While a federal e-commerce law may have been preferable, the constitutional division of powers meant that it fell to the provinces to enact those laws.
The provinces took the lead on e-commerce legislation in the late 1990s, but over the past decade it has been the federal government that has led on most other digital rules, including privacy legislation, the anti-spam statute, and proposed digital copyright reform. Those efforts are now in constitutional limbo following the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent ruling that plans to create a single securities regulator are unconstitutional.
The December securities regulator decision concluded that the national approach to securities regulation stretches the federal trade and commerce clause too far into provincial jurisdiction. The court ruled that most of the securities regulatory activities deal with day-to-day contractual regulation within the provinces and that “these matters remain essentially provincial concerns falling within property and civil rights in the provinces and are not related to trade as a whole.”
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the repercussions of that decision may be felt far beyond just securities regulation. For example, federal privacy law may now be particularly vulnerable to challenge since it relies on the same trade and commerce provision.