The federal Cabinet will soon be considering its response to a parliamentary committee’s recommendations on foreign ownership in the telecom sector. But the crowded legislative calendar has combined with the realities of partisan politics to ensure that little of substance will happen on the topic until next year at the earliest. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology released its study Opening Canadian Communications to the World last April (NL, May 6/03). The Liberal majority on the committee joined with the Canadian Alliance to advocate a loosening of foreign investment restrictions. The committee asked Industry minister Allan Rock to respond within 150 days. That deadline is next week. "This is a recommendation to the government, so it’s up to the government to respond," an Industry spokesman tells Network Letter, "which in government parlance means it’s a Cabinet decision rather than a decision of the minister of Industry. But we are developing the response and the minister will be taking that to Cabinet between now and the deadline and we fully expect to meet the deadline." But other deadlines may preclude any real action taking place. Telecom insiders NL spoke with concede that the government has many other initiatives to get through in the 11 weeks Parliament will be in session from now until the end of the year. Many bills, dealing with such issues as First Nations governance, government accountability and human reproduction, are languishing on the order paper. The government must also deal with hot-button topics such as same sex marriage, marijuana decriminalization and electoral redistribution. Add to this the confusion over who exactly is in charge in the Liberal party. Jean Chrétien is evolving from a lame duck to a dead duck as putative heir Paul Martin gets ready to assume the leadership of the party in two months’ time. Observers say the prime minister is having a more difficult time pushing his legislative program through an increasingly hostile caucus. Chrétien vows to stay in office until February, complicating the situation. "I’d be surprised if we see anything tabled before next year at the earliest," one Ottawa hand confides to NL. Even as Cabinet does consider the Industry committee proposals, it will be weighing opposing evidence submitted by another group of politicians. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage issued its own voluminous report, Cultural Sovereignty, a few weeks after the Industry committee study (NL, June 16/03). The Heritage committee rejected the notion of opening up Canadian markets to outside investment. Canadian Heritage minister Sheila Copps is known to be an ardent nationalist who will defend the committee’s position in Cabinet. Industry minister Allan Rock will likely champion the liberalization view. Both will have their supporters around the Cabinet table. Even if a final decision or some sort of compromise is achieved before Chrétien’s retirement, there is no guarantee that Copps or Rock will be around to carry the issue forward in Parliament. Martin is expected to bring in a new Cabinet once he assumes control of the reins of power. Some current ministers may depart while others will find themselves shuttled off to new portfolios. Some political insiders have been advising Martin to call an election as soon as possible after becoming prime minister. They suggest an increasingly moribund Liberal party could be revived with a new leader and new MPs following a vote in the spring. If that were to happen, all legislative proposals, including the foreign investment review, would die on the order paper. It would be up to the new government to reintroduce the measures. That could mean a delay of up to one year, observers speculate.