Canada’s federal NDP and Liberal parties have struck a deal. The deal would have never had an impact on Bill C-11.
Digital rights in Canada has been on life support for quite some time. This thanks to the political climate as of late. The Liberal party had effectively vowed to stamp out the free and open Internet and all of the innovation that came with it. This thanks to their three pronged approach to cracking down on it. Those three prongs are, of course, Bill C-11 (the social media censorship legislation), link taxes (to discourage people linking to content including smaller operations), and online harms (to shut down as many independent websites as possible through the threat of multi-million dollar fines for now monitoring what is being said on their site 24/7. It also contains site blocking to offshore websites as well.). Other idea’s of cracking down on the Internet are being floated such as age verification legislation among other things, but those are the three main attacks for the time being.
Of course, the big political news today is the fact that the NDP and the Liberal parties have signed an agreement to work together. The deal is basically that the NDP supports the Liberal governments confidence votes in exchange for the Liberal party to support NDP initiatives such as pharmacare. Thanks to the deal, there is a path for this minority government to go clear into 2025. That means that the government is going to be much more stable than it already is. It is noted that the deal isn’t exactly binding in the sense that neither party can’t pull out. In fact, either party can pull out at any time. That, of course, isn’t stopping the Conservative party doing about all it does best these days: throw a temper tantrum. Still, that’s pretty much all they can do these days anyway.
Now, while all this is big political news, the question is, where do digital rights issues stand on all of this. It’s an understandable question given how much these important issues so often get lost on the shuffle in the process. Truth be told, there doesn’t appear to be really anything in the deal that’s related to digital rights at all.
In this situation, at least as far as Bill C-11 is concerned, it’s hard to see how the NDP could have changed anything on this front. Indeed, the track record of the NDP has been disappointingly mixed. When it looked like the NDP thought that Quebec was in play before the last election, they seemed to just drop all their principles of freedom of expression and voted for the legislation. When that seeming political play became a bust, it seemed that core principles were something to go back to after the fact. This as the NDP opposed the legislation after the election was over. Of course, Canadians saw this political opportunism and were less than thrilled with it for obvious reasons.
So, thinking realistically here, what do the NDP gain by bringing up Bill C-11 in the first place? If it is part of the agreement that the NDP supports Bill C-11, they basically further infuriate their voter base with yet another flip-flop. This time, that flip-flop is going back to the dark side and being supportive of Internet censorship. What do they gain from that? Nothing. There’s no seats or support that they gain from all of this. Essentially, they are flushing votes down the toilet for nothing.
Thinking about things from a different angle, what do the Liberals gain from wanting the NDP to support this bill? After all, the Bloc are already very pro censorship and pro corporation at the expense of the Quebec population. So, the votes can simply come from the Bloc instead. They already know they have the votes in the bag eventually. So, if the NDP is actually trying to be on the correct side of history on this one, it almost seems like wasted effort in the first place.
So, it’s impossible to see how Bill C-11 could have possibly been affected by this deal in the grand scheme of things in the first place.
Now, a fair point can be made is what possible impact this deal could have had on cell phone and Internet prices. After all, the NDP campaigned on not only lowering cell phone and Internet prices, but bringing cellular and Internet services to more rural and indigenous communities. Working something like that into the deal would have been a huge win for the NDP. What’s more is that the Liberals could then take credit for doing something about this long-standing problem. It would have been a win for both parties involved, yet, surprisingly, none of it appears to be part of the deal.
So, it’s not a surprise to see us agreeing with Michael Geist on this point who described this as a missed opportunity:
The text of the Liberal-NDP deal does not mention digital policies. That said, they’ve adopted pretty similar positions, making it easier to advance Bill C-11 and the other online measures. Missed opportunity to address privacy & wireless affordability.