I've posted a couple of times this week on the Government's new policy that commits to a House of Commons review of international treaties before introducing implementing or ratifying legislation. This policy mandates that the Conservatives bring the WIPO Internet treaties for review before tabling their copyright bill. The policy, which was included in the 2006 Conservative election platform, is based on models in the UK and Australia. An Australian correspondent has written to note that the Australian government of John Howard abided by this policy as it put the WIPO Internet treaties before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties for review (it was included with the US – Australian FTA) before it introduced the domestic copyright reform that enabled it to ratify the treaties.
Now consider the current Canadian situation. The Conservative policy leaves little wiggle room – Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the pledge during the election campaign and he has now implemented a policy that states when legislative change is required, "the government is committed to delaying the legislation until the 21-sitting-day period has passed." Note that the Conservatives are already being criticized for not going far enough – the Liberals say it is a misleading policy, while the NDP claims that the policy is not consistent with putting treaties before the House for ratification, not just review.
To ignore the policy is to invite even greater criticism. If Industry Minister Jim Prentice argues that the policy does not apply, he is effectively saying that the bill is not about WIPO ratification, despite consistently claiming otherwise for months. If he acknowledges that it applies but chooses not to follow the policy, he undermines Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, his cabinet colleague and the most popular Conservative Quebec MP, who has trumpeted the policy in the House of Commons. The path is therefore clear – live up to the Conservative campaign promise and current policy by tabling the WIPO Internet treaties before the House of Commons for the 21 sitting day period before moving forward with copyright legislation.