Four years ago, then-prime minister Stephen Harper used the first week of the 2015 federal election campaign to pledge that if re-elected his government would not institute a Netflix tax. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that the Liberals responded with a no Netflix tax promise of their own, which became government policy when Justin Trudeau was elected a few months later. Yet as Canada heads toward another election this fall, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and his party seem ready to place the spotlight on Netflix taxes once again. Only this time, the government will call out opposition parties that do not commit to new Internet taxes.
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What is the Point of the Broadcast and Telecom Legislative Review if the Government Has Already Decided What It Intends To Do?
The Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel released its interim report – What We Heard – yesterday alongside the long-overdue release of the written submissions to the panel. The report doesn’t contain any surprises given that the various positions on key telecom and broadcast issues are well known. While the panel is set to deliver its final report in January 2020, there is increasing reason to suspect that the government (if re-elected) has already decided what it wants to do.
Sunlight on the Submissions: Why the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel Should Reverse Its Secretive Approach
The Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review panel’s surprising decision to keep the 2,200 public submissions secret for months has had immediate repercussions. Some organizations are refusing to disclose their submissions until the panel does and others have noted the missed opportunity for public discussion of a vitally important issue. To date, about 30 submissions have been posted, a tiny percentage of the total. The decision has had an impact on university courses and predictably created an information asymmetry with some companies cherry-picking who gets to see their submission.
Why So Secret?: Government’s Communications Law Panel Plans to Keep Public Submissions Under Wraps for Months
The deadline for submissions to the government’s Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel passed last week. I posted my submission yesterday, joined by several other organizations representing differing perspectives (CRTC, CBC, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, Writers Guild of Canada, Internet Society Canada Chapter, CMCRP). However, public availability of submissions will apparently be the exception for the foreseeable future. The panel has rejected an open and transparent policy making process in which public submissions are publicly available, choosing instead to keep the submissions secret for months.