The Liberal party released its election platform yesterday and perhaps everything you need to know can be gleaned from the fact that Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault posted multiple tweets about plans for new cultural spending initiatives and Internet regulations in French without a single English language tweet. This is surely not a coincidence since the government’s digital policies have long been designed to curry favour in Quebec, even at risk of angering voters in the rest of Canada. Based on decision to forge ahead with Internet regulations with enormous implications for freedom of expression, alienating voters in the rest of Canada that have raised concerns with policies such as Bill C-10 is not a worry for the Liberal government.
Neither, it would seem, is the affordability of Internet and wireless services, which do not receive a single mention or direct policy measure. In doing so, the party has seemingly abandoned wireless competitiveness as an issue and unequivocally sided with the big telecom companies despite presiding over some of the world’s most expensive wireless services. The party platform is titled “Forward for Everyone” but not everyone moves forward in quite the same way with big telecom companies moving further ahead than Canadian consumers.
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The Canadian government released its plans yesterday for online harms legislation with a process billed as a consultation, but which is better characterized as an advisory notice, since there are few questions, options or apparent interest in hearing what Canadians think of the plans. Instead, the plans led by Canadian […]
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The Liberals led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were first elected in 2015 on a platform that emphasized transparency, consultation, and innovation. The signals were everywhere: it released ministerial mandate letters to demonstrate transparency, renamed the Minister of Industry to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to point to the importance of an innovative economy, and soon after the cabinet was sworn in, Canadians were awash in public consultations (I recall participating in an almost instant consult on the Trans Pacific Partnership). With promises of entrenching net neutrality, prioritizing innovation, focusing on privacy rather than surveillance, and supporting freedom of expression, the government left little doubt about its preferred policy approach.
As I watched Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault yesterday close the Action Summit to Combat Online Hate, I was left with whiplash as I thought back to those early days. Today’s Liberal government is unrecognizable by comparison as it today stands the most anti-Internet government in Canadian history:
- As it moves to create the Great Canadian Internet Firewall, net neutrality is out and mandated Internet blocking is in.
- Freedom of expression and due process is out, quick takedowns without independent review and increased liability are in.
- Innovation and new business models are out, CRTC regulation is in.
- Privacy reform is out, Internet taxation is in.
- Prioritizing consumer Internet access and affordability is out, reduced competition through mergers are in.
- And perhaps most troublingly, consultation and transparency are out, secrecy is in.
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The continuing consumer group boycott of the CRTC’s Internet code proceeding was raised directly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during Question Period in the House of Commons yesterday. NDP MP Brian Masse noted “the CRTC says it wants to establish a consumer Internet code of conduct, but has failed to provide sufficient time for consumer groups and the public. The result is a boycotted and broken system.” Trudeau’s responded that the government was proud of working with the CRTC and included a parting shot at the NDP, commenting on its support of a taxes on Internet usage. Regardless of the NDP position on an Internet tax (Masse says he opposes one), what is notable is that it is the CRTC that has emerged as a vocal supporter of an ISP tax. CRTC Chair Ian Scott’s decision to back an ISP tax as part of a larger scheme to regulate Internet-based services not only runs counter to Trudeau’s opposition to an Internet tax but it also points to a regulator that is increasingly anti-consumer in approach.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met earlier this week with Jean-Francois Gagné, the CEO of Element AI, the Montreal-based applied artificial intelligence lab. Trudeau tweeted that the two men “talked about what Canadians are doing in AI in Montreal & across the country, and how we can keep the industry thriving.”
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