Why The Conservative Treaty Policy Issue Won’t Go Away

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.

One Comment

  1. R. Bassett Jr. says:

    Jim Prentice
    I’ve never met the man, but I’ve seen him on CPAC and other TV spots and he *seems* like a person who is fit for his position. He certainly has his emotions under control. I think Mr. Prentice wants to do right by Canadians, but I also get the impression that he doesn’t want to be left holding the bag if does. Given the great pressure of the position from all sides of many wide ranging issues, I don’t envy Mr. Prentice in the least.

    Collectively, the sane people of Canada would like all of their laws to reflect what is in the best interest of all Canadains. I’m pretty sure Mr. Prentice understands this concept. Now that he has been made aware of the importance of “Copyright File”, I’m confident that Jim Prentice the Canadian will give it greater consideration. However, we have yet to see if Jim Prentice the Honorable Minister of Industry will put the issue to rest in a manner that reflects the principles of our nation, in a manner that is also satisfactory enough to shut the lobbiest up for a good long while. Not an easy task.

    I get the impression that Jim doesn’t take shit from anyone, so we may be in luck here. One never knows.

    [He did beat the runner up (NDP) candidate in his riding by 21,833 votes; He was nominated for Conservative leadership; he voted how he wanted on same sex marriage and abortion (pro and pro choice); and if two people kick the bucket, he’d be our Prime Minister, so he’s certainly not a polical light-wieght or a party-line/religious follower. I’m an NDP supporter (though I would vote BLOC if I could – Gilles Duceppe for Prime Minister!), so it’s not like I am a Conservative kiss-ass when I say this…]