The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology held its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-8, the anti-counterfeiting bill yesterday. I appeared before the committee last month to express concerns about some lobbyist demands for reforms, including removing the exception for personal goods of travelers, the inclusion of statutory damages for trademark infringement, and targeting in-transit shipments.
While the committee did not complete the review of the bill – it will resume on Wednesday – the surprise of the day involved Liberal MP Judy Sgro proposing that the government remove the exception for personal travelers. Given that personal use exceptions are even included in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, it is shocking to see any party proposing their removal, which would result in longer delays at the border and increased searches of individual travelers. The proposal failed since it was rejected by both the Conservatives and NDP, with the NDP noting that “this was one of the important provisions that brought some balance to the bill.”
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Ten years ago, Canada held the distinction of being the top ranked country in the world for the breadth and sophistication of its electronic government services. Citing the Canadian government’s integrated, strategic approach, annual assessments by Accenture found that more important services were offered online in Canada than anywhere else.
Fast forward a decade and Canada’s e-government rankings have steadily declined, a victim of astonishing neglect by the current Conservative government. Last week, the auditor general issued a scathing report on the state of e-government in Canada, noting the lost opportunities for reduced expenses and greater efficiencies as well as the complete absence of strategic vision.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the successful implementation of e-government initiatives should be a win-win scenario. For Canadian businesses and citizens, it offers convenience and round-the-clock access. For government, the shift online offers the promise of significant cost savings. Indeed, rather than simply eliminating programs, the government could focus on cutting costs by emphasizing lower cost electronic delivery of its services.
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