The Policy Battle over Information and Digital Policy Regulation: A Canadian Perspective

Michael Geist


Many countries find their information and digital policies still dominated by traditional stakeholders, particularly the content industry, major telecom companies, and marketing groups, yet Canada has experienced a notable shift in perspective with a strong and influential public interest voice. This shift toward public interest and participation in the development of Canadian information and digital policies has led to legislation, regulation, and policy outcomes that once seemed highly unlikely. This Article seeks to better understand the changing role of the public in Canadian information and digital policymaking by framing the developments as an ongoing policy development process featuring a series of closely linked changes and responses. The emergence of public participation on information and digital policy issues occurred across a spectrum of issues, yet the traits were strikingly similar: grassroots efforts reliant on social media and the Internet to capture media and public attention and focus it on consumer perspectives, minimal interest from government and regulators; and initial dismissal giving way to hostility from incumbent stakeholders. The Article identifies some of the reasons behind the shift, including the growing importance of information and digital policies, the impact of digital advocacy tools, and the shifting policy pyramid in which users have now largely leapfrogged corporate interests as policy influencers. While the shift does not mean the public interest wins on every issue, it does suggest an important change in influence with long-term ramifications for the development of information and digital policy in Canada that others may seek to emulate. 

Full Text: