Wiertz Sebastien - Privacy by Sebastien Wiertz (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ahk6nh
As the world grapples with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the policy implications for issues such as the acceptance of refugees and continued military participation in the fight against ISIL have unsurprisingly come to the fore. The attacks have also escalated calls to reconsider plans to reform Canadian privacy and surveillance law, a key election promise from the Trudeau government.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that despite the temptation to slow the re-examination of Canadian privacy and surveillance policy, the government should stay the course. The Liberals voted for Bill C-51, the controversial anti-terror law, during the last Parliament, but promised changes to it if elected. Even in the face of a renewed terror threat, those changes remain essential and should not have an adverse impact on operational efforts to combat terror threats that might surface in Canada.
The official release of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade agreement between 12 countries including Canada, the United States, and Japan, has sparked a heated public debate over the merits of the deal. Leading the opposition is Research in Motion founder Jim Balsillie, who has described the TPP as one of Canada’s worst-ever policy moves that could cost the country billions of dollars.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that as Canadians assess the 6,000 page agreement, the implications for digital policies such as copyright and privacy should command considerable attention. On those fronts, the agreement appears to be a major failure. Canadian negotiators adopted a defensive strategy by seeking to maintain existing national laws and doing little to extend Canadian policies to other countries. The result is a deal that the U.S. has rightly promoted as “Made in America.” [a video of my recent talk on this issue can be found here].
Last week, I had the opportunity to deliver the keynote address at a Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) panel on the TPP. My talk, which begins at 4:25 and runs until 41:00, focused on the digital policies within the massive agreement, including intellectual property, privacy, and Internet governance. After the talk, there was a panel discussion featuring Myra Tawfik, Warren Clarke, Barry Sookman, and David Lametti. The full event can be found here and is embedded below.
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.
As Canadians head to the polls, Internet and digital issues are unlikely to be top-of-mind for many voters. Each party has sprinkled its election platform with digital policies – the NDP emphasizes privacy, net neutrality and its opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Liberals focus on open government, and the Conservatives tout cyber-security – yet Internet and digital issues have played at best a minor role in the campaign. The early references to a Netflix tax or the debate over Bill C-51 have been largely lost in an election whose central issue seems primarily to be a referendum on ten years of Stephen Harper and the Conservative government.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that a review of digital and Internet law in the 2015 election campaign involves a similar assessment on the past decade of privacy, copyright and telecom policy. The Conservatives once placed a heavy emphasis on Internet-friendly approach, crafting rules that were designed to attract popular support by encouraging telecom competition, greater flexibility for copyright, and consumer privacy protection. Yet toward the end of its mandate, the government shifted priorities and in the process seemed to forget about the Internet.