Liberal Minority Could Mean Worst Laws Could Be On Hold

Canadians are waking up to the results of the federal election. The Liberal minority could actually be good news.

We’ve been following the Canadian election from beginning to end. There was certainly ample reason to believe that some of the worst laws could be on the horizon given how little digital rights and technology made it into the national discussion.

Now, we know the results of the election: a Liberal minority. It’s an outcome that we actually accurately predicted on the morning of election day, but the results could have a fairly big impact on digital rights.

Had the results been a majority government, politicians would feel they have political capital to spend. In a minority situation, though, there is less wiggle room. In order to pass any kind of legislation, they would need the support of another political party (the Conservatives, NDP, or the Bloc in this case). So, it would require substantially more effort to pass any kind of legislation.

Let’s take, for instance, widespread Internet censorship. That proposal is basically in limbo between two committees, so it was already facing roadblocks to begin with. Still, let’s pretend that those roadblocks have been overcome right now. What is the path to passage in this scenario?

First, legislation needs to be drafted. This is very standard. Lobbyists say “jump” and Liberals and Conservatives as “how high?” The legislation itself will probably be tabled sometime after the high stakes drama of the budget. From there, the Liberals will need to gain the support of another party. Since the Conservatives are more likely to support Internet censorship, they will be the likely candidates to support the legislation in this case.

Now, the debates will be held and the legislation will likely get pushback not just from the NDP and the Green Party, but also from a large portion of the population. This will likely mean delays.

So, if the top two parties follow through with what they do often, they’ll probably just give the middle finger to Canadians to pass the legislation in the end. For Conservatives, it will be beneficial to foreign American companies. For the Liberals, it will keep the lobbyists happy and they might get some additional “donations” for the next election.

So, after all of that, well, the timeline would still be quite tight. This is because something else could happen and the government falls. This will cause history to repeat itself for bad copyright laws and cause the law to die on the order paper.

In the end, the path to passage even assuming that the committees agree that Canada should act like the Chinese government when it comes to the Internet is unlikely.

Another interesting aspect about this election does revolve around encryption. While the only time it was brought up outside of Freezenet was at the 11th hour by the president of the CIRA, one of the nuances of the Canadian election could hold Canada’s war on encryption back.

If you remember right, Canada began openly considering joining the war on encryption. That initiative was spearheaded by Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale. Well, funny thing happened during the election. As it turns out, Goodale lost his seat during the election. In short, he’s now gone.

So, if the Liberal party wants to continue pushing for the war on encryption, they’ll have to find someone else to draw the short straw and take his place. If the Liberal party does choose to go down this path again, it will prove that the push for a war on encryption is a push by the party, not just one cabinet minister. Given the public backlash (on more than one occasion) against Canada’s effort to crack down on security, this would be a very risky move. In a minority government situation, how many risks do you want to take anyway?

If anything, the minority government could wind up being a blessing in disguise. While it’s unfortunate that holding up the debates on the issues is ultimately good news, that may be the situation we are in now. Anything is possible, but we could see nothing draconian pass throughout this new government.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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