Thursday, October 27, 2011

Parliament In Review: October 18, 2011

There hasn't been as much reporting on the Cons' re-introduction of copyright legislation as there was at some other points when previous incarnations were up for discussion. But Tuesday, October 18 saw second-reading debate in Parliament on the bill - and a few twists on the issue.

The Big Issue

Not surprisingly, the discussion of copyright legislation was highly contentious at times. But the exact position taken by a couple of the parties may not have been exactly what some observers would expect.

The main point of attack for the NDP was to highlight how the Cons' bill harms creators rather than users, with Pierre Dionne Labelle, Charlie Angus, Alain Giguere, Marc-Andre Morin and Rejean Genest among many speakers focusing largely on the creators' perspective. Jinny Sims pointed out the combination of a massive number of people involved in cultural industries, and the already-low pay received for that work.

Meanwhile, James Moore made the remarkable claim that the Cons re-introduced exactly the same bill as before out of respect for the consultation that had been carried out on the previous incarnation, rather than in utter defiance of it. Needless to say, that makes Angus' challenge to the Cons' willingness to accept amendments look all the more important - though I'm sure the story will change once there's actually an opportunity to give effect to public concerns.

Randall Garrison warned about the "book-burning" provision of the bill to delete educational content after 30 days. Scott Simms pointed out that the lack of media coverage doesn't mean MPs aren't receiving massive amounts of public input. Giguere criticized the Cons' bill as "giving the digital industry complete ownership of Canadian culture". Jonathan Genest-Jourdain pointed out how the bill would affect the sharing of aboriginal knowledge. Geoff Regan criticized the fact that the Cons' bill is designed to cater to not just U.S. interests, but obsolete U.S. interests. And Angus slammed the Cons for their concerted effort to get Canada placed on a global piracy watch-list.

Duly Noted

The other main topic of discussion was a take-note debate on the situation in the Ukraine based on Peter Van Loan's motion. And there was nothing but agreement in MPs' concern about the prosecution and conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko.

But that doesn't mean there weren't a few points of debate. NDP MPs called repeatedly for action from the Cons, and noted in particular the need to incorporate democracy and human rights into free-trade talks with the Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Helene Laverdiere noted that democracy extends much further than the ballot box alone. And one of the more interesting undertones of the debate was the question of silencing opposition parties - with the NDP rightly criticizing any such effort, while Con MP Leon Benoit actually considered it to be entirely appropriate through some means.

And as a point to file away for later, Peter Van Loan helpfully described his idea of an utterly illegitimate test of the merits of an issue:
There are clear signs that Tymoshenko's case has failed to follow a fair judicial process, like many other such politically motivated charges and trials being brought against former members of the opposition.

This is a glaring example in the Tymoshenko case. The prosecution requested the appearance of 32 witnesses and experts. The prosecution was granted all 32. The defence, on the other hand, asked for 30 witnesses and experts. The defence was only granted two.
Which, needless to say, is not a standard the Cons are prepared to apply here in Canada.

In Brief

Nycole Turmel challenged Stephen Harper to deal with inequality in Canada in light of the Conference Board of Canada's observation that income disparity is increasing more quickly here than in the U.S., while Charmaine Borg raised the need for a strategy to deal with poverty. Pat Martin questioned why the U.S. would have worked so hard in the past to (unsuccessfully) attack the Canadian Wheat Board if it didn't produce benefits for Canadian farmers, while Robert Chisholm noted that European sources consider Canada to be the "loser" in signing onto CETA. Peter Julian pointed out that the federal government's own report into innovation showed that a business-first strategy had proven to be a miserable failure, with Canada ranking last among the countries reviewed in a number of categories; Gary Goodyear responded by saying the report was "great". Joe Comartin challenged the Cons' anti-union private member's bill as improper in potentially imposing new taxes on union members, and Wayne Easter argued that the Cons' Wheat Board legislation violates Parliamentary privilege. And Wayne Marston re-introduced legislation to protect workers' pensions when employers go out of business.

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