So why Is This Lady Smiling?

FTLComm - Tisdale - Monday, April 1, 2002


You have to admire the initiatives of Heritage Canada, the federal department of Arts, Culture, Sports and a lot of other good things. Sheila Copps, one of Canada's truly dedicated and dynamic politicians has put a lot of enthusiasm and energy into the department from giving out Canada flags to developing a whole series of cultural initiatives From where most Canadians sit Sheila and Heritage Canada have their hearts in the right place but oddly enough they are also on the front line in a battle that so many of us know we can not and must not lose.




The United States has always considered itself the new world and has on many occasions declared the whole hemisphere as its own private domain. It is referred to as "manifest destiny" and every Canadian since the US went its own way has had to struggle to make sure that we are not sucked into the vortex of the United States melting pot.




MacKenzie King, Lester Pearson, John Diefenbaker, Pierre Elliott Trudeau each in their turn did what they could do to maintain Canadian sovereignty often at a huge expense as the Americans have no lack of brash national egotism. In most ways we have been holding out own, perhaps even making head way when Claude Jeneau pushed the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Television Commission) into demanding Canadian content on our radio stations. Where things went off the rails was with our pro-American prime minister Brian Mulroney who gave away the place in a little thing called "Free Trade".




Since then we have had nothing but sovereignty issues and many more to come. Magazines, publishing, broadcasting and culture were suppose to be exempt from the Free Trade agreement but what is and what was suppose to be, seem to be quite different things.




Every federal government department seems to be very busy trying to make sure that what ever is done for Canada and Canadians will not run into trouble with the Free Trade agreement. It is at Heritage Canada that this issue seems to bloom most dangerously and Sheila Copps is a really smart politician and person. She understands things better than most and I have to feel that her awareness is at the root of yet another nasty issue.




The whole business of MP3 music that can be downloaded from the Internet has been in and out of US courts for more than a year while some Canadian entertainers like Alanis Morrisette have found it to be a gold mine the clever minister of Heritage Canada is taking no chances and a couple of weeks ago let the press know she was considering levying a massive tax on blank recording media (CDs and DVDs), on hard drives, and solid state storage devices. Suggestions that the amount could be as much as $1.23 on top of a since record able CD or $20 on 1MB of hard storage capacity in an MP3 player which would more than double their retail cost.




The word is that Heritage Canada is just trying the idea of such taxation out to see what the reaction would be and predictably everyone who has heard of this proposal realises that it would be devastating on the computer industry and seriously inhibit all future technological development in the country. The reason for this concern is that everything is tied together and taxation like that proposed would simply wipe out the industry.




But if we step back and look at this with a little perspective we will discover that Ms. Copps and her department are getting the public ready for a tax, that when announced will seem like small change compared with what they were originally proposing and will accept it thinking that we all got off lucky.




Fearing reprisals from the US dominated recording industry Ms. Copps is just trying to protect Canadian culture in what ever way she can from the relentless intrusion of Americanisation of everything as dictated by the Mulroney Free Trade agreement.




When bad things are created they work their way into everything and Free Trade is the ultimate enemy and we will all pay for that deal if not with dollars and jobs, with culture, identity and self respect.
Mar. 23, 2002. 01:00 AM, Toronto Star, Sheila's new tax should help foil sitcom spoilers, Linwood Barclay
Ottawa may add huge tax to MP3 players, Fri. Mar. 15 2002 12:30 PM CTV News