Conservatives’ anti-terror law will hurt tech sector: business leaders

WATCH: Dozens upon dozens of leaders in Canada’s tech sector are adding their voices to the chorus of dissenters of the government’s anti-terror bill.

OTTAWA – The Conservatives’ anti-terror law threatens to stifle the Canadian tech sector, potentially dealing a lasting blow to the national economy, business leaders are warning.

“We work with international clients, and we fear that this proposed legislation will undermine international trust in Canada’s technology sector,” a letter from 60 leading business owners to the prime minister reads.

“We believe that, despite the rising tide of the knowledge economy, this legislation threatens to undermine Canada’s reputation and change our business climate for the worse.”

READ MORE: Conservatives studying anti-terror bill reject opposition changes

As it stands – with the measures contained in bill C-51 still weaving their way through Parliament – Canada holds a special competitive advantage, said Michael Litt, founder of Vidyard, the world’s leading video marketing platform.

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Canadian companies have been receiving an increasing number of requests to store some customer data on local servers, he explained.

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“We receive constant requests from foreign entities … that their content be stored specifically on Canadian servers since these countries don’t know, because of the Patriot Act, what the U.S. government is doing with the data,” Litt said.

READ MORE: Anti-terror bill opponents stage ‘National Day of Action’ protests

“This is a competitive advantage … that the U.S. businesses simply don’t have. And this bill will essentially depreciate that advantage.”

Litt is among 60 leading Canadian business owners, entrepreneurs and investors who signed a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Industry Minister James Moore and Conservative MP Daryl Kramp, who chairs the House of Commons public safety committee.

Even without the data disclosure practices enacted in C-51, the signatories wrote, federal agencies have seen more than 3,000 “breaches of the highly sensitive private information of an estimated 750,000 innocent Canadians” over the past several years.

WATCH: What you need to know about bill C-51

“The challenge of being Canadian today is to uphold our values of openness, tolerance, and trust of others, while maintaining a very real understanding of the dangers of terrorism and the government’s need to protect us,” the letter reads. “But sometimes this balance is not struck correctly and we, as business people and entrepreneurs, are convinced that Bill C-51 is not balanced the way we as Canadians would want.”

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Among their perceived problems with C-51, the letter’s signatories said the bill’s broad and vague terms of actionable language provide “too much leeway for the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service to take unjustified actions against our businesses.”

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