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.
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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.
Copyright has not received much attention during the election campaign, but a recent survey by SOCAN raises questions about support for copyright term extension. The issue is particularly confusing in the case of the NDP, since it opposes the TPP (which would require term extension and keep works out of the public domain for decades) but it seems to be willing to entertain the prospect of copyright term extension. SOCAN asked whether the parties would be willing to extend the term of copyright to life of the author (or composer) plus 70 years. The NDP’s response:
The NDP welcomed the government changes in Budget 2015 to extend the term of copyright for performers. We understand there is now discrepancy between performers and songwriters. The NDP is committed to reviewing the Copyright Act in 2017 as the Act requires. We would look to make these key legislative changes in our first year of mandate. These are among the changes we would be looking into.
The Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations concluded early this morning in Atlanta with the 12 countries reaching agreement on the remaining outstanding issues. The U.S. quickly posted a summary of the TPP and the Canadian government has followed with its own package on the deal. At a just-concluded ministerial press conference, the ministers noted that this is one step in a longer process. The text itself must still be finalized and then each country will have its own rules before signing onto it. In the U.S., there is a review period with the full text, so this will be a 2016 issue. In Canada, new treaties must be tabled for review in the House of Commons, so there will be a Parliamentary review.
With the election only two weeks away, that means that there will be no text to review before the national vote. Instead, Canadians will face a barrage of TPP claims:
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage concluded a study on the Canadian film industry this week, releasing a report that lists 11 recommendations that generally call for continued industry support. The NDP and Liberals both issued supplementary opinions in which they called for requirements that online video providers (such as Netflix) disclose revenues, Cancon availability, and subscriber numbers to Canadian officials. The NDP recommendation:
the NDP fully supports the recommendation made by Carolle Brabant of Telefilm Canada, who argued that it is vital for over-the-top services to be able to do what traditional platforms and media do, namely, provide government authorities with detailed information about their services, such as consumers’ habits, the Canadian films available, the revenues generated and the costs associated with such services.