Trudeau & Guilbeault plan to give Trump a stick with which to beat Canada

So, I see that Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has, once again, promised, despite denials in February, that he will introduce legislation that will aim to regulate the news media and define “trusted sources.”

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 06.52.10This worries Professor Michael Geist who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa’s faculty of law. Just recently, he appeared before parliament’s international trade and industry and science and technology committees to discuss the digital implications of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade and warned that there is a “poison pill” in the agreement that makes the Trudeau-Freeland-Guilbeault plan dangerous to e.g. Canada’s dairy, aluminium, lumber and steel producers.

The problem, he explains in an article in the Globe and Mail, is twofold:

  • First, the “poison pill” is not confined to the cultural section (for which an “exemption” is included in the treaty). The “poison pill” is intended, in fact, to discourage invoking the cultural exemption at all and it “grants the U.S. the right to levy retaliatory measures of “equivalent commercial effect” in response to Canadian policies that would otherwise violate USMCA if not for the exemption.” And it allows the US to retaliate against whatever sector of the Canadian economy it wishes ~ as it threatened against France, last year, when, in response to a proposed digital tax, the US announced that it would “impose US$2.4-billion in tariffs against French goods such as wine, cheese and handbags.France backed down; and
  • Second, “the introduction of a digital trade chapter significantly expands the scope of the deal, introducing new rules on privacy, e-commerce and digital services. Given the prospect of treating Canadian and U.S. cultural digital services differently, the likelihood of triggering retaliatory measures under USMCA is far greater.

Since, as Professor Geist writes, “the recent broadcasting and telecommunications legislative review panel report – called the Yale Report – contains many recommendations on regulating the internet and online news services, such as news aggregators, that would open the door to tariff retaliation,” and since Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said he plans to respond with legislation based on the Yale Report, Canada is, in effect, inviting President Donal Trump, a man who has said he likes to use tariffs to punish trade enemies, to punish Canada.

Given that the current regime in Ottawa …

… seems to take it policy guidance from Katonah, New York, and Manhatten (homes, Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 07.47.50george-soros-speaks-about-the-eurorespectively George Soros and of the Open Societies Foundations which he chairs), from Stockholm (where Greta Thunberg lives) and from the United Nations in New York, it appears that the government’s agenda is related to things about which most Canadians, in, say, Vancouver, Calgary, Windsor, Oshawa, Quebec City and Fredericton don’t really care … unlike things like jobs and being able to afford to heat their homes about which Canadians really do worry.

Professor Geist says that “Should the government adopt the broadcast panel recommendations on content, the U.S. would have a strong case for permitting retaliation with measures of equivalent commercial effect. Panel proposals that may violate the new trade agreement include requirements to pay levies to fund Canadian content without full access to the same funding mechanisms enjoyed by Canadian firms, licensing requirements for internet services that may violate USMCA standards and discoverability requirements that limit the manner that information is conveyed on websites and services … [and, he adds] … The likely U.S. reaction should come as little surprise given how Canada would react if Canadian digital services were required to fund broadband initiatives in Montana, support local newspapers in Alabama or fund the creation of television programs in Kentucky … [but, he explains] … that is precisely what the panel envisages, with mandated payments from services such as Skype or Whatsapp to support Canadian broadband in rural communities, registration requirements and levies on foreign news aggregation services such as Reddit to support Canadian newspapers, and mandated Canadian content spending on online video services such as Netflix, despite restrictions on their ability to benefit from Canadian cultural funding in the same manner as domestic competitors.” Can you imagine what Donald Trump would say if that ever happens?

The Trudeau-Freeland-Guilbeault regime is, clearly, incompetent. It seems to me that they simply don’t understand what Janet Yale proposed. Her report proposes, as Andrew Coyne said in the Globe and Mail, “a regulatory power grab without precedent, either in Canada or the democratic world.” It is something that every thinking Canadian should reject out of hand … but millions will ignore it and its implications. But, the 105299820-1530185072891gettyimages-985410892American government and US trade and industry lobby groups will not ignore it. If the government is stupid enough to allow M Guilbeault’s legislation to ever see the light of day then Donald J Trump will retaliate … he’s actually just waiting for it. He doesn’t like Justin Trudeau, to begin with, and, I suspect, he sees Canada as nothing more than America’s resource-rich hinterland. He’ll beat up on Canada just because he can … because it’s his nature. W don’t need to give him a bigger stick.

Canadians need to heed Professor Geist’s warnings. The “poison pill” in the renewed NAFTA/USCMA (or whatever it’s called) is dangerous, therefore, Minister Guilbeault’s proposed legislation is very likely dangerous to Canada, too. Canada need a new, grown-up, responsible Conservative government, soon.

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