Thursday, April 29, 2010

How much are Canadians spending on novelty cheques?

Yesterday, Mary Dawson, Commissioner for Conflict of Interest and Ethics released her "The Cheques Report" on the use of partisan or personal identifiers on ceremonial cheques or other props for federal funding announcements. Just in case your eyes have glazed over already, this report was written to address the ethics of using, in specific, the Conservative Party logo and Conservative MP signatures on those lovely novelty cheques that are more suitably delivered by a celebrity like Ed McMahon showing up at your front door than a Canadian MP. While this may seem like a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things in Ottawa, it is symptomatic of both the waste and entitlement that our elected officials have developed when it comes to spending OUR money.

The report was made in two parts, the first is under the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and the second is under the Conflict of Interest Act. In the fall of 2009, the Office of the Ethics Commissioner received numerous complaints about the use of Conservative MP photos, signatures, names and Party logos on the aforementioned ceremonial/novelty cheques. The Opposition was concerned that the use of personal and Party identifiers could be misleading to the public who would associate the expenditure with the Conservative Party and/or the individual MP rather than the government as a whole. This would serve to personally benefit the MP or Minister and the Conservative Party because it could enhance the chances of their re-election. Interestingly enough, complaints about props with partisan identification also came from a great many members of the public at large.

As a reminder, Mary Dawson ruled against a previous complaint that government communication about Canada's Economic Action Plan with the Canadian public had the look and feel of Conservative Party of Canada promotional materials. The inquiry into this request was terminated solely because Ms. Dawson determined that the Conservative Party of Canada was not a "person" as defined under the act. As I said a month ago, a moot point indeed.

In her report, Ms. Dawson notes the following:

"Some Members have used ceremonial cheques or other props to make announcements in their local communities for decades. These were usually plain, bearing only the Canadian flag or coat of arms, and did not display a name or signature. The use of ceremonial cheques has become more widespread over the past 15 years, and more recently there also seems to have been an increasing tendency for elected representatives in various jurisdictions to include personal identifiers on them, in particular names and signatures"..."The Board of Internal Economy, which governs how Members use the allowances and services provided to them by the House of Commons, restricts the use of some of these benefits for partisan political purposes. For example, Members may not use printing services to solicit memberships in, or contributions to, political parties. There are also restrictions on the use of advertising and printing services for election purposes. However, there do not appear to be any rules governing the production and use of ceremonial cheques and, even if there were such rules, they would only apply if funds from a Member’s office budget, allocated by the Board, were used."

She also adds another rather humorous line:

"The question of what constitutes a partisan identifier will always be a matter of some debate."

I'm sure that most Canadians outside of Parliament would willingly help Ms. Dawson determine what is and what is not a partisan identifier should the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commission require assistance. I'd suggest that the use of any Party logo is a clear partisan identifier.

Here is Ms. Dawson's finding regarding the use of novelty cheques by MPs and Ministers et al:

"The use of cheques and other props with partisan or personal identifiers may have helped to raise the profile of the Members, Ministers, Minister of State and Parliamentary Secretaries in question, thereby helping them gain partisan advantage or improve their electoral prospects and those of the Conservative Party of Canada. I conclude, however, as explained in the analysis section of each report, that these activities do not further “private interests” within the meaning of the Code or the Act. I have found that the interest in enhancing political profiles is a partisan political interest and not a private interest, and have found accordingly that none of the individuals named in the requests received by my Office has contravened the Code or the Act."

She continues:

"At the same time, the practice of using partisan or personal identifiers in announcing government initiatives goes too far and has the potential to diminish public confidence in the integrity of elected public officials and the governing institutions they represent. I recognize that Members have political interests and these interests are important to them and their parties. It is to be expected that Members will look for occasions to enhance their images with constituents. However, public spending announcements are government activities, not partisan political activities, and it is not appropriate to brand them with partisan or personal identifiers. One of the purposes of the Code is to maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of Members and the House of Commons. It is also one of the rationales underlying the Act in relation to public office holders, including Ministers, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries."

It saddens me to inform Ms. Dawson that public confidence in the integrity of elected public officials and the governing institutions they represent could hardly be lower.

Basically, Ms. Dawson concludes that the government needs to further strengthen policy that would address the politicization of government communications. She also suggests that the use of all communications materials could be subjected to scrutiny by an independent third party within or outside of government. She acknowledges that there has been an incremental increase in the partisan nature of government communication with the electorate. Think of the "10 percenter" program that has just been discontinued if you want an example of partisan politicking with tax dollars.

She's not kidding about the need for strengthened legislation. It appears to me that the Federal Accountability Act, under which the Office was created, could be termed the "swiss cheese" of legislation; it has so many holes that it is more air than substance. This legislation, brought into existence by the Harper government in 2007, pays no more than surficial lip service to the ethics problems that plague the Hill. We need think no further back than a month ago when there was great debate in the House about the use of $10 million tax dollars to fund "10 percenters".

In conclusion, having just filed my tax return, I'm strongly adverse to the idea that that one cent of the tax money that I send to Ottawa goes to paying for large, comical and nonsensical novelty items that are best suited for television game shows. The fact that they are being used as partisan propaganda by any Party is reprehensible and a breach of public trust. I think most Canadians would agree that we supply the money for these projects through our taxes and that no politician of any stripe should take any credit.

April 30th in history:

1945 - Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide in his Furhrerbunker in Berlin.


"The Cheques Report"

What's not likely to happen in Ottawa

Since Peter Milliken's ruling of this week, media pundits have been weighing in on what they think the response of the Harper government will be.

I'm not claiming to be a pundit, but here's what I think won't happen.

1.) Mr. Harper will not call a snap election. With the Conservatives getting the nod from less than one-third of those who actually pick up the phone and talk to the pollsters, surely he knows that he will not get a majority government. At best, he'll get another minority, his third in a row and technically the fourth election he will have lost as the leader of the Conservatives. As a result of his successive minority governments, he has not yet had the chance to fully indoctrinate Canadians with his full Conservative agenda and he will view this as a personal failure.

My suspicion is that those who are pulling the strings in the back rooms (formerly known as the "men in the smoke-filled rooms" before it became politically incorrect to both smoke and refer to them by gender) will not tolerate another election loss by Stephen Harper. While the Conservative Party largely funds itself through donations from everyday Canadians, they are also well-funded by Canada's elite who control much of Canada's economy. For further information on who supports Stephen Harper, you can search the donor list for all of Canada's political parties at the following website:

It is most interesting to look through the list of donors to the CPC who donate less than $1000. There are thousands of them and when you look through the list of surnames, you see many recognizable figures among them. These are the people that ultimately control Mr. Harper's future; without them, he cannot fund another very expensive election.

The other reason that the Conservatives will not be anxious to face an election is their lack of a viable heir to the throne should Mr. Harper be defeated and forced out as Party leader. Mr. Harper's complete control over his caucus has prevented the grooming of any potential replacement Party leader from the ranks of the already elected. Conservative Party insiders certainly know this and while the Liberals are in bad shape with Michael Ignatieff as leader, they are in the fortunate position of having several replacement leaders-in-waiting.

2.) Mr. Harper will not prorogue Parliament. Governor-General Michaelle Jean will not rubber stamp another prorogation. I suspect that her term has not be renewed by the Prime Minister because she did not bend immediately to his wishes in December of 2008, rather, she actually researched the issues behind prorogation of Parliament. The third proroguing will be much, much harder to get.

3.) Mr. Harper will not willingly give up the documents. He now has a point to make. He does not like to lose a battle and his people will have to devise a scheme in which Mr. Harper comes out looking (at least to himself) the winner. I suspect he will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table of compromise and that, in all likelihood, the compromise will have to be that the documents will be viewed by only a select number of MPs from all Parties. While I am strongly against government secrecy solely for the sake of secrecy, this is probably the most palatable solution to the government, the House and Canadians. It also preserves the security of military personnel who are still serving in Afghanistan.

One thing I am quite certain of is that Peter Milliken (Liberal - Kingston and the Islands) will not be re-elected to a fifth term as Speaker of the House after the next election, especially if the Conservatives control the House.

The next two weeks will prove to be most interesting.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ron Jeremy Need Not Apply

I know this isn't a Canadian political news story, but I think we've all heard enough of Rahim, Helena, Nazim et al for a while. I came across this little gem while searching for information on the implosion of the Greek debt market. I don't know how I ever missed this one the other day!

I quote from the article in the Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K.:

"Men who have had a penis enlargement have been banned from joining Indonesia’s police force. The chief of Papua’s constabulary has said artificially enhanced organs cause a ‘hindrance during training’. Applicants wanting to sign up to the force ‘will be asked whether or not his vital organ has been enlarged’, Bekto Suprapto announced today. ‘If he has, he will be considered unfit to join the police or the military,’ he added....Indonesia's remote eastern-most province is home to Papuan tribes, many of whom are known for wearing penis gourds. A low-level separatist insurgency has waged in the resources-rich part of Indonesia for decades and there is a heavy police and military presence there. Papuans use a local technique to achieve the enlargement, according to sexologist Dr Boyke Dian Nugraha, wrapping the penis with leaves from the ‘gatal-gatal’ (itchy) tree so that it swells up ‘like it has been stung by a bee’. 'We’ve been trying to advise them from doing so because it can be dangerous but they never listen to us so with this regulation, hopefully, they won’t do it anymore,' Mr Boyke added."

Now wasn't that more fun than reading about Parliamentary Committee meetings? You have to love stories like this; they make Canada's problems with our politicians seem so trivial by comparison!

For those of you (very few of you I'm sure) who aren't acquainted with Mr. Ron "The Hedgehog" Jeremy and his filmography, you can find his Wikipedia entry at:


News from South of the 49th

I don't generally blog on news items south of the 49th parallel, but there were a couple of compelling stories yesterday that I just had to follow:

1.) Arizona State Governor Jan Brewer (Republican) signed into affect a new law, to take effect in July or August, that would allow Arizona police to question and detain anyone that they felt may be an illegal immigrant, even if they are not suspected in committing a crime. Any person can be stopped and forced to produce identification that confirms both their identity and their citizenship. Racial profiling will definitely enter the equation when enforcing this law. The Mexican government has already spoken out against the law and the Federal Justice Department is reviewing whether or not the law met constitutionality safeguards. This whole thing smacks of George Orwell's 1984.

Heaven help you if you have dark hair, tan easily and happen to live in or be visiting Arizona. You'd better make certain you always carry your wallet and/or passport!

2.) Thomas Hagan, 69, was released from prison on Tuesday morning and is now a parolee. Who is Thomas Hagan you ask? He is the only man to plead guilty to the 1965 assassination of 1960s black Muslim leader Malcolm X. He served 44 years in prison and had been on a work-release program since 1992. His attempts to gain full parole had been rejected 16 times. The other 2 men that were tried for the murder and found guilty were released from prison in the 1980s. For those of you that are too young to remember, Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) was an advocate for the rights of African Americans during the late 1950s and early 1960s and is regarded as one of the most influential African American figures in American history. He converted to Islam while in prison in the late 1940s and was closely associated with the Nation of Islam, a religious organization founded to resurrect the spiritual lives of African American men and women. Malcolm X was murdered because he was viewed as a hypocrite for leaving the Nation of Islam in 1963.

This story really took me back to the sixties.


Arizona Immigration Law

Thomas Hagan Parole

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Nuclear Alternative

This week, Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice informed Canadian electricity producers that they will have to gradually wean themselves from coal-fired generation and replace their use of coal with cleaner sources including natural gas, nuclear, solar and wind. Canada has targeted an increase in reliance on low-emitting sources of power with the ultimate goal of reaching 90% by 2020.

Canada has an advantage in changing to alternate, less environmentally unfriendly sources of fuel. One of the primary alternatives that should be considered by Canadian utilities is nuclear.

Canada has the world's leading source of uranium in the Athabasca Basin in Northern Saskatchewan. The Athabasca Basin contains the largest and richest concentrations of uranium in the world and currently supplies about 30% of the world's uranium production. The Basin has proven uranium reserves of 1.4 billion pounds; at current production rates, the reserves will last at least 25 years. The energy equivalent of the proven reserves is equivalent to 19 billion barrels of oil. While not as large as the Athabasca oil sands in terms of energy equivalent, the extraction of uranium is a far cleaner process in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

The new generation of Advanced Candu reactors produce 50% more power with the same core diameter as earlier generations meaning that investment in new power plant structures is more economically efficient. The new reactors also create 30% less waste fuel and use less heavy water coolant. The Advanced reactors use slightly enriched uranium fuel and extends fuel life by 300 percent, reducing fuel waste volume by 66 percent. This is most important from an environmental standpoint since safe disposal of waste fuel is one of issues facing owners of existing nuclear reactors. As well, with the new reactors, plant life is extended to 60 years.

Canada has a great advantage over the United States when it comes to mothballing its coal-fired generation. There are over 650 coal-fired plants in the United States that generate over half of its total electricity compared to only 21 plants in Canada. The United States also has the world's largest coal reserves with a 27% share of the world's entire proven recoverable reserves. It has an estimated reserve life of 230 years and is the second largest coal producer in the world after China. In the United States, the multi-tentacled coal lobby is very powerful and mothballing coal-fired plants in the United States will prove to be a political minefield. Fortunately, this is not the case in Canada where most of our coal-fired plants will reach the end of their useful life within the next 10 to 15 years.

As well, the anti-nuke lobby in the United States is far more vocal than what is presently active in Canada. Although the United States is the world's largest producer of nuclear power at 30% of the world's total production, there is a strong NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movement with regard to construction of new nuclear reactors, especially after the Three Mile Island partial meltdown in 1979. No new nuclear generating stations have been built in the United States since the early 1980s and no new power reactors are expected to be built until at least 2017 - 2018. Recently, President Barak Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to help build the first new U.S. nuclear plant in 3 decades and more federal financial assistance is anticipated, although I would anticipate a ramping-up of anti-nuke sentiment as the approval process gets underway.

While natural gas is a viable alternative to coal, I suggest that with Canada's huge reserves of uranium, this is the option that best suits what we will need in the future. Natural gas is only a viable alternative if production profiles from the newly exploited shale gas reserves are sustainable over time. Conventional natural gas reserves in Canada are declining at up to 5% annually; with declines this steep, supply constraints could become an issue, especially in Eastern Canada where gas-fired power plants would have to rely on imported LNG.

Since the time required for design, approval and construction of nuclear power plants is very long, Canadian power companies will have to act quickly to ensure replacements for their mothballed coal-fired facilities. We need look no further than the example of France to see how effective and safe nuclear power generation can be in Canada.

Peter Milliken speaks....a lot.

Now that was a bit surprising (if not a tad long).

I loved Peter Milliken's comment that some Members may not be sufficiently "trustworthy" to be entrusted with the secrets of the unredacted files. Are you surprised?

I would have thought that surely our elite elected ones could have come up with a compromise that would have held the unredacted documents confidential within the confines of the House and the Parliamentary Committee without breaching national security but apparently not. Now we get to wait 2 weeks to see if our MPs can exhibit enough non-partisan maturity to resolve this issue without further involvement from the Speaker. I'm still not happy with the fact that Canadian taxpayers don't get to find out what exactly what our elected ones were up to but I guess I have to trust the Opposition to look after that for us.

I must say, my respect for Mr. Milliken went up a few notches today. I had expected him to toe the government line pretty tightly.

2014 will be a wonderful year

As of Friday last week, provincial governments in Canada have now released all of their 2010- 2011 budgets. It has been interesting to see a pattern in their projections of returning to a balanced budget. Here's the data:

Prov 09 - 10 deficit Projected balance

Can $54 billion 2014

NL $295 million not given
NS $488 million 2013 - 2014
NB $754 million 2014 - 2015
PE $84.2 million 2013 - 2014
PQ $4.3 billion 2013 - 2014
ON $21.3 billion 2017 - 2018
MN $555 million 2014 - 2015
SK balanced balanced now
AB $3.6 billion 2012 - 2013
BC $2.8 billion 2013 - 2014

Please note that Saskatchewan balanced its budget using a $194 million withdrawal from its Growth and Financial Security fund or they would have had a deficit.

Notice how many provinces project that their budgets will be balanced in 2014? To the untrained eye, it almost appears that they are all using the same talking points or are using the same source for their economic forecasts. I wonder which is the case.

If we look at the recessions of the 20th century, we see that they occurred every 2 to 10 years with the average being around 5 to 6 years in the last half of the century. In the 21st century, the first recession ended in November 2001. The last Canadian recession (the Great Recession) started in the last quarter of 2008 and ended in the second quarter of 2009. If we use an average of 5 years between recessions, Canada could be due for another economic slowdown by 2014, just in time to ruin the economic forecasts of Canada's provincial governments. As well, the economic situation in the United States is precarious at best; huge budget deficits and rapidly growing government debt will markedly affect their ability to stay out of further economic difficulties. As we know, Canada is not immune to the economic malaise south of the 49th parallel.

As most Canadians with even the smallest amount of financial acumen know, financial forecasts are not worth the paper they are written on. Between one budget period and the next, Prince Edward Island moved it's balanced budget date back by 2 years and in 2009, Ontario projected that their budget would be balanced in 2015 - 2016. It is now projected to reach balance in 2017 - 2018. Provincial Treasurers and Finance Ministers would prefer to err on the side of optimism when forecasting a return to balance. Their forecasts have an alternative use in addition to their use as economic projections. They can also be used to convince voters that sunny days are just around the corner if only we are patient. "Please Mr./Ms. voter, pick me because if you do, things have nowhere to go but up, up, up!".

My suspicion is that many provincial governments are entering a phase where their deficits will become structural, that is, no matter how much the economy grows, they will never be able to run a surplus. Debt repayments and increased program spending outlays (most particularly health care) will quickly eat up any revenue surplus.

Unfortunately, I think we have been living in a tax dreamworld. I suspect we will have to brace ourselves for massive tax increases, most likely after the next round of provincial elections. Quebec is already feeling the wrath of tax increases and Ontario and British Columbia will soon experience the tax grab of harmonized sales taxes.

In part 2 of this missive, I will examine the debt situation of each of the provinces.

Monday, April 26, 2010

...and this isn't influence peddling?

Here's a quote from the Globe and Mail earlier this evening:

"Last Friday, Mr. Prentice announced to the House that Mr. Jaffer approached a senior staffer to make "representations" on behalf of someone else’s company. There was confusion on where the meeting took place, but under questioning by Liberal critic David McGuinty today (Monday April 26th, 2009), Mr. Prentice confirmed that the meeting took place in Helena Guergis’s ministerial office."

Here we thought the Conservatives were "tough on crime" and "tough on lobbying". Apparently, they are only tough when it's not one of their own sullying their little pigpen.

When testifying before the Parliamentary Committee last Wednesday, Rahim denied using Helena's office other than to store some boxes when he was booted out of his office after losing the 2008 election and other things that normal husbands use their wife's office for....except, that she WAS the Minister of State for the Status of Women at the time, hardly what could be termed a "typical Canadian office occupant".

Here's what he said during his "interrogation" when asked about using his wife's office:

"I'm glad you're raising that, I would like the opportunity to respond. When I was an MP, I never abused my privileges nor would I abuse my wife's resources in any capacity. Where the confusion happened is after the last election, I had 2 weeks to clear my office. I sent boxes to my wife's office. I rarely went in there, other than help here with Christmas cards, sit in on scheduling meetings (I don't know about you, but I never sat in on scheduling for my wife's business meetings). My role had changed. We had a separate office for my business. The only reason I used the Blackberry was to keep track of my wife's schedule."

You'd think that the Conservatives would regard this whole affair like a bandaid, the quicker you pull it off, the less it hurts. Instead, the Canadian media and the Opposition is having to drag information out of the ruling party one tidbit at a time. Maybe the Harperites are hoping that we'll get tired of rubber-necking this accident and just move along.

You've got to hand it to Rahim and Helena though, they've both got cohones! And a couple of econo-sized cases of entitlement to go with them.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rahim Jaffer's Onion

On CTV's Question Period this week, there was a brief discussion about the ongoing Jaffer lobbying issues. A panel of members of the Parliamentary Committee that interviewed Rahim last week held a brief discussion of the weeks events and what they anticipated in the coming week when they interview Nazim Gillani. On the panel were Siobhan Coady (Liberal), Tom Lukiwski (Conservative) and Pat Martin (NDP).

Ms. Coady had a classic line during the interview:

"This is almost like an onion, the more you peel, the more smell there is and the more tears there are around this whole issue."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

It seems more than a little odd that it took 7 months for Harper's ministers to come clean about their involvement with Rahim Jaffer. Would they have come clean had the Canadian media not put this story on page one? Mr. Jaffer and his business partner obviously approached government with business opportunities requiring funding more than once. Shouldn't that have raised eyebrows sometime in the past 7 months? He was, after all, the former Chair of the Conservative Caucus, a very recognizable figure on the Hill.

I do agree that there have been more scandalous affairs on Parliament Hill over the past 25 years, but Canadians are becoming increasingly cynical about their government. In the case of the Harper Government, Canadians are less likely to give them a pass on this type of misbehaviour because Mr. Harper has consistently attempted to delude us into thinking that his government is above scandalous behaviour.

I hate to tell him, but it appears that activities on the Hill are the the same thing over and over again with the same outcome.

Isn't that nearly the definition of insanity?


CTV Question Period

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wayne, Whips and Guns

Last evening, it was with great sadness that I read of the passing of Wayne Easter's courageous stand against his Party and leader on abolition of the gun registry.

Now, apparently he's flip-flopped and decided to toe the Liberal Party line again. Mr. Ignatieff left his urban ivory tower long enough to engage the rural Liberal MPs who voted for the private member's bill that would have seen the end of the Liberal's pet gun registry. He informed the 8 MPs that he had decided that he wanted to make the registry more palatable for rural gun owners by reducing the penalties for being caught with an unregistered long-gun and cutting the fees for registration to zero.

Mr. Ingnatieff also announced that voting on the third reading of Bill C-391 would be a whipped vote, that is, all Liberals would have to stick it to their constituents and vote along Party lines. This becomes problematic for Wayne Easter since back in November 2009, he voted against his own Party to better reflect what his constituents have wanted all along, quite a marked change after being one of the most vocal supporters of the registry for 15 years, especially during his tenure as Solicitor General. I guess Mr. Ignatieff doesn't want to take a chance on having some of his rogue MPs vote against party lines for a third time in less than 6 months.

Here's what Mr. Easter had to say to the Globe:

“To Ignatieff’s credit … he came to rural caucus, talked to those of us who had concerns … and over the several months I think we found a solution that in fact works. It’s a reasonable compromise that I think shows leadership on Ignatieff’s part.”

Well, I guess we can see where this one is headed. I had hoped Wayne would stick to his guns (pardon the very weak pun) on this issue but I guess it was too good to be true. Apparently, it's back to business as usual on the Hill.


Who's dictating Canada's Copyright Legislation?

According to a report in the National Post this weekend, the Harper government is going to make yet another attempt to table a copyright bill this fall and winter. This bill is an attempt to update current legislation to bring it into the digital age.

I fail to understand how it will be possible to prevent copying and distribution of music, digital books, television programming and movies. With the advent of PVRs, recording of movies and television programs and subsequent copying to DVDs would be impossible to prevent with current technology. Under legislation proposed in 2008, consumers would not have been allowed to keep recorded shows indefinitely. Interesting idea but how would it be enforceable?

Since 1997, Canadians have been paying a blank media levy on blank audio recording media including CDs (and tapes although they are almost never used) of $0.29 per unit and the money collected is distributed to artists. By September 2007, over $100 million had been distributed to eligible artists. I would imagine that the Canadian Recording Industry and Canadian Motion Picture Distributor's Association are unhappy with the levy since consumers are using far fewer CDs with the advent of mp3 and multiple format video files. The Canadian Recording Industry Association has also attempted to have a levy assessed on portable digital audio recorders (i.e. iPods) and has also attempted to limit the ability of consumers to make legal copies of media for their own use.

Every year in April, the United States Trade Representative releases its Special 301 Report which lists countries that the U.S. believes need to reform their intellectual property laws. Canada has been included on that list for the past 15 years, in fact, Canada was added to the Priority Watch List in 2009 (along with China, Russia and India among others).

Here's an excerpt from the Report:

"Canada will be added to the Priority Watch List in 2009. The United States appreciates the high level of cooperation between our two governments in many important bilateral and multilateral IPR initiatives. The United States also welcomed the Government of Canada’s reaffirmation earlier this year of its 2007 and 2008 commitments to improve IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) protection and enforcement. However, the Government of Canada has not delivered on these commitments by promptly and effectively implementing key copyright reforms. The United States continues to have serious concerns with Canada’s failure to accede to and implement the WIPO Internet Treaties, which Canada signed in 1997. We urge Canada to enact legislation in the near term to strengthen its copyright laws and implement these treaties. The United States also continues to urge Canada to improve its IPR enforcement system to enable authorities to take effective action against the trade in counterfeit and pirated products within Canada..."

There's nothing like having the United States put pressure on Canada telling us how to rewrite our legislation, is there?

All of this is being done because of so-called concern for the recording artists. According to the website, most artists make only about $1 per album sold and only when that album is sold at full retail price. How many times do you buy an album at full retail? The normal royalty rate for musicians is 9 to 15% with 3 percentage points going to the producer and 3 to 5 percentage points going to cover recording and packaging costs. This leaves the artist with roughly 6% (at best). Yes, the artists lose when illegal copies of their albums are made but it appears that the bigger losers are the retailers, the producers and the distributors. How many of us feel sorry for them? They create nothing yet they reap huge financial rewards from the work of the artists. The federal and provincial governments also lose great amounts of sales tax revenue when sales of pre-recorded videos and music drop. It is interesting to note that the provincial and federal governments make more on the sale of a CD than the artist that recorded it.

It is undeniable that any changes to the copyright laws in Canada are being to some degree being done under pressure from the United States government. These changes will provide little additional benefit to the individual artist who creates the product. The greatest beneficiaries to changes will be both levels of government and the retailers, producers and distributors of music and video.

I suggest that the government's motives for changing Canada's copyright laws are at least somewhat suspect and I dont particularly believe that the government has the interests of musicians and other artists at heart. Our government has to be careful that they aren't pandering to the bidding of American recording industry organizations like the RIAA and multinational media companies. They also should not be acting merely to satisfy their American political counterparts.


National Post Report on Copyright Bill Changes

Canadian Tariffs on Recordable Media

Summary of Music Contracts

United States Trade Representative Special 301 Report - Canada placed on Priority Watch List