More than a year after Bill C-27 was first introduced, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology finally launched its review of the bill yesterday with an opening appearance from ISED Minister François-Philippe Champagne. The delays in Bill C-27 reflect significant concern with both the effectiveness of the privacy provisions and the inclusion of an AI bill that is widely viewed as inadequate. Champagne started with a 12 minute opening statement in which he assured committee members that he had heard the criticisms and that the government had a wide range of amendments planned to address the concerns. While many of the potential amendments sounded quite positive, once MP questions commenced it became clear that the department had yet to actually draft them and has no plans to provide the actual text until the committee starts clause-by-clause review of the bill. In other words, the government has decided how it wants to change Bill C-27 before a single external witness appears before committee, but it will only release the actual amendments after the witness portion of the committee study is over. The end result is that Champagne broke the hearings before they had really begun, with dozens of witnesses ready to testify about a bill that the government plans to change but won’t provide legislative language.
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Why Industry Minister Champagne Broke the Bill C-27 Hearings on Privacy and AI Regulation in Only 12 Minutes
Actions Speak Louder than Words: Ministers Rodriguez and Champagne Post Mandate Letter to New CRTC Chair Vicky Eatrides
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and ISED Minister François-Philippe Champagne publicly released what amounts to a mandate letter to new CRTC Chair Vicky Eatrides this morning. The letter contains many laudable goals and aspirations: a more timely, transparent, and inclusive commission, an emphasis on competition in telecom, and an affirmation of the importance of freedom of expression in broadcast. Yet what matters when it comes to the current government and communications issues is not what it says, but what it does. The letter may represent a tacit acknowledgement of the disaster that was the Ian Scott era – the ministers themselves note the waning public trust in the CRTC – but the problems go beyond its chair.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 144: Keldon Bester on the Rogers-Shaw Merger and the Problem with Canadian Competition Law
The proposed Rogers-Shaw merger was back in the news last week as Canadian Industry minister Francois Philippe Champagne held a mid-week press conference to announce that the original deal was dead, but that a reworked deal that brings in Videotron might be a possibility if certain government expectations on restrictions on transferring spectrum licences and consumer pricing outside of Quebec were met. Keldon Bester is a co-founder of the Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project (CAMP), a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and an independent consultant and researcher working on issues of competition and monopoly power in Canada. He’s been one of the most insightful and outspoken experts on the proposed Rogers-Shaw merger and he joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss where things stand and the big picture weaknesses of Canadian competition law and policy.
The CRTC Shrugged: A Special Law Bytes Podcast on the Industry Committee Hearing Into the Rogers Outage
The Rogers outage came to Parliament Hill yesterday as the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology conducted four hours of hearings into the issue. The day started with Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, followed by Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri, CRTC Chair Ian Scott, and a panel of consumer and public interest voices. I was pleased to be part of the final panel and I’ve posted my opening remarks below and created a special Law Bytes podcast featuring my opening remarks and the question and answer session with MPs.
Over the past several weeks, there have been several important privacy developments in Canada including troubling privacy practices at well-known organizations such as the CBC and Tim Hortons, a call from business organizations for privacy reform, the nomination of a new privacy commissioner with little privacy experience, and a decision by a Senate committee to effectively overrule the government on border privacy rules. These developments raise the puzzling question of why the federal government – led by Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez – are so indifferent to privacy, at best treating it as a low priority issue and at worst proposing dangerous measures or seemingly hoping to cash in on weak privacy laws in order to fund other policy priorities.