In recent months, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has emerged as the de facto digital policy lead minister in Canada with Navdeep Bains largely silent on the race to regulate everything from online linking to how Canadian content is promoted on digital streaming services. New legislation is still forthcoming, but recent comments to industry town halls and press reports provide a good sense of what Guilbeault has in mind. In short, it appears the government will establish an extensive regulatory structure for digital services with registration or licensing requirements and mandated payments for a host of online activities. The amounts payable will be established through hearings at the CRTC and the Copyright Board of Canada. The government would retain the power to fine companies that fail to comply with the payment requirements and use a policy direction to the CRTC to make its policy intentions clear.
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What Happened to Canada’s Innovation Agenda?: How Innovation Policy Has Been Sidelined By Cultural Policies and Misplaced Provincial Prioritization of Patents
It was just five years ago that the Liberal party, then mired in third place nationally, made innovation a centerpiece of its electoral strategy. The 2015 Liberal platform referenced “innovation” 10 times with promises to establish a national innovation agenda that would touch on everything from agriculture to the everyday work of government. Within weeks of the election, the role of industry minister was recast as the innovation, science and economic development minister, armed with a mandate letter peppered with instructions to pursue an innovation agenda.
Fast forward to 2020 and innovation has largely disappeared from the government’s radar screen with the word banished from the 2019 election platform. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that the response to COVID-19 has understandably emerged as job one, but the disappearance of innovation as a government policy priority raises serious concerns about how Canada will foster the economic growth needed to help recover from the devastating effects of the global pandemic.
“Get Money from Web Giants” Grows: Canadian Heritage Minister Guilbeault Says Government Working on a New Data Tax
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has said that his top legislative priority is to “get money from web giants.” That approach has typically been taken to mean the introduction of digital sales taxes and mandated Cancon payments from Internet streaming services such as Netflix. More recently, Guilbeault has raised the possibility of a link tax or licence, which would be paid by companies such as Facebook or Google merely for linking to news articles. If that wasn’t a sufficiently large digital tax agenda, Guilbeault now says the government is also planning new taxes on data and online advertising. Guilbeault told Evan Solomon:
Last week, I wrote about the need for the Canadian government to reboot its digital agenda, arguing that less than 12 months after the 2019 national election, the policy agenda had gone off the rails with a reversal on affordable telecom services, delays in broadband support and privacy reform, as well as plans for extensive online regulation. The Speech from the Throne, which sets out the government’s agenda, suggests that rather than rebooting the digital agenda, the government has largely deleted it altogether.
The speech was the longest throne speech since the Liberal election in 2015, yet there was apparently no time to reference privacy reform, intellectual property, wireless, or innovation (innovative appears once). Instead, beyond catching up on unfulfilled promises on rural broadband and promising action on online hate, the government’s digital agenda is – as Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said last week – now distilled primarily down to “get money from web giants.” That isn’t a digital agenda, it’s anti-digital agenda, with technology companies cast as both a foreign enemy to be regulated and an ATM for free cash to fund pet projects in the cultural sector.
“Get Money From Web Giants”: Why Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s Top Legislative Priority is Risky Business
As Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault prepares an Internet regulation plan that features the prospect of licences for linking, undermining net neutrality, and trade sanctions, he has typically argued that “it’s about fairness”, suggesting that foreign companies unfairly benefit from the Canadian market at the expense of domestic companies. Yet when Guilbeault appeared at a production sector town hall last week, he was far more candid. Guilbeault told the sector that in a minority government situation, his department had to choose between a massive bill changing “everything under the sun” or to slice it up into smaller pieces. Having chosen the piecemeal approach, Guilbeault pointed to his top priority: get money from the foreign Internet companies (his exact words at 47:58 were “the most pressing thing we needed to do was to get oxygen into the system, which is money. And go and get that money where that money is. Which is web giants.”)