A review by this newspaper has highlighted several human connections between the governing party of Canada and the internet giants that are steadily lobbying it. The analysis shows no wrongdoing, but may point to the nature of lobbying for governments and industry on hot-button files across all political spectrums. The companies mentioned here stressed to this paper that they are following the rules around lobbying.
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Crucial decisions are looming on the digital landscape in Canada, giving these connections added relevance. Billions of dollars are likely on the line for companies and for taxpayers.
The federal government is reviewing the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act: The two acts regulate foreign ownership of broadcasters and spell out how those companies must contribute to Canada’s cultural industries. There is growing talk about the ways multinational companies that exist primarily online are taxed by countries such as Canada. Conversations about whether Canada should be taxing Netflix — the online movie- and TV-show-streaming service — have been at the fore of that public discussion here.
At a meeting of the Group of 20 in Buenos Aires in March, the European Union announced it is considering imposing a levy on online companies. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau had steadfastly rejected the idea of such taxation prior to that meeting. He now says the idea should be studied.
Donald Lee Sheppard, an expert on government and business ethics and author of the book The Dividends of Decency, said it is common to see government employees jump to the lobbying sector. However, he said the practice is one that should prompt politicians and public servants to be even more transparent, as prior relationships with a lobbyist could be seen by those outside the process as skewing the development of public policy.
“It often is the way to go, from the government to the lobbyist firm. Because, you have contacts. None of that is unusual as long as it follows some legal path,” said Sheppard. “I see the concern. If you’re in the government, you’re serving the people. Who are you serving? Is it a company like Netflix or is it the people?”
This article continues at [Ottawa Citizen] Web of familiar faces connects government with online giants