Reality Check

Fail Who wants to charge a $75 iPod tax? Uh, no one

Categories: Coalition Conservatives Liberals Taxes

The Conservatives released a new ad Tuesday claiming the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois want to bring in a tax on iPods.

 

It's an argument they've used frequently during discussions on a new copyright act for Canada. They say the other parties want to charge as much as $75 on iPods and smart phones.

The Tories point to a vote last April where the other parties voted to support a report from the Canadian Heritage committee. The committee recommended expanding "audio recording medium," a term used in the existing law, to include devices with internal memory. The House of Commons vote split down party lines and passed 155 to 137.

(Bill C-32, an act to amend the Copyright act, by the way, died on the order paper when the election was called. It only made it to the committee stage in the House. This is the third time it's died and will have to be re-introduced a fourth time in the next Parliament).

There are problems, however, with saying the Liberals, NDP and Bloc support a $75 iPod tax.

First, there was no number listed in the committee report. What the House did was vote in favour of expanding the definition of what the government will charge a levy on.

 

Canadians already pay the levy (tax) on blank tapes and cds. It goes to artists under the assumption people who are buying blank tapes and cds are probably recording other people's material. This vote was meant to extend the levy to digital music recorders.

Second, the Liberals have since come out against a levy on iPods, BlackBerries, iPads and computers. They've been pretty clear about that. The Bloc and NDP, however, still support the tax.

Third, according to the NDP, the amount charged on devices would be set by the minister in charge of the act. In the case of Bill C-32, both the industry minister and Canadian heritage minister were involved in bringing the bill to committee, but it was the industry minister who introduced the bill in Parliament and he would likely be the one to determine how much to charge.

 

Copyright expert Michael Geist, however, says he doesn't believe the minister would set the amount of a particular levy. As he understands the act, that would be the responsibility fo the Copyright Board of Canada.

 

A minister can, however, "exclude devices or media from the scope of the levy," says Geist. "I think that's the NDP's point - claims that the levy will cover BlackBerries or cars can easily be avoided if the minister chooses to do so."

 

For its part, the NDP is recommending a $5 levy in the case of an iPod, not $75.

But here is the most disingenuous thing about arguing the vote on an unspecified levy in the House of Commons equals support for a $75 iPod tax.

The person who cast the tie-breaking vote to send that sent the motion from the committee to the floor of the House of Commons? None other than Conservative MP and committee chair Gary Schellenberger.