A new Wikileaks cable confirms that the Conservative government delayed introducing copyright legislation in early 2008 due to public opposition. The delay – which followed the decision in December 2007 to hold off introducing a bill after it was placed on the order paper (and the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group took off) – lasted until June 2008. The U.S. cable notes confirmation came directly from then-Industry Minister Jim Prentice, who told U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins that cabinet colleagues and Conservative MPs were worried about the electoral implications of copyright reform:
From December 2007 to mid-February, senior GOC officials and well-informed private sector contacts assured the Embassy that legislative calendar concerns were delaying the copyright bill’s introduction into Parliament. Our contacts downplayed the small – but increasingly vocal – public opposition to copyright reform led by University of Ottawa law professor Dr. Michael Geist. On February 25, however, Industry Minister Prentice (please protect) admitted to the Ambassador that some Cabinet members and Conservative Members of Parliament – including MPs who won their ridings by slim margins – opposed tabling the copyright bill now because it might be used against them in the next federal election. Prentice said the copyright bill had become a “political” issue. He also indicated that elevating Canada to the Special 301 Priority Watch List would make the issue more difficult and would not be received well.
The cable also notes that an unnamed Liberal MP (who sounds an awful lot like Dan McTeague) assured the U.S. embassy that the copyright bill would receive wide support (though Conservative MP James Rajotte did not believe it would receive “smooth sailing”). The cable states:
An influential Liberal MP on intellectual property issues separately told EMIN on February 26 that the copyright bill would receive widespread support from the Conservative, Liberal, and Bloc Quebecois parties if and when the GOC sends it to Parliament. The Liberal MP stated that he has pressed Industry Minister Prentice to release the legislation now, adding that Canada is out of step with the rest of the (developed) world on intellectual property rights and risks losing future foreign investment. The MP dismissed the political significance of the public efforts of Professor Geist and hinted that Canada’s possible elevation to the Priority Watch list would not be seen as a hostile U.S. action, but show that its IPR regime is weak vis-a-vis its G-7 partners.
The cable concludes by noting that Canadian officials warned against placing Canada on Special 301 Priority Watch list (which would “give ammunition to Dr. Geist and his acolytes”) but that strongly recommends doing so anyway.