The recent turmoil in Parliament has led to a buzz among many ordinary Canadians. But out of the push for a new coalition government, largely unprecedented in Canadian history, has immediately come more of the same: political bickering and inaction. One week ago, upon request from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General Michaëlle Jean prorogued Parliament until January 26th, in order for the Conservative government to avoid a confidence vote that was originally scheduled for this past Monday. It seems very likely that the vote would have failed, and a Liberal-NDP coalition, with support from the Bloc, would vie for power. Typically, minority governments do not last very long, but with the last election occurring only a month and half earlier, it seems as if this period of time was completely wasted. All of this is occurring during the midst of a global economic climate that requires expediency of action on the part of our leaders.
When Parliament resumes, there exists the potential for another election in the event of a non-confidence vote, which would delay important legislating even more. The potential of the formation of a coalition government, may cause even more directional uncertainty. It is likely to introduce further complex political manoeuvring by Members of Parliament and the parties as a whole; just picture a heightened form of politics as usual. Essentially what this could mean is further inaction on a host of issues.
As a consequence of popular pressing matters taking even longer than usual to resolve, action within the sphere of intellectual property will suffer. As Professor David Vaver outlined in an article posted the day after the federal election, Canada’s IP laws require reform. When the first session of the 40th Parliament was kicked off with the Speech from the Throne three weeks ago, the references to stronger IP protection and investment in innovation suggested that this issue was not forgotten. The recent Parliamentary clouds of uncertainty, in addition to those that Brandon Evenson mentions in his article regarding the potential for IP reform during the current government’s tenure, make the certainty of such reform even more shady. With the Harper government planning on arguably taking fewer steps to remedy the current and future economical woes of the nation, it would have permitted more consideration of these other issues. However, with the current calls, by both the Liberals and New Democrats, for a sophisticated action plan to mitigate the effects of the global financial crisis, it seems like a coalition government composed of these two distinct parties, and a bitter Conservative opposition, will not get around to successfully addressing IP laws.
The deaths of the contentious copyright reform legislation in Bill C-60 and Bill C-61, due to the dissolution of Parliament when the last two elections were called, serve as a reminder of how easily progress can be lost. But in the near future, any progress may be difficult to obtain, at least with respect to amending the Copyright Act in the event of a coalition government. Current NDP leader, Jack Layton, has heavily criticized Bill C-61, while the Liberal response did not seem so damning. Considering the similarity of the Liberals’ previous Bill C-60 to the Conservatives’ Bill C-61, it seems very unlikely that the NDP, as part of the coalition, would agree to an amended Copyright law brought forth by the Liberals. With such power dynamics, it is also hard to imagine the Conservatives successfully resurrecting a version of C-61 that would satisfy the coalition government.
When the air charges to a hyper-politicized state, it is not conducive to the efficient passing of good laws. In the end, whatever great ideas there may exist, within the field of IP reform or other matters, the political process must still move forward in order for these ideas to come to life. With the current situation in Parliament as it is, uncertainty in our leaders’ abilities to govern effectively will continue to linger in the minds of Canadians, and the consequences of such inaction may be costly.