The Standing Committee on International Trade released its long awaited report on the Trans Pacific Partnership yesterday, the result of months of hearings and public consultation. The TPP committee review represented the Liberal government’s most tangible mechanism to consult with the public on an agreement it did not negotiate and that suffered from a lack of transparency throughout the negotiation process. Along the way, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States and moved quickly to withdraw from the TPP. The resulting report is therefore anti-climatic, since the agreement is effectively dead.
Nevertheless, the 113 page report provides a record of the many witnesses that appeared before the committee and places all three political parties on the record. Much of the report identifies the controversial issues – intellectual property, dispute settlement, trade in services among them – and recounts the differing views. The report leaves little doubt about the public divide on the TPP, noting support from some (though not all) business groups and opposition from many public interest groups. For example, the report notes that the intellectual property chapter was among the issues most raised before the committee, particularly the patent provisions and copyright term extension. It highlights not only comments before the committee (including my own), but also briefs submitted to the committee, including one from the Girl Guides of Canada, who expressed concerns with copyright term extension.
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A Liberal majority government will undoubtedly mean big things for digital policy in Canada. At the start of a new mandate, many will hope that a new party will lead to a significant change on telecom, broadcast, copyright, and privacy. With a majority mandate, there is certainly time to tackle these issues. My guess, however, is that real change will take some time. The Liberal platform did not focus on digital issues and other than the promised reforms to Bill C-51 and much-needed open government and transparency initiatives, most will have to wait.
The real action – and perhaps real change – will take place in 2017. By that time, the U.S. election will have concluded and the future of the Trans Pacific Partnership will be much clearer. Canada will surely start studying the TPP once it is finally released, but any steps toward ratification would likely depend on the U.S. position on the agreement. With Hillary Clinton currently opposed to the deal, its ratification is far from certain.
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The Senate is expected to conclude its debate on Bill C-11 with a vote later today. Yesterday, Liberal Senators who heard testimony at the Banking, Trade and Commerce committee brought forward a motion for three amendments to the bill. Senator Wilfrid Moore raises several concerns during debate, but brought a […]
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The Liberals gave the digital economy a prominent place in their election platform, identifying eight principles that included access to broadband for all Canadians, balanced copyright, open government, and support for an open Internet. Yesterday the party expanded on the policy by releasing Digital Canada and holding an online chat forum with Marc Garneau. The Digital Canada release reiterated many of the platform’s positions with one notable addition – a commitment to issue an open Internet directive to the CRTC. According to the Liberals, a Liberal government would “issue an Open Internet Directive to the CRTC opposing anti-competitive usage-based billing and ensure a fair, effective wholesale regime to allow smaller Internet service providers to lease broadband infrastructure at fair prices.”
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The controversy over usage based billing has unsurprisingly spilled over into the election campaign with the national parties starting to provide some insight into their positions. All the parties were on record as opposing the CRTC’s decision on wholesale UBB before the election (and Industry Minister Tony Clement said he was unimpressed with Bell’s AVP proposal). The bigger question is what are they prepared to do about the issue. The Conservatives have not said much on the issue of late, but the NDP and Liberals have adopted some noteworthy positions.
The NDP was the only party to address retail UBB directly within its platform. The party has promised to ban the practice at the both the wholesale and retail level – “We will prohibit all forms of usage-based billing (UBB) by Internet Service Providers (ISPs)“.
The Liberals revealed their support for “functional separation” in an online chat on Canada’s digital future yesterday (I participated as a commentator). Open Media’s Steve Anderson had the following exchange with Liberal Marc Garneau:
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