Posts Tagged ‘Fairvote Canada’
Although I support Fairvote Canada I’m not a member, as I’m not a member of any political party. I feel this is necessary for me as a citizen journalist, because it is important I speak only for myself, retaining the freedom to speak out against what I think are bad policies even from organizations I may otherwise support. I’m a writer, not a leader.
But I will attend and even photograph protests I find important. And occasionally I’ll stick my oar in. As now.
On Wednesday there will be another round of “Black Mark Budget” protests against the federal government’s Omnibus budget. Because we are currently cursed with a majority government, the only way this budget can be stopped is by convincing 13 sitting conservative MPs to be heroes and vote against it.
In Waterloo Region, two such events are planned for
2) Stephen Woodworth’s office,
300 Victoria St. North, Kitchener
This protest is to support the students fighting for education for all, as well as to protest Quebec’s unconstitutional Bill 78, which contravenes civil rights guaranteed Canadians under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as breaches Canada’s international human rights obligations.
I’m throwing this out there in case it’s useful, but it’s about as much organizing as I can do. If the two protests at the MPs offices incorporate the music of clanging pots and pans, after perhaps half an hour, at, say, 6:00, the protest chould turn into two parts of a casseroles parade heading toward Victoria Park for a last bit of citizen musicale and any speechifying anyone cares to do could take place.
The marchers will probably arrive at the park long before 8:00, so I think the Casseroles time should be moved back to 7:00 pm. Maybe people can bring a lunch (everyone should have water) and make it a picnic at the park.
I think it will continue to be family friendly, and, like the previous Casseroles protests, will be untroubled by police, especially if the march manages to stay on the sidewalk.
My idea is offered as a suggestion because I think both groups would benefit from cross pollinization. Maybe the distance is too far for a walk, especially on a hot day. Feel free to take the idea and run with it. Or not. The point is that we *all* have a voice.
My reasons for supporting both initiatives can be found in my previous article Two Protests for June 2nd, 2011
I’ll leave you with Elizabeth May’s attempt to summarize the horrific environmental problems with the Omnibudget:
I was fortunate to be able to attend the “The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario’s Clean Energy Future: A Debate” put on by Fair Vote WRC and CAPP (Canadians Advocating Political Participation).
Since it was part of Fair Vote Canada‘s first annual Democracy Week, I planned to take still photos both for my blog and for my Fair Vote WRC and CAPP friends. But it was only while sitting in the front row listening to introductions that I spontaneously decided to record the debate.
I’m still learning Free-Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) so I didn’t know if I’d be able to edit video at all. If I’d known it would be important to share the video, I wouldn’t have snapped noisy photos during the debate. But it was only listening to the information and arguments of the debate that I realized just how important the issue is in the here and now.
Right now, Ontario is at a crossroads. If we proceed as we have been, Ontario will soon decommission some existing nuclear reactors and will then have to make substantial new investments. Part of the urgency to decide how to proceed now is that it takes a lot of lead time – decade or so – to build new reactors. The question is, is it necessary?
The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario’s Clean Energy Future: A Debate
Ron Oberth of The Organization of CANDU Industries (OCI) gave an excellent presentation, explaining both the history and the current system. Currently Ontario’s energy generation revolves around the nuclear power “baseload.” This is the foundation of the energy grid which powers Ontario.
In fact, our system is so efficient that more than once Ontario has had to pay neighbors to take surplus power off our hands. You can’t instantly turn off a nuclear reactor, and too much unused energy could burn out part of the grid.
Kind of makes you wonder why consumers need smart meters.
Derek Satnik, renewable energy expert at Mindscape Innovations, gave a thorough run down of alternative energy options. The most surprising thing was that Ontario is at a point where it is possible to wean our province off nuclear energy through a transition into the emerging alternative energy industries.
Although in its infancy, wind power provides about 1% of the power to the grid. Solar power is another incremental player. Derek Satnik explained the potential: a federation of renewable micro-power generation facilities could generate a more robust baseload by virtue of flexibility.
But new clean energy resources can’t be added to the grid without reducing some resources. And right now, we have safe and clean energy sources that the government won’t use, because there isn’t room for it on the grid. Right now we could replace nuclear power with green renewable energy.
I’m sure we have careful and capable people watching over our nuclear power plants. Even so, Ontario is very lucky not to have had a 3 Mile Island.
Or a Chernobyl.
Or a Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Because Nuclear Power is not 100% safe.
And thirty years later, we still have no way of making nuclear waste safe; our only disposal method is to bury it.
Nor is nuclear power cheap. We are still paying off nuclear facilities that are no longer in use. Instead of signing on the bottom line to build more expensive nuclear facilities, Ontario could make the transition to less expensive safe alternative energy, and simply phase out our use of nuclear power.
This is the most important issue in this election.
Watch the debate for yourself:
My 32 minute video isn’t perfect. But you should see it now. Before we elect a new government.
You can watch it on YouTube:
More photos from the debate are available here.
Penelope: “You can’t really vote for a kid, but you can vote for her future.”
It seems Fair Vote and CAPP aren’t the only folks who think that Ontario’s Clean Energy Future ought to be an issue during this electoral campaign. Eight year old Penelope has joined the provincial candidates on the campaign trail, criss crossing the province and asking candidates questions about the environment. Penelope4ontario.ca is leading a campaign to direct voter attention to environmental issues. The idea is that we need to think about the environment we will bequeath to our children when we cast our votes.
Besides being a little girl, Penelope is, of course, an actress, fronting the campaign put on by environmental consortium Environmental Defence. Still, she knows her stuff. Kitchener-Center NDP MPP Candidate Cameron Dearlove had a good chat with young Penelope. Of course, I’m sure that it helps that the environment is one of the NDP platform’s strengths.
The best thing on Penelope’s web page was the Environmental Report Card which compares all the party platforms on environmental issues.
Last week Waterloo Region played host to a cross-riding Environmental Forum in at the Rockway Mennonite Church in downtown Kitchener. This forum allowed candidates from various parties to discuss their party’s environment platform.
Kitchner-Centre Green Party Candidate Mark Vercouteren, Kitchener-Waterloo Liberal Party Candidate Eric Davis and Kitchener-Centre NDP Candidate Cameron Dearlove, all had an opportunity to explain their position to local voters and to answer questions following the debate.
Unfortunately, there was no representative from the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party at this Environmental Forum. Did the party decline to attend because they have no environment platform to speak of? I noticed the OPCP was the only party that declined to participate in the Penelope4ontario.ca poll as well. This makes me a bit nervous.
I think it is disturbing that the Ontario Conservatives are so cavalier about Ontario’s energy future. Even if the Progressive Conservative Party is convinced nuclear power is both safe and the best source for Ontario energy, can we afford to cavalierly forge ahead when nuclear power is also the most terribly expensive option? Particularly since it’s getting more so?
Still, it is especially difficult to take a hard line about nuclear costs, because we can’t afford to be cutting corners when a nuclear mistake cand render large parts of our land uninhabitable. I always thought one of the most important Conservative party cornerstones was fiscal responsibilty.
More problematic is Kitchener- Centre candidate Dave MacDonald, the local TV weather man who has achieved notoriety during this election campaign for expressing disbelief in climate change.
The twin issues of energy and environment are crucial to Ontario’s continued health and prosperity. Candidates who can’t find the time to carefully consider these issues are not candidates I want to see making these decisions for our province. Our future is at stake.
Ontario’s electoral system is every bit as broken as the Federal system. But the very fact that ever vote is not equal makes it even more important to cast our votes, and just as important, to cast them for the candidate we want to elect.
Thursday, October 6 is the Ontario Election.
Additional photos from the Environmental Forum are available here.
Note:The information has been updated: any red strikethough text is deleted; Green underlined text is Additional information. This Day of Action is a near spontaneous event put together over the last few days by students across Canada.
As might be expected, the non partisan FairVote Canada is not terribly pleased with the outcome of our recent Federal Election:
This blatantly distorted election outcome has generated a spontaneous reaction in the electorate. Saturday, May 14 has been designated a national Day of Action for Electoral Reform, and protest rallies are being planned in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Charlottetown and Kelowna, all at 2:00 pm local time.”
“Fair Vote Canada (FVC) is participating in these events, and will supply speakers in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver.”
Fairvote Canada will be participating in the NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR ELECTORAL REFORM / MANIFESTATION PAN-CANADIENNE POUR LA RÉFORME ÉLECTORALE
All demonstrations to be held at
2pm local time:
Montreal — Berri Sq.
Vancouver Art Gallery …. Fairvote Canada’s Adrian Carr will be speaking here
Calgary — Harry Hays Building
Charlottetown — Province House
Kelowna — The Sails, Central Park
Whitehorse — Elijah Smith Building
The Toronto rally time has been changed to 3pm local time
Toronto — Queen’s Park
We need an electoral process in which everybody’s vote counts. We need a government that represents us.”
Queen’s Park, Toronto photo by Donald Morrison under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License
Flags CC-by laurelrusswurm
Going into the election yesterday we had a Conservative minority government based on 5,209,069 votes, and today we have a Conservative majority government with 5,832,401 votes. That’s a difference of 623,332 votes. It is also a difference of 24 seats.
The 41st Canadian Federal Election has resulted in a Conservative Party of Canada majority government.
My son, who cast his first vote last night, asked me how it could have happened? Even with the tame “news” media [the watchdog press is indeed dead] he was under the impression that there was strong opposition to the Conservative government.
And of course the polls conducted throughout the term of the 40th Parliament always seemed to hover in the mid 30% range.
[No, I don't believe in polls... that's for all the people who tried to convince me of the accuracy of public opinion polls.]
As my friend Sheila said,
“Majority? Well, 24.1% of Canadians have spoken.”
Because Canadian voter turnout was less than stellar. Only 61.4% of registered voters voted yesterday, up slightly from 2008′s all time low of 59.1%.
My Bahamian friend Drew forwarded me this Voter turnout data for Bahamas. Can you imagine? They have a 92.13% voter turnout! I guess it really is better in the Bahamas.
comparing the results
So, lets look at what happened in Canada, eh? Possibly the easiest way to see what happened is to compare the results of the 41st election with the results of the 40th in 2008.
2008: Minority Government
The Conservative Party of Canada
5,209,069 votes, which was 37.65% of the popular vote and gave them 143 seats
The Liberal Party of Canada
3,633,185 votes, which was 26.26% of the popular vote and gave them 77 seats
The Bloc Québécois
1,379,991 votes, which was 9.98% of the popular vote and gave them 49 seats
The New Democratic Party of Canada
2,515,288 votes, which was 18.18% of the popular vote and gave them 37 seats
The Green Party of Canada
937,613 votes, which was 6.78% of the popular vote and gave them 0 seats
Voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian election history, as only 59.1% of the electorate cast a ballot.
Wikipedia: Canadian federal election, 2008
2011 Majority government
The Conservative Party of Canada
5,832,401 votes, which was 39.6% of the popular vote and gave them 167 seats (54%)
The New Democratic Party of Canada
4,508,474 votes, which was 30.6% of the popular vote and gave them 102 seats (33.1%)
The Liberal Party of Canada
2,783,175 votes, which was 18.9% of the popular vote and gave them 34 seats (11.0%)
The Bloc Québécois
889,788 votes, which was 6% of the popular vote and gave them 4 seats (1.3%)
Green Party of Canada
576,221 votes, which was 3.9% of the popular vote and gave them 1 seat (0.3%)
Voter turnout: 14,720,580 of 23,971,740 registered electors (61.4%)
source: Elections Canada: 2011 General Election: Preliminary Results
all votes are not created equal
I’m no math genius, but even I can see that the numbers don’t add up.
In the last election the Green Party had 937,613 votes and zero seats. After yesterday’s election, the Green Party has 576,221 votes and no seats. So now they’ve lost a few hundred thousand votes they have a seat. Although the Green Party lost votes, they probably haven’t lost any support. Because people concerned for the environment don’t suddenly going to stop caring. It isn’t as though there were any scandals in the Green Party. The only way the Green Party let their supporters down was in not getting elected.
Without an elected representative, the people who vote have no voice in parliament. We also saw the consortium’s exclusion of Elizabeth May from the televised Leadership debates.
The upshot is that the near million voters who voted Green across Canada had no representation in government. It is reasonable to assume that the lost votes went somewhere “strategic.” It can be hard voting for a party that can’t seem to win, no matter how much you believe in them.
The single biggest problem in a first past the post electoral system is that you only get parliamentary representation if the candidate you vote for is elected. And even then, if the candidate’s party doesn’t form the government, your representation is second class.
The main business of government is making laws. This is the other place where the numbers really count.
A majority government controls more than half the available seats in the House of Commons.
Which means a majority government can pass any law they want.
The Conservative Party of Canada got 5,832,401 votes, or 39.6%.
All the other parties together received 8,888,179 votes, or 60.4%
Because of the way our system weights votes, less than 40% of the votes cast means a majority government.
More than 60% of the votes cast don’t count. This is what they mean when they talk about wasted votes.
Add to that another 9,251,160 registered voters who didn’t vote at all.
This majority government actually represents a minority of voters. The 5,832,401 votes cast for the Conservative Party of Canada count.
The other 18,139,339 votes do not. Is it any wonder why people get frustrated? In a democracy, every vote should count.
Canada needs electoral reform. I have been learning a lot about the different types of government that are possible from the non-partisan electoral reform group Fairvote Canada. Everyone who is concerned with this extraordinary inequity should get involved.
Because Canada deserves electoral reform.
Photographs released by laurelrusswurm under a Creative Commons Attribution Only License.
Canadians are often admonished by the media for “voter apathy.”
In every election, the media complains about the high percentage of Canadians who don’t vote.
So why don’t Canadians vote?
Independent Canadian Journalist/Blogger Jason Koblovsky pointed to this excellent Parliament of Canada article:
Youth Voter Turnout in Canada – 2. Reasons for the Decline and Efforts to Increase Participation which provides both background and basic understanding of the “voter apathy” problem.
Voter apathy is not confined to the young.
This problem has spread through all of Canada. One powerful reason many Canadians, both young and old, feel disenfranchised by the system, is that:
“…many voters doubt that voting every four years
can truly influence the decision-making process …”
Why don’t Canadians think we can make a difference?
It begins with our First-Past-the-Post electoral system. We have electoral ridings where a mere 29% of the vote garners a plurality win. So although 29% has never been a passing grade at school, it is apparently enough to promote candidates into lawmakers. Inequities in the system leave too far many citizens without any voice at all in government. To learn more about electoral reform, visit the Fairvote Canada site and give their Fairvote Calculator a spin.
Because left to themselves, neither Liberal or Conservative parties are likely to enact electoral reform.
Why would they wish to alter the system that has, until now, allowed them to take turns ruling Canada?
Our Members of Parliament are supposed to represent us – and look out for our best interests – in Parliament.
Currently, there are enough citizens in each riding that if the elected Member of Parliament did nothing but meet constituents 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, they would only be able to give each a few minutes of their time.
But they don’t. Our elected Members of Parliament are in Ottawa for some of the year, making the laws that govern our lives. And most people never seek out their MP unless they have a problem. Which is a good thing, because there really is not enough time in a year for an MP to talk to every voter.
That’s why it is so important for constituents to have an opportunity to see the candidates who seek to represent them.
41st Election Campaign
Now that we are in the midst of an election, candidates are canvassing door-to-door. It’s one of those folksy things designed to make politicians appear more accessible.
I know they’re canvassing because many of them are “tweeting” about canvassing on Twitter. In fact, former Conservative Minster of Industry, Tony Clement, recently tweeted that he was engaged in friendly rivalry with the NDP candidate who was canvassing the very same street.
Which got me thinking. I mean, seriously, if there isn’t enough time to speak to everyone they represent in the course of a year, how can they possibly manage it during the few weeks of an election? If most Canadians never get a candidate at their door during a campaign, why would a Conservative and NDP candidate end up canvassing the same street at the same time in the same election?
Clearly, candidates have to decide where to canvass. Are they are targeting the same areas? And where are politicians going door to door? In nice neighborhoods, of course.
In my entire life, I’ve actually only had candidates at my door twice, once for a municipal election and once federal.
Can it be that they only canvass the “better” neighborhoods? A friend of mine was surprised to learn there is any door-to-door canvassing at all. He lives in the densely populated urban setting of my riding, in what is a residential mix ranging from single family dwellings to townhouses, low rises and high rises, with some subsidized housing on the side. You couldn’t ask for a better cross section of society. Talk about the electorate in microcosm.
But he assumed that they didn’t do that anymore since he has never had a politician at his door.
Can it really be that door-to-door canvassing only happens in rich neighborhoods? If that is true, is it any wonder that citizens who do not live in expensive neighborhoods feel disenfranchised?
How the 41st Election is being run: close to home
More than 115,00 citizens reside in the geographically huge Kitchener-Conestoga riding which combines three far flung rural townships with the densely populated southwestern part of the city of Kitchener. What that means is this riding includes many of the very poorest citizens of Waterloo Region, including the unemployed, immigrants, students and the disabled, alongside young families starting out as inexpensively as possible. At the same time the riding includes some of the region’s very richest citizens who reside in multi-million dollar homes situated in the surrounding townships.
This calendar provides information about 41st election events in Waterloo region. The first Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meeting took place in the tiny town of St. Agatha, a geographic location not served by public transit. And of course, this event happened at the start of the campaign so the newly minted Green Party candidate, Albert Ashley, wasn’t able to attend. In other words it wasn’t really an “all candidates” meeting.
A second all-candidates meeting was scheduled for in Elmira, another venue not served by public transit.
Well, if you wanted to arrive well before the meeting began, you could have attended, but Grand River Transit daily service concluded before the meeting actually began at 7pm, so you wouldn’t have been able to get home.
So. The ONLY “all candidates” meetings in this riding were held in out of the way venues inaccessible to public transit.
Only citizens with cars are included in the electoral process. #FAIL
If Canadians were to vote for the candidates we want to elect instead of the candidates that strategic voting advocates convince us we have to vote for (and who are, in fact, the candidates the advocates support) we would see real change.
Canadians have long been told that majority government is a good thing. Yet, in practice majority government has the power to ignore citizens, so in reality majority government is only good for the winner (and their friends).
We are told elections are expensive, yet even if we held elections annually it would be far cheaper than the patronage that always happens with a majority government.
We are told that votes for the Green Party of Canada or the New Democratic Party are wasted, ineffectual because they can’t form a national government. Yet these two parties are fielding candidates across the entire country. This means Canada has four parties able to send enough candidates to Ottawa to form a majority government for #elxn41.
We are told that votes for small new parties or independent candidates are also wasted votes. Any party incapable of forming a national government is supposed to be a waste. Tell that to the Bloc Québécois. Ostensibly formed to lead Quebec separation from Canada, the BQ party has championed the rights of Quebec’s citizens at the federal level.
When we elect any candidates they are capable of giving citizens a voice in Ottawa (and even more so should there be a coalition government.) The Universal Health Care that Canadians value so much would never have come about but for just such a “fringe” party.
It is implied that only the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada are capable of governing because of their experience, taking turns. They have taken turns governing this country all along. Yet if we look closely, we can see that they are not the same. John Diefenbaker’s Conservative Party (the party that pulled the plug on the AVRO Arrow, and incidentally Canada’s aerospace industry) was very different from Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative Party (the party that gave us the GST, with the bulk of tax funds collected going into bureaucracy needed to administer it) and is in turn very different from Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party (itself a coalition made up from the merger of the Reform Party with the remnants of the PC Party).
Supporting the alternating Liberal and Conservative parties has put Canada in the position we occupy today. We’ve gone from a nation of early adopters of digital innovation to a nation barely treading water in a digital world. Past Liberal and Conservative governments are equally culpable in allowing the erosion of Canada’s digital economy through favoring corporate special interests at the expense of Canadians. Governments the world over have shown a woeful inability to understand crucial digital issues, and ours is no different. That’s why the Pirate Party of Canada came into existence – to fight to safeguard Canada’s digital future.
Polls are treated as though their results are factual, and they tell us who will be elected before a single vote is cast. If polls were 100% accurate why do we need to hold an election? A small sampling, polls are far from a foregone conclusion. At worst, a poll can be slanted to misrepresent the situation, but even at best a poll is akin to an educated guess. A poll is not fact, but a survey.
All of these misconceptions are promoted vigorously by the mainstream media. It is very important to realize that mainstream media is anything but unbiased. The mainstream media has its own agenda, which does not reflect the best interests of citizens, but rather the needs of the corporations. (TV tax, Fox News North, Canadian DMCA, UBB… )
The mainstream media berating Canadians for low voter turnout has contributed directly to it through its propagation of misinformation.
While we worry about two tier health care we suffer from two tier democracy. Certainly the two problems are connected.
And a great many Canadians do not usually vote.
Instead of reaching out to voters who don’t ordinarily vote, it appears that today’s political parties only bother with the usual suspects.
Instead of reaching out to the disenfranchised, they attempt to change minds that are already made up for the most part.
As far as the Conservative and Liberal parties are concerned, they have only each other to beat. That’s why they like our seriously broken political system, and will certainly never enact electoral reform. After all, as Charlie Sheen says, they are #winning.
But are they really? I don’t think so.
Canadians are increasingly disgruntled.
We are generally becoming more politically aware than we have been for a long time because of the failures of our government. Participation in Politics looks at the way technology is giving citizens the means to have our voices heard. Canadian politics are in such disarray that the disenfranchised aren’t waiting anymore to be invited to participate in democracy.
The amount of anger on display in the streets at last year’s at last year’s no-prorogation rallies was palpable. And a great many of these citizens had never even marked an x on a ballot. But social media and the Internet have given us ways to communicate and mobilize as never before.
The fact that the “all candidates” meetings are drawing bigger crowds than expected is telling.
In an effort to attract students to voting, Elections Canada have been allowing campus polling stations to make it easier for students to vote. The Conservative Party attempted to have the votes cast at the University of Guelph polling station discounted but failed.
Anything is possible.
The results of the last election is old news… history. What happened in the last election has no bearing on this one, unless we choose to learn from it.
No one has been elected for the 41st Parliament.
Every job position sits vacant, and it’s up to Canadians to decide who will fill them.
Canadian voices *can* be heard. Go Canada!
Original photographs by laurelrusswurm released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License
This talk Mel Hurtig made at the U of T bookstore in 2008 about his book
“The Truth About Canada” is still every bit as timely as it was then. If anything it is more important for Canadians to watch this TVO video today:
For instance, long before it came up, Mr. Hurtig makes quite clear why the Harper government sought to scrap the Long Form Census. Responsible government planning is not nearly as important to our current government as is the government’s ability to ignore or suppress statistical information so that people like Mel Hurtig can’t write Books like “The Truth About Canada.”
I’m on record as being in opposition to both of our “alternating” ruling parties.
I was asked at one point what it would take to get me to vote Liberal. The idea being that anything that would unseat the Harper government would be an improvement.
But I tend to disagree; a minority Harper Government is less dangerous than a majority Liberal government, because without electoral reform the only time Canada has anything approximating democracy is when we have a minority government.
That’s when they at least give the appearance of listening to citizens.
This is particularly important when dreadful secret treaties like ACTA and laws like the current draft of the Canadian DMCA, Bill C32, are on the table. Political considerations aside, the bulk of Canada’s elected representatives appear woefully ignorant about the Internet technology or the underlying issues they are being pressured but corporate special interest groups to rush to legislate.
Both of our alternating ruling parties have demonstrated the ability of ruling contrary to our interests when they rule by a majority. You know what they say about absolute power. (As this is Canada, throw in a dash of patronage and quid pro quo…)
Pretty much the only way I would vote for either of the alternating parties would be if they had Mel Hurtig running things. He’s pretty much the only person I would actually trust as our Prime Minister. Even though he has not yet weighed in on Bill C32 or ACTA, I suspect that Mr. Hurtig would at least understand the issues before rushing through legislation against the interests of citizens.
Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA
Title amendment at June 1st, 2010
Michael Geist says that they are planning to call the new “copyright” law
the Digital Copyright Modernization Act or Canadian DCMA
I guess that ways they can say it isn’t a “Canadian DMCA” with a straight face…. llr
Yesterday morning I was just taking a quick peek at Twitter before getting back to revisions when I saw a tweet from The Electronic Frontier Foundation:
RT@BoingBoing Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks http://bit.ly/c8Re4h
That did not sound promising. In fact it sounded downright scary. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is widely known to be a deeply flawed draconian copyright law. And that isn’t just a Canadian perception, that’s an opinion shared by many people around the world. It is reasonable to assume that a good part of the citizen resistance to A.C.T.A. is a direct result of seeing the DMCA in action.
You might wonder why I am so concerned. After all, this is just the announcement of a bill that won’t even be available for First Reading before June. This bill is so new it doesn’t have a number yet. But previous drafts of so called Canadian “copyright reforms” have been bad. And the fact that representatives of this government are involved in the fast tracked secret A.C.T.A. negotiations does not instill confidence.
It seems that increasingly our elected representatives choose to ignore Canadians. After all, more than eight thousand concerned Canadians made submissions to the copyright consultation. What we said appears not to have been heard by our government.
As a mother, I have a powerful stake in the future. As a creator and a consumer, copyright is also very important to me. But I am only a private citizen. One person. So it takes a lot to make my voice heard.
When my government demonstrates its willingness to ignore not just my voice, but the voices of thousands of my fellow citizens, then I need to do my best to encourage even more citizens to speak up. That means starting now, before the new bill is released to public scrutiny because there must be time to inform many more Canadians of the issue.
In 2007, the architect of the DMCA and the WIPO Internet Treaties admitted:
“…our attempts at copyright control have not been successful…”
—Chairman Bruce Lehman, International Intellectual Property Institute March 24, 2007
boingboing: DMCA’s author says the DMCA is a failure, blames record industry
Like most Canadians, back then I was so busy with my life that I wasn’t paying much attention. I was leaving politics and lawmaking to the professionals. After all, that’s what they’re paid for, right?
It seems that the politicians want Canada to ratify the WIPO treaties. But that can’t happen until we have enacted domestic laws to back them up. This is why first the Liberals, and now the Conservatives, are trying to put through copyright reform.
The thing of it is, according to Howard Knopf Canada has strong copyright Laws, maybe too strong. In many ways stronger than American Copyright Law.
Now, in 2010, the EFF has made this assessment of the DMCA:
- The DMCA Chills Free Expression and Scientific Research.
Experience with section 1201 demonstrates that it is being used to stifle free speech and scientific research. The lawsuit against 2600 magazine, threats against Princeton Professor Edward Felten’s team of researchers, and prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov have chilled the legitimate activities of journalists, publishers, scientists, students, programmers, and members of the public.
- The DMCA Jeopardizes Fair Use.
By banning all acts of circumvention, and all technologies and tools that can be used for circumvention, the DMCA grants to copyright owners the power to unilaterally eliminate the public’s fair use rights. Already, the movie industry’s use of encryption on DVDs has curtailed consumers’ ability to make legitimate, personal-use copies of movies they have purchased.
- The DMCA Impedes Competition and Innovation.
Rather than focusing on pirates, some have wielded the DMCA to hinder legitimate competitors. For example, the DMCA has been used to block aftermarket competition in laser printer toner cartridges, garage door openers, and computer maintenance services. Similarly, Apple has used the DMCA to tie its iPhone and iPod devices to Apple’s own software and services.
- The DMCA Interferes with Computer Intrusion Laws.
Further, the DMCA has been misused as a general-purpose prohibition on computer network access, a task for which it was not designed and to which it is ill-suited. For example, a disgruntled employer used the DMCA against a former contractor for simply connecting to the company’s computer system through a virtual private network (“VPN”).”
— Electronic Frontier Foundation, Unintended Consequences: Twelve Years under the DMCA
Canada has been under heavy pressure from the United States to follow their legislative lead and create our own DMCA.
First, the Liberal Party of Canada gave it a try with Bill C-60. Fortunately for Canada, the Liberal Party had a minority government at the time and a non-confidence vote killed their Bill C-60. I have no doubt that this law would have passed had there been a Liberal majority.
Next, the Conservative Party of Canada put forth their own Bill C-61 in an attempt to create a Canadian DMCA. Canada was again lucky to have a minority government. There was an even greater outcry from the citizenry. Embarrassing articles in ars technica: “Canadian DMCA” brings “balanced” copyright to Canada and boingboing: Canadian DMCA is worse than the American one seem to have been prevalent. I have no doubt that this law would have passed had there been a Conservative majority.
Luckily for us, Bill C-61 was scrapped by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first premature prorogation. The Conservatives promised to re-introduce Bill C-61 if they were re-elected. But although they were re-elected, it was without the majority they expected.
but we can’t bank on being lucky
With a minority government, the Conservative government took the reasonable path of addressing one of the chief complaints about the previous attempts — lack of meaningful public consultation. The Ministry of Industry mounted a Canada wide Copyright Consultation. They held “Town Hall” meetings across the country. Unfortunately complaints of “stacking” the speakers, incidents of interested parties being prevented from disseminating literature, or citizens being denied access to the “town hall” venues of these “public” meetings were leveled throughout this part of the process.
But this is the 21st Century. They don’t call this the Information Age for nothing. And to their credit, Industry Canada’s web site hosted an online consultation that would accept submissions from any and all Canadians who cared to speak up. As a citizen, I thought this a good use of technology. This is a prime example of just how democracy can be fine tuned to accurately reflect the will of the people in the 21st Century.
Isn’t the point of a democracy the creation of laws that reflect society’s mores?
How better than to assess the wants and needs of Canadian society than by soliciting the input of concerned Canadians?
More than 8,000 Canadians made written copyright consultation submissions answering the handful of questions posed by the Ministry. Michael Geist provided a nice breakdown and this rebuttal of Robert Owen’s analysis is a good too.
The Canadian government asked for citizen input and they got it. Instead of the few hundred submissions that I gather are a more common response, they received thousands of submissions. Many Canadians assumed that our government might actually consider what we told them. After all, they asked us what we thought.
Was the copyright consultation all smoke and mirrors?
Apparently the phrase “Canadian DMCA” got so much play yesterday that it actually became a Twitter trending topic. Hmmmm, sure sounds as though Canadians actually care about this issue.
the boingboing comment that got to me was
CG • #9said:
“…they didn’t listen to the consultation; why would they listen this time?”
If we look at it that way, and throw up our hands in disgust, THEY WILL HAVE WON.
How is the government looking at this? This is a protest by a “special interest group”. A mere handful of Canadians… less than 9,000… made submissions. Come on, out of 33 million? That’s only a tiny fraction. Do the math.
Prime Minister Harper doesn’t think it is enough opposition to make a difference. After all, it is ONLY some lowly radical tech people who are against it. And maybe a few of the musicians who have begun establishing recording careers without having to give record companies their copyright. [Did you know that 30% of the Canadian recording industry has gone independent? Is THAT the real reason the music biz wants to stop p2p?]
The problem is that the Government is correct. Most Canadians don’t understand what is happening or what this will mean.
Perhaps our government is counting on us getting angry at being ignored, and then frustrated beyond endurance, until we come to the point we have to give up and get on with our real lives, leaving them free to do whatever they want.
In this instance pandering to the American Government– who are in turn pandering to their own giant media corporations. Make no mistake– the American DMCA does not serve American citizens, it serves American corporations. You know the ones I mean. Corporations like Disney, who want copyright to never end. Corporations like the big music companies who used to control the entire recording industry of the entire world. In Canada, that’s the CRIA, the “Big Four” American branch plants that used to control 100% of the Canadian recording Industry.
Since the advent of the Internet, and p2p filesharing, Canadian musicians are going independent. Leaving the four CRIA record companies in control of only 70% of the Canadian recording industry.
That is probably the real reason Canada makes it onto the USTR watch list every year. That USTR list is one of the main reasons why Canada is perceived to be a haven of piracy when in fact there is far less infringement here than most places. Certainly less than the United States. On April 14th of this year, Michael Geist reported American government findings: U.S. Government Study: Counterfeiting and Piracy Data Unreliable, and on April 30th USTR’s Bully Report Unfairly Blames Canada Again. Yet the Canadian government didn’t even make an issue of this or make a submission to the USTR.
So the United States keeps putting Canada on their “watch list”. Our friendly neighbor to the south is accusing us — in the absence of credible facts — of being a pirate nation.
First they call us names, and malign our international reputation, but then they promise to stop if we give them what they want. Isn’t there a word for that?
All they want is our sovereignty.
This is why it so important to NOT GIVE UP.
Canadians can’t afford to give up in frustration. And there are things to do. If enough of us do them, we may be heard.
- 1. First: TELL everybody that you know. The mainstream news media isn’t talking about it, so we need to.
- 2. EXPLAIN the issues to everybody who will listen. If you can’t explain it, (after all, how many of us are IP lawyers?) send them to any of the links above, send them to Michael Geist, Howard Knopf, BoingBoing, p2pnet, zeropaid, wikipedia… wherever, whatever it takes.
- 3. Write letters to politicians.
- 4. Submit letters to the Editor to your local newspaper, or one of the national ones, or magazines like MacLeans. Comment online (where appropriate). Talk to your local radio station– great interview topic, make for a good phone in show… Or find a local Indie band. Chances are they will know exactly how important this fight is. Maybe they’ll play a free concert in the park to raise awareness.
- 5. Blog if you’ve got a blog. If you don’t, it’s really easy to start one. (most blogs are much shorter than this. Really.) If you really don’t want to start a blog, but you’ve got something to say, contact me (or another blogger of your choice) about doing a guest blog post.
- 6. Use Twitter, Identi.ca, Facebook, IRC channel chat rooms– or any other internet information sharing thing you are part of– to spread the word. (Michael Geist has a Fair Copyright for Canada group on Facebook, and the Facebook CAPP group is still out there.
- 7. There is also Fairvote Canada a grass roots non-partisan electoral reform movement which is growing local chapters across the country. On Wednesday May 12th the Waterloo, Chapter is hosting a debate Debate: Strategic Voting – What’s a voter to do?.
Michael Geist recommends sending an actual paper mail letter via snail mail postal mail. Right or wrong, politicians attach far more weight to paper letters than email. After all, anyone could say they were anyone on an email. (Like that doesn’t hold true for a paper letter.) But email is EASY. It takes so little effort for us to send that maybe it doesn’t mean we’re really serious. We haven’t showed our commitment to the issue by writing on actual paper and giving Canada Post something to do. Last year when I emailed politicians about an issue, some of them weren’t tech savvy enough to turn off the email confirmations. Of those, about half confirmed that my email was deleted without being read. So look at it this way, if you send them a paper letter, someone in the office has to at least open it before throwing it out.
If you don’t know who your representative is in your riding, this is a link to the MP postal code look-up. Find your MP and the first letter should go to your own MP, but don’t stop there. Send letters to:
The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
House of Commons
Minister of Industry
The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
House of Commons
Minister of Heritage
The Hon. James Moore, P.C., B.A.
House of Commons
Michael Ignatieff, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
House of Commons
House of Commons
[*M. Duceppe would prefer communication in French, but I've heard that he's classy enough to respond to mono-lingual English speakers in English
(in other words, English would be better than a bad Google translation]
The Hon. Jack Layton, P.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
House of Commons
NDP Technology Critic
House of Commons
Unelected leader of the Green Party
[The green party of canada only makes phone and web contact information available on their site. I guess that's a reasonable stance for an environmental party.
(Maybe I just couldn't find it since I'm tired, being up way past my bedtime to finish this.) You could call during business hours, but my guess is that emailing would be fine here.]
The Unelected Leader of the Pirate Party of Canada
Pirate Party of Canada
43 Samson Blvd #165
Laval QC H7X 3R8
[Since the Pirate Party exists to promote copyright reform, it's reasonable to assume they oppose any DMCA like legislation, but it wouldn't hurt to discuss the issues with them. One reason I plug them is because they legally distribute music from some great Canadian bands free online through their p2p Pirate Tracker. Great for Canadian heritage, eh? Last I heard the PPOC was expecting the official party status notification which will make them eligible to field candidates for the next Federal Election.]
It certainly wouldn’t hurt to ferret out any smaller political parties that may exist in your riding. Wikipedia of course has a list of canadian political parties which would be an excellent starting point. The more people we have talking about copyright, the better
It has taken so long to get this article done that it’s Thursday… and I’m just about to post this monstrosity but I thought I’d include a link to Michael Geist’s latest on the subject Covering the Return of the Canadian DMCA as he’s included many links to articles I haven’t had time to look at yet both online and (ahem) in the mainstream news media.
(If there’s enough buzz, the mainstream HAS to follow.)
Get involved. There are many ways to participate. It’s for our future.
Update May 9th, 2010
It wouldn’t hurt to add two more to the list of letter recipients:
Liberal Industry critic
House of Commons
Liberal Heritage critic
House of Commons
These late additions are courtesy of Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights. This group has a nice form letter on offer so you can Send A Letter To Ottawa To Stop The Canadian DMCA. You can customize the letter in their online form, and when you submit it, they will electronically submit your letter to an array of politicians (a less extensive list than mine, which is a kitchen sink approach) and then the CCER also undertakes to forward a hard copy to these same politicians.
Certainly it is less work to allow someone else to do the mailing for you, but that’s always a bit dangerous. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself online–a simple internet security safeguard– is to not give out any more personal info than you absolutely have to online. There are times when we haven’t a choice. When dealing with my bank, I HAVE to identify myself to them if I want to be able to access my cash. But then, I only access my bank through their secure (read encrypted) web page.
I wouldn’t use a form myself, partly because I’m a writer, and partly because, like email, politicians assign less weight to a form letter. On the other hand, a form letter is much better than no response at all. Of course, I might cut and past their form letter into Open Office to use as a road map for writing my own.
This is not to malign the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights. They are just trying to make it as easy as possible for concerned citizens to put their two cents worth in, because the CCER understands the importance of speaking out. But ANY time you fill in a form like this and send your unencrypted personal information over the Internet it can easily go astray or be harvested by spammers. Especially in Canada where the CRTC has given Bell Canada permission to use Deep Packet Inspection on Canadian Internet traffic. DPI makes it possible for Bell to see anything unencrypted that we put online. Bell Canada assured the CRTC that it would not abuse this process, but there is no oversight or any meaningful complaint procedure in place should your personal information be compromised in any way.
I’ll opt for caution.
P.S. The bill is scheduled to be tabled (introduced into the legislature, I think that means first reading but I may be wrong) this afternoon.
For breaking news check Michael Geist’s blog. Curerently this is the latest: