Conservative MP Scott Reid may want to avoid talking politics while on the family barbecue circuit this summer.
The current head of the Giant Tiger discount store empire founded by Reid's father, Gordon, is calling on the government to scrap its proposal to revamp Canada's trademark laws.
In a May 22 letter to Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Giant Tiger CEO Andy Gross warned that removing the requirement that trademarks actually be in use to be registered could result in "tens of thousands" of applications filed "for enormous lists of goods and services, almost overnight."
He also pointed out that the government's proposal "includes no limits on the rights of registrants," which could let these "over-broad registrations" block new applications and "threaten infringement."
"The situation is akin to the early days of domain names," Gross noted, "with the same potential for pirates and profiteering."
The younger Reid, the MP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, Ont., "no longer [has] a significant interest in Giant Tiger Stores Ltd.," according to his filing with the ethics commissioner last fall.
Changes would hurt small business: CEO
Gross predicted the changes "will particularly prejudice small and medium businesses that have not yet had the chance to devote valuable start-up resources to trademark protection."
His proposed solution: the immediate removal of all trademark provisions from the spring budget bill "pending further study," followed by the formation of a special committee to look into "modernization" of the existing law. He suggests that committee include representatives from industry, government, the legal professional and "expert practitioners."
"Only with true collaboration, which regrettably has not occurred to date, can such important legislation be crafted to best suit the needs of Canadian businesses both now and in the future."
The NDP provided a copy of the letter to CBC News.
The proposed amendments to the current Trademarks Act are included in the spring omnibudget bill, which is currently undergoing clause-by-clause review by the House finance committee.
While Reid filed the notice of material change last fall with the ethics commissioner to say his interest in the store is no longer significant, his most recent public declaration of assets, filed a year earlier, still lists him as a director of the company. The public declaration of assets says he expected to receive "employment and dividends income" over the twelve months following its filing date, November, 2012.
Gordon Reid stepped down as CEO in 2010, but remains chairman of the board of Giant Tiger.
Letter inspires NDP question
NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen brought up the letter during question period on Tuesday.
After Industry Minister James Moore dismissed similar concerns outlined by the Canadian Bar Association, Cullen asked if he would "at least listen to his Conservative colleagues."
Moore, however, maintained that the changes would help small and medium-sized businesses by ensuring that patents registered in Canada would be recognized around the world.
Shortly after question period wrapped up, Reid rose on a point of order to set the record straight — first, on the name of his riding, which, he told the House, is Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, not Lanark Carleton, as suggested by Cullen.
As for his corporate affiliation, Reid noted that he sits on the board of "Giant Tiger," and not "Giant Target," as Cullen had misstated in his opening preamble.
"If he wants to take out a trademark in the name of Giant Target, I think it's available," Reid joked.
While he was happy to accept Reid's clarification, Cullen did feel obliged to issue a correction of his own, noting that he's no longer the NDP house leader, the title by which Moore referred to him, but the finance critic.
"I wish him good luck with the finance minister, and his lobbying against the changes to the Copyright Act," Cullen concluded.