I think that the government don’t want it to be theirs. They’re trying to incentivize the companies to do it, and the companies don’t want it to be theirs. They’re really trying to wait until the government makes them do it. And I think that’s where we’ve gotten into a lot of the mess that we’re in now.

Michael Geist:
That’s that’s perfect. That that fits well with the Quick Hits. Digital trade, digital trade policy, the USMCA. Obviously, there was a fair amount in that trade agreement we’ve had in some of the other trade agreements, a CPA TPP in the European deal as well. Are any of those digital provisions at risk, including copyright here? Of course, with copyright term extension. The party said much about what they would do with these trade deals.

Laura Tribe:
You’d probably know the answer to this better than I will. But fundamentally, what we’ve heard on the trade deals is if you’re the liberals, you think it’s a good deal. And if you’re not the liberals, you think it’s a bad deal. Not a lot of talk around the digital issues themselves. Not a lot of talk around the IP provisions. Most of it seems to focus on dairy and a lot of those issues, even though there’s a lot more free trade agreement than just dairy. But it hasn’t really come up in terms of what’s wrong with the deal. We’ve seen the parties really stick to their talking points around good and bad and haven’t seen a lot of detail on that.

Michael Geist:
No, I think that’s why I haven’t seen really anything either. It is rather remarkable for people who’ve been following Canadian politics for some years. I mean, we literally had full elections that were primarily about trade agreements. And here in those last mandate, we’ve had three trade agreements either closed or negotiated, which fundamentally transform our trading relationship pretty much with the entire world. And yet, as you suggest, there’s been practically no talk about it other than it’s good or bad without getting into any any level of detail. The one other issue that also is attracted at least some amount of attention over the course of the mandate, most recently with a year long review, was copyright law. The reviews themselves, the review itself coming from the industry committee and there was a supporting document that came from the Heritage Committee, came too late for the government to respond, or at least by the time it was released, the government wasn’t required to respond. And so it won’t. Has copyright come up at all?

Laura Tribe:
I haven’t seen much talk about copyright, and for something that took well over a year to study that had, you know, cross party examination. It hasn’t had much discussion this election. But I also think it was so thoroughly studied by the industry committee. That is a cross-party committee that actually put a report forward that had multiple parties saying we think this is a good plan, that it’s not an area of division. In the same way that I think a lot of the other issues that are coming up in this election are. And so without a really clear way to try and distinguish yourself in the other parties, it makes it really hard for it to be an election issue. So we’ll see what the next government does with the recommendations that came from the committee. But it it hasn’t been as divisive as an issue as it has been in the past.

Michael Geist:
I think that’s a great point, because you had that really extensive study. The committee representing all parties in the parties all came on board with those issues. And so perhaps that’s. Why it’s not. There’s not enough of a wedge there to make much of a difference. Laura, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast.

Laura Tribe:
Thanks for having me.

Michael Geist:
The Conservative Party released its election platform on October 11th, one day after this podcast was recorded. The platform does not discuss wireless or Internet affordability, limiting its communications policy to rural broadband issues. The platform also doesn’t discuss a digital sales tax or mandated Cancon contribution, often referred to as a Netflix tax. It does, however, envision a 3 percent tax on global technology companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. The conservative platform includes several new policy proposals, including rules that would hold parents liable for cyber bullying by their children and requirements for plain language privacy policies. There is no discussion on further Internet platform liability or copyright reform.

Michael Geist:
That’s the Law Bytes podcast for this week. If you have comments suggestions or other feedback, write to lawbytes.com. That’s lawbytes at pobox.com. Follow the podcast on Twitter at @lawbytespod or Michael Geist at @mgeist. You can download the latest episodes from my Web site at Michaelgeist.ca or subscribe via RSS, at Apple podcast, Google, or Spotify. The LawBytes Podcast is produced by Gerardo LeBron Laboy. Music by the Laboy brothers: Gerardo and Jose LeBron Laboy. Credit information for the clips featured in this podcast can be found in the show notes for this episode at Michaelgeist.ca. I’m Michael Geist. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

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One Comment

  1. it was interesting, thanks for your podcast.

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