The newly elected Conservative Government is staying the course
on a number of issues of interest to the communications
industry. It remains to be seen how the new majority status
of the Government will affect the progress of these
The Speech from the Throne, which
opened the 41st Parliament, resurrected several proposals that were put on hold with the fall
of the previous Government and election call. By convention,
such a speech provides a general description of the
Government's legislative program for the next Parliamentary
First, the speech indicated that the new Government will
generally welcome foreign investment in Canada:
"Our Government also understands the importance of
attracting foreign investment to our economy. Foreign
investment helps Canadian companies grow by introducing new
technologies and practices -- launching pads to strengthen growth
and innovation here at home. It provides new opportunities to
connect our firms to the world. Our Government will continue
to welcome foreign investment that benefits Canada."
However, in contrast to the Speech from
the Throne that opened the previous session of Parliament,
today's speech did not reference the telecommunications sector
specifically, nor did it provide any details about possible revisions to Canadian ownership rules
in the communications sector. The vagueness of
today's speech is not entirely unexpected, as the new Minister
of Industry, Christian Paradis, has recently indicated that the
Government required more time to determine the appropriate approach
to foreign ownership reform.
The reference in today's speech could also be interpreted as
referring to foreign investment policy generally, intended to
provide some comfort to the investment community after the
Government rejected the proposed acquisition of Potash
Corp. last year.
Digital economy strategy
The previous Government had conducted a public
consultation on a national digital economy strategy,
which concluded in July of last year. The original proposed
2011 federal budget had suggested a coming digital policy
document. Today's Speech from the Throne indicated that
the new Government will continue with its plans to release such a
"In order to improve Canada's productivity, enhance our
economic competitiveness and increase our standard of living, our
Government will continue to make targeted investments to promote
and encourage research and development in Canada's private
sector and in our universities, colleges and polytechnics. It will
look for ways to support innovation while ensuring that federal
investment in research and development is effective and maximizes
results for Canadians. It will also release and implement a Digital
Economy Strategy that enhances digital infrastructure and
encourages Canadian businesses to adopt digital technologies and
provide digital-skills training for their employees and new
Lawful access bills
As we noted previously, several bills were
introduced in he last session of Parliament that would have
impacted the roles played by telecommunications service providers
with respect to the investigation and enforcement of crimes and
matters of national security. Consistent with earlier remarks to police by
the Minister of Public Safety, today's speech indicates that
these bills - and other "law and order" legislation -
will be quickly reintroduced:
"The Government of Canada has no more fundamental duty than
to protect the personal safety of our citizens and defend against
threats to our national security.
Our Government will move quickly to reintroduce comprehensive
law-and-order legislation to combat crime and terrorism. ... They
will give law enforcement officials, courts and victims the legal
tools they need to fight criminals and terrorists. Our Government
will continue to protect the most vulnerable in society and work to
Finally, today's speech indicated that the Government is
poised to make its third attempt to pass new copyright
"The success of Canada's job-creating businesses
demands both hard work and good ideas, and we must create the right
conditions for both to be rewarded. Our Government will introduce
and seek swift passage of copyright legislation that balances the
needs of creators and users."
Previous copyright bills have proved to be divisive, with
features such as "digital lock" and fair dealing
provisions creating intense public debate. With the new
Conservative majority, it may be that a re-introduced copyright
bill may find swifter passage through Parliament.
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In less than nine months, on July 1, 2017, persons affected by a contravention of Canada's anti-spam legislation will be able to invoke a private right of action to sue for compensation and potentially substantial statutory damages.
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