The cost of wireless services emerged as a political issue during the recent national election, with most parties taking turns promising measures to increase competitiveness and lower consumer costs. The Liberals based their platform on a commitment to reduce costs by 25 per cent over the next two years, a measure that some analysts suggested had already been met. I argued that the 25 per cent reduction target was measuring the wrong thing, noting that “the 25 per cent price decline may sound attractive, but if other countries experience declines of 30 per cent or 40 per cent, it means that Canadians would actually be paying even more relative to consumers elsewhere.”
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Wireless Worsens: Report Finds Canadian Wireless Pricing Now Less Competitive Compared to Other Developed Economies
Platforms or People?: The Liberals and Conservatives Outline Competing Visions of Internet Responsibility
In recent years, there has been growing concern worldwide with the privacy risks associated with mass data collection online, the potential for rapid dissemination of hate speech and other harmful content on the Internet, and the competitive challenges posed by technology companies – often labelled “web giants” – that are enormously popular with the public but which do not fit neatly into conventional cultural and economic policies. My Globe and Mail op-ed argues the Internet policy proposals contained in the Liberal and Conservative platforms offer dramatically different answers to the question that sits at the heart of these policy issues: who should bear responsibility for the potential risks that arise from the Internet?
The 2015 Liberal campaign platform that vaulted the party from third place to a majority government made a big economic bet that focusing on innovation would resonate with voters and address mounting concern over Canadian competitiveness. Innovation would serve as a guiding principle over the years that followed: The Minister of Industry was reframed as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, millions were invested in innovation superclusters and global leadership on artificial intelligence was touted as a national priority.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that four years later, the 2019 Liberal party platform does not include a single mention of innovation or AI. Instead, it is relying heavily on ill-fitting European policies to turn the Canadian digital space into one of the most heavily regulated in the world. Rather than positioning itself as the party of innovation, the Liberals are now the party of digital regulation with plans for new taxes, content regulation, takedown requirements, labour rules and a new layer of enforcement commissioners.
Responding to years of consumer frustration with the state of Canadian wireless pricing, Canada’s political parties have propelled the issue on to the election campaign agenda. The telecom giants will disagree, but study after study has found that Canadians pay more for wireless services than consumers in most other developed economies. But though just about everyone agrees we have a problem, my Globe and Mail op-ed notes there remains considerable debate over what to do about it.
The International Trade Committee’s TPP Report: Clarifying the Liberal, Conservative, and NDP Policies on Asia-Pacific Trade
The Standing Committee on International Trade released its long awaited report on the Trans Pacific Partnership yesterday, the result of months of hearings and public consultation. The TPP committee review represented the Liberal government’s most tangible mechanism to consult with the public on an agreement it did not negotiate and that suffered from a lack of transparency throughout the negotiation process. Along the way, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States and moved quickly to withdraw from the TPP. The resulting report is therefore anti-climatic, since the agreement is effectively dead.
Nevertheless, the 113 page report provides a record of the many witnesses that appeared before the committee and places all three political parties on the record. Much of the report identifies the controversial issues – intellectual property, dispute settlement, trade in services among them – and recounts the differing views. The report leaves little doubt about the public divide on the TPP, noting support from some (though not all) business groups and opposition from many public interest groups. For example, the report notes that the intellectual property chapter was among the issues most raised before the committee, particularly the patent provisions and copyright term extension. It highlights not only comments before the committee (including my own), but also briefs submitted to the committee, including one from the Girl Guides of Canada, who expressed concerns with copyright term extension.