Predictions about future technology law and policy developments are always fraught with uncertainty, yet identifying the key players is a somewhat easier chore. Although Parliament is not scheduled to resume until March, the following 10 are likely to lead the way in Canada in the coming year.
Tony Clement, federal Industry Minister. From anti-spam legislation to the national copyright consultation, Clement demonstrated a keen interest in technology issues during his first year as industry minister. 2010 should be no different, with privacy reform legislation, a new copyright bill, and rules for another wireless spectrum auction all on the agenda. To top it off, Clement has sent strong signals that he wants to forge ahead with a long-overdue national digital strategy.
James Moore, federal Canadian Heritage Minister. Young, bilingual, and tech-savvy, Moore broke the mould for a minister of Canadian heritage. This year will present Moore with at least two highly contentious issues likely to leave many unhappy: copyright reform and fee-for-carriage for television broadcast signals.
Stockwell Day, federal International Trade Minister. The link between international trade and tech policy is not immediately obvious, yet two trade initiatives mean that Day may ultimately dictate policy to his cabinet counterparts Clement and Moore. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and the Canada – European Union Trade Agreement both fall under his mandate and feature detailed intellectual property provisions.
Peter Van Loan, federal Public Safety Minister. Van Loan is responsible for Bills C-46 and C-47, the controversial lawful access legislation that died last week with the decision to prorogue Parliament. Part security, part privacy, and part Internet, the legislation likely will be reintroduced and face stiff opposition when it comes before a House of Commons committee in 2010.
Charlie Angus, NDP digital affairs critic. The only opposition member to make the list, Angus is frequently the sole voice on digital policy issues on Parliament Hill. With the Liberal Party seemingly unable to muster a coherent digital policy, Angus has filled the void by introducing net neutrality legislation, injecting himself into the copyright debate, and providing a consistent voice for artists’ concerns.
Konrad von Finckenstein, chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Coming off a busy year, von Finckenstein will remain in the spotlight in 2010. The CRTC’s fee-for-carriage decision will become an immediate lightning rod for praise or criticism (likely both), while the commission’s enforcement efforts on the do-not-call registry and net neutrality guidelines will face intense scrutiny.
Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Stoddart enters the final year of her seven-year term with an opportunity to leave her mark on privacy in Canada. Her Facebook decision garnered international attention in 2009, leaving Stoddart with considerable capital to play an influential role on lawful access, privacy reform, and anti-spam legislation.
Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative. Kirk is the leading figure on U.S. trade policy. U.S. trade officials will undoubtedly claim that Canadian laws are inadequate and Kirk will therefore maintain maximum pressure on Canada on behalf of U.S. lobby interests.
David Jacobson, U.S. Ambassador to Canada. Jacobson had scarcely unpacked after being confirmed to the post this fall before he was criticizing Canadian intellectual property laws. Working together with Kirk, Jacobson will provide ample evidence that a change in administration does not mean a change in attitude on digital policy.
Thousands of online Canadians. Last year demonstrated that Canadians are keenly aware of digital issues and willing to actively voice their views. Record numbers participated in the copyright consultation, thousands submitted comments to the CRTC on net neutrality, and more than 100,000 emailed their views on the fee-for-carriage debate. Combining passion with Internet technologies, the power of the individual has thrust digital policies to the forefront, enabling individual Canadians to ensure their concerns are factored into the decision-making process.
Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.