Yesterday's Question Period featured an unexpected and welcome surprise – the federal Liberal Party has expressed its support for net neutrality. Industry critic Marc Garneau rose on the floor of the House of Commons and asked (video version here):
Mr. Speaker, in a free and open democracy in the 21st century, in an innovative and progressive knowledge economy, no tool is more paramount than the Internet. The Internet is the backbone of today's flow of free ideas and sharing. My party, the Liberal Party, supports the principle of net neutrality and an open and competitive Internet environment. Do the Conservatives support the principle of net neutrality?
Minister Clement responded by pointing to his digital economy strategy conference next week, but did not take a position on the issue. Sources say that the official Liberal position is that:
"Internet traffic management should not be permitted for anti-competitive behaviour, nor should it target specific websites, users or legitimate business applications. The Liberal Party will also continue to ensure internet management does not infringe on Canadians privacy rights."
This marks a critically important development for net neutrality in Canada just weeks before the CRTC hearings on network management. With two major parties – Liberals and NDP – now standing squarely in favour of protecting an open Internet, pressure is likely to build on the Conservatives to take a position, particularly given the growing emphasis on developing a national digital strategy for Canada.
Update: The official Liberal press release on the issue is here.