Parliamentary procedure serving Canadians: Liberal-Green cooperation in the House

Ted Hsu
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Why is the Liberal Party working with the Green Party on amendments to delay by a few hours the copyright bill C-11 and the refugee and immigration bill C-31?

On Tuesday night in the House of Commons we voted on Bill C-11, a bill brought forward by the Conservatives to “modernize the Copyright Act”. Myself along with the Liberal Party agree that the Copyright Act needs to be modernized in order to maintain consistency with today’s new technologies, however this Conservative bill does not do this in a fair and balanced way. The main problem with the bill is the introduction of digital locks, which cannot be circumvented even for legal reasons. These legal uses could be anything from educational sharing, to sharing for personal use. In fact many artists (one of the groups the bill was trying to help) spoke up against the bill, calling for more time to research its potential effects.

As a result in the House of Commons Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May, introduced a series of amendments to truly modernize the Copyright Act without making Canada home to some of the most restrictive copyright laws in the world. The Liberal Party and I voted in favour of many of these amendments, including several which the NDP did not support. One of these amendments was to create a bypass system whereby certain people approved by the Governor in Council would be given the ability to circumvent these digital locks, another was to introduce a mandatory labelling process forcing products to identify whether or not they use digital locks. These two amendments would have helped to improve the bill and achieve the initial goal of modernizing the Copyright Act, however the NDP chose not to support these important changes.

Though the amendment process was a lengthy one in the House Tuesday night, it was very important that Elizabeth May introduced these amendments and that the Liberal Party supported them. Firstly it was imperative to provide an alternative to the overly-restrictive and borderline Orwellian Bill C-11, but it was also important to show the Conservatives that even with a majority government the opposition parties still can have a major say in how bills are passed. Introducing these amendments demonstrated to the Conservatives that we will respond if they continue to limit debate on key issues, and if the requests of the opposition parties are completely ignored.

Sometime before the House rises for the summer, the Conservatives will try to bring Bill C-38 (their omnibus budget implementation act) to the House for a third and final reading. If the government continues to ignore our demands to split the bill, or investigate the environmental regulation sections separately, introducing a massive series of amendments may be an effective way to properly get their attention. We do not want to slow down the process, in fact in the senate the Liberals stuck a deal with the Conservatives to speed up the process, by moving onto the committee stage earlier than expected in exchange for studying the bill in separate committees.  On Tuesday night we as the Liberal Party showed that we are not afraid to support amendments however long they may take to vote on, proving the threat of potentially hundreds of amendments to be a credible one. So if the Conservatives continue to ignore our suggestions, then we are willing to take the necessary steps to split their omnibus budget bill until they realize that the House of Commons is made up of more than just their members.