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The Online News Act

Re: An open letter to the new Heritage Minister (Aug. 1).

It is not obvious what constitutional “head of power” underpins Ottawa’s authority to pass the Online News Act. The Act regulates contracts between private parties, which would presumptively be under the provinces’ constitutional jurisdiction over property and civil rights.

Ottawa’s jurisdiction over trade and commerce cannot be directed at a particular industry. It must concern “trade as a whole.” And the Online News Act would otherwise require a sweeping extension of the “national concern” branch of Ottawa’s peace, order and good government power.

I do not believe the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has considered the reach of the telecommunications jurisdiction to regulate all content or transactions that occur across the wires and airwaves for which the constitution does confer federal jurisdiction.

Indeed, for the SCC to affirm an extension of federal jurisdiction to such contractual matters as this legislation seeks to regulate would potentially subject any online transaction to federal regulation — effectively eviscerating provincial property and civil rights jurisdiction (i.e. what transaction would not be covered? I make my utility payments and buy camping gear online: are these contracts now subject to federal jurisdiction also?)

Grant Bishop Calgary, AB

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