Canada: Throwing Election Promises Against The Digital Wall: Will They Stick?

Last Updated: October 16 2019
Article by Stephen Zolf

The midpoint of the federal election campaign has arrived and with it the release of the detailed (and costed) Liberal Party of Canada 2019 Election Platform. While most observers will focus on the high-profile issues in the platform such as universal pharmacare and climate change, regulatory and policy geeks will also enjoy a veritable feast of new policy promises directly affecting the communications sector.

The policy positions contained in the election platform are ambitious. In several key respects, the platform departs from the approach to communications policy taken by the government during its first mandate. Whereas to date the government’s approach has been relatively cautious, the election platform provides a stark contrast in throwing caution to the winds on its proposed digital policy going forward.

To understand how dramatic the shift in the landscape is, it is helpful to look at the very recent past. It was only five months ago that the government introduced its “Digital Charter”, a set of principles aimed at setting out “the building blocks of a foundation of trust for the digital age.” The stated objective of the Charter was “to help Canadians to address challenges and leverage Canada's unique talents and strengths in order to harness the power of digital and data transformation.”

The Digital Charter contemplated a more macro approach to digital issues, starting with a “set of principles”, including the following:

  • “Keeping Canadians Safe and Secure” through bilateral and multilateral efforts to work with digital industry to better address violent extremist and terrorist use of the internet and online hate, in concert with other federal government efforts to address online harm.
  • Examining measures to enhance “Consent, Control and Transparency of Data” through greater individual control over data and promoting consumer choice by introducing clear and enforceable rules for use of personal information in a commercial context, along with strengthened enforcement mechanisms including enhanced penalties and appropriate incentives to support compliance by organizations.
  • Examining emerging approaches to other policies across government, such as those related to competition and privacy, as means to addressing issues posed by a digital and data-driven economy. This principle recognizes the increasing importance for policies and laws to provide the necessary transparency and confidence for Canadians, particularly given the rise of algorithms and predictive decision-making.
  • Prioritizing any recommendations that touch on digital and data considerations in the context of the ongoing copyright review.

The framework set out in the Digital Charter should be seen alongside several other steps taken in the Liberal government’s first mandate, including the announcement of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review, an initiative announced in 2018 jointly by the Canadian Ministers of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Canadian Heritage, as well as the newly enacted Policy Direction to the CRTC on Implementing the Canadian Telecommunications Policy Objectives to Promote Competition, Affordability, Consumer Interests and Innovation.

What a difference five months and an election campaign make! The torrent of announcements in the 2019 platform suggests that “caution as you go” has been replaced by “caution to the winds” on digital policy issues. This transformation is no better illustrated by what appears to be hastily fashioned digital policy positions in the new platform. To name a few, consider the following:

  • Privacy and Data Protection: the government will move forward with Canada’s Digital Charter and has augmented the principles in that announcement in several areas:
    • It will confer “a new set of online rights” to citizens, to give people “more control over their online lives and the use of their personal data”;
    • the Digital Charter “will be overseen and enforced by a more powerful Privacy Commissioner” to better protect people’s personal data and to encourage greater competition in the digital marketplace; and
    • the government will move forward with new regulations for large digital companies, overseen by a newly-created “Data Commissioner”.
  • Online Hate Speech, Exploitation and Harassment Online: To help stop the proliferation of violent extremism online, the government will introduce new regulations for social media platforms, starting with a requirement that all platforms remove illegal content, including hate speech, within 24 hours or face significant financial penalties.
  • Arts and Culture: the election platform expressly promises that in the first year of its mandate, it will implement legislation that will contemplate “appropriate measures to ensure that all content providers – including internet giants – offer meaningful levels of Canadian content in their catalogues, contribute to the creation of Canadian content in both official languages, and promote this content and make it easily accessible on their platforms.”
  • New Revenue (Fair Taxes): multinational tech giants will pay corporate tax on the revenue they generate in Canada to ensure that international digital corporations whose products are consumed in Canada collect and remit the same level of sales taxation as Canadian digital corporations. The election platform projects over $500 million in revenues from the tax in 2020-21, increasing to over $700 million by 2023-24.

These are ambitious proposals – whatever the merits, it is clear that the former “go slow” approach has been sacrificed on the altar of election promises. And some commentators have taken issue with these proposals: in fact, it is has been suggested that some of the proposals may not comply with Canada's trade obligations, particularly under the new Canada-US-Mexico Free Trade Agreement. Further, the proposed new “tech tax” has come under significant criticism as overreaching, and its projected revenues have also been questioned by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. We will do a deeper dive on the proposed tech tax in a forthcoming blog post. Stay tuned!

If the current government is given another mandate, it is difficult to gauge whether it will have the political stomach to follow through with all or even some of these digital proposals, many of which are clearly (and unsurprisingly) aimed at obtaining votes. An example in the election platform is the promise to “use the government’s regulatory powers” to cut the costs of monthly cell phone bills by 25% in the next two years, to “bring costs in line with what people pay in other countries.” Presumably, the reference to the government’s “regulatory powers” suggests that it would proceed by way of a direct order to the CRTC to implement cuts at the retail level, a step that previous governments have studiously avoided in favour of market structure solutions aimed at enhancing entry and competition among facilities-based wireless telecom providers.

There is an unmistakable sense of “seeing what sticks” in the election platform. Whether any of these proposals are good policy will surely be debated vigorously should the government be given another mandate by voters and attempt to follow through in implementing the proposals. Until then, to quote a former Canadian prime minister, “an election is no time to discuss serious issues.” Standby for further announcements as we sprint toward Election Day.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions