Sunday, January 29, 2012

Parliament in Review: November 24, 2011

The main topic of debate in the House of Commons on Thursday, November 24 was again copyright - and once more, the Cons couldn't be bothered to try to defend their own legislation.

The Big Issue

But that left plenty of time for opposition speakers to raise the level of debate while pointing out that the Cons' choices figure to cause serious problems for creators and consumers alike. Marc-Andre Morin, Denis Blanchette, Helene Laverdiere and Francois Lapointe all noted that media conglomerates look to be the sole beneficiaries of a regime built around the supremacy of digital locks. Mylene Freeman noted that the new legislation would take us from a grey area as to consumer rights, to a black-and-white system where many seemingly ordinary activities would be criminalized. Mike Sullivan revisited the history of copyright, and particularly how the licensing-for-airplay model developed. Isabelle Morin expressed disbelief that the sentences the Cons want to impose for copyright violations are far more severe than those applicable to serious crimes. Charlie Angus discussed the dangers of locking down content, then noted that the Cons' attack on royalties amounts to taking away the capacity of many artists to earn a living. And Jonathan Tremblay raised the point that increased public reliance on electronic storage of information makes it all the more problematic for media giants to be able to control access.

Meanwhile, a couple of Cons did get involved in asking questions of NDP MPs. MP Joyce Bateman asked an eminently reasonable question about the plus side of providing for mandatory licensing for the perceptually disabled. But particularly considering their obstinate refusal to consider a levy-based model in general, one has to wonder whether the Cons would have met exactly the same response from an opposition party by alleging that the result is a "braille tax" (particularly since Mike Lake raised the "iPod tax" talking point yet again). And Brad Trost responded to Pat Martin's musing about allowing income averaging for artists in particular by locking onto the concept as a general means of cutting government revenue.


The other government bill discussed was C-14, dealing with the Agreement on Internal Trade. Lake deigned to speak to the content of the bill, but somehow dismissed Guy Caron's valid questions about the effect of the AIT as irrelevant to a bill designed to alter it. Caron then discussed the difference between desirable harmonization of standards and unacceptable intrusion on a province's ability to legislate in the interest of its citizens, while Dennis Bevington noted that northern regions are particularly vulnerable to having easy work skimmed off by outside bidders (leaving no local capacity to do needed work).

In Brief

Chris Charlton introduced one private member's bill to allow CPP claimants to receive arrears for more than the current limit of 11 months, and another to make public information about Stelco's acquisition by US Steel. Charlie Angus highlighted the information commissioner's warnings about the Cons' interference in access to what should be public information. Nycole Turmel raised a proposal for health-care discussions with the provinces which the Cons obviously decided to ignore, while Libby Davies wondered why no progress has been made on prescription drugs as promised when the last 10-year agreement was signed. Jack Harris pointed out that the lone source the Cons have pointed to in support of their train wreck of an omnibus crime bill had in fact criticized their heavy-headed approach. Alexandre Boulerice compared the patronage appointment of Jean-Pierre Blackburn to the history of Alfonso Gagliano and other Lib outrages. Yvon Godin questioned Con MP Bernard Valcourt's position that any worker without a grade 12 education should be ineligible for EI benefits. Joe Comartin called for the answer to the traditional Thursday scheduling question to be less politicized - to no avail based on Peter Van Loan's spin-heavy response. Leon Benoit introduced a motion on CCSVI treatment for MS, with Anne Minh-Thu Quach taking care to ensure any further action is based on evidence before indicating the NDP's agreement. Rathika Sitsabaiesan asked what the Cons are doing to try to rein in student debt, and was informed by Kellie Leitch that the plan raise the amount of debt permitted under the federal student loan program. And John McKay questioned whether the Cons cared in the slightest about the rule of law when it came to the execution of Moammar Gadhafi - with Deepak Obhrai's response raising more questions than it answered.

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