Ding Dong Bill C-32 is Dead

Canadian DMCA

I am happy that the writ was dropped before Bill C-32 was passed.

Is that a bad thing?

Of course it mans we have another federal election.

Copyright Reform Apathy

Not so long ago, Jesse Brown did a Search Engine podcast called So Bored of Copyright. He wasn’t alone in thinking that Bill C-32 was likely to be pushed through no matter how atrocious simply because everyone is tired of arguing about copyright. The thinking, shared by many other Canadian activists was that our elected representatives just want it to be over. I understand how difficult it is to fight the same fight over and over again. But still, there was a disturbing willingness to settle for bad law just because everyone is tired of it.

copyright symbol over a red maple leaf

That’s wrong.

Copyright law will impact on every Canadian. Our existing copyright law may not be perfect, but it isn’t as though we are a lawless nation of pirates, no mater what the USTR says to get a trade advantage. So I’m happy Bill C-32 is off the table, even if it does mean we’re having another Federal election. And I’m sure it will be back, but the longer it takes, there is less chance that we’ll end up with a copyright law benefitting special interest groups to the detriment of Canadian Culture.

Some people are tired of elections.

We’re having them too frequently, apparently.

Yet there are places in the world where there are no elections. Or where the election results are preordained.

Other people are unhappy because elections are expensive.

If we have a minority government, it stands to reason that we will have more elections. It is much harder to run a minority government because the government can’t operate in a vacuum.  They have to build a consensus. And sometimes even listen to what the citizens want.  And if they want to do something that the people think ill advised, we have some possibility of preventing it.

a pile of canadian money

Then some people think majority government is a good thing.   Talk about an expensive proposition.

Say what you want, our run of minority governments has meant very little in the way of patronage spending.   While majority governments are always awash in patronage.   That’s got to be worse.

Even with a minority our federal government managed to find a billion dollars for the G20.

Acryllic on Illustration board painting by Aviation Artist Lance Russwurm
The AVRO Arrow ~ painting by Lance Russwurm

Can you imagine? How many fighter jets would we have bought if there was a majority government? Wait a minute… fighter jets? Excuse me? If we want fighter jets, why don’t we build our own, shall we? You know, like the AVRO Arrow?

Citizens can’t afford NOT to have elections. We need as many as it takes.

I’ve heard some people are saying they will vote for the Conservative Party of Canada just to give them a majority, just to be done with this election business.

the NoProrogue rally in Guelph

You know what?

If you want to vote for a political party you don’t support, that is your democratic right.

You can use your vote to improve this great nation of ours, or you can waste your vote. You get to decide.

You can vote for the candidate you believe will do the best job for you, or you can vote the way someone else tells you to vote. It is entirely up to you.

You can vote strategically and vote for someone you don’t want to elect. It seems to me that strategic voting is always about voting for someone else;s candidate, never your own. That seems to me just as big a waste. But still, it is your right to choose.

You can spoil your ballot, which won’t count. Or not cast a vote at all.

Andrew Telegdi

A great many of us are frustrated because we’ve been ignored for so long. Many of us have given up because the people we vote for are never elected. In the Conservative stronghold where I live, Liberal candidate Andrew Telegdi lost his seat in the last Federal election by 17 votes. And one of the most powerful members of the incumbent government “tweeted”:

Minister of Industry Tony Clement

On Twitter, Tony Clement said:
@TonyclementCPC I use my 28 vote margin in 2006 all the time as an example of “every vote counts!”

The thing to remember is that when we abstain from voting, our voice, however small, is completely unheard. Abstaining from voting doesn’t “teach them a lesson,” it gives them our power. It makes it easier for fewer people to determine our government. All voter apathy does is to make electoral inequity worse.

You have the right not vote. But every vote not cast means that fewer votes hold greater sway. I am well aware Canadian votes count for more or less depending on geographical location. That’s bad enough. If you, like me, live in a place where your vote only counts for a fraction, blowing it off makes it worse. What government does affects all of us.

Debate and Democracy

GPC leader Elizabeth May with nearly a million constituents, not a seat in the House

This election will impact on us all too. Although we are desperately in need of electoral reform, we have to do the best we can with what we’ve got. So although it is your right to vote or not, I hope you decide to vote, and more, to vote the way you believe is best.

I’ve been trying to get the final proof of my novel done, so I’m spread a bit thin. Still, there’s been a flap about the proposed televised Federal Leadership Debate. The decision (by who?) has been made to exclude Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

The story they are trying to sell is that her exclusion stems from the fact no Green party member has yet been elected. Naturally this speaks to the issue of Electoral reform, since nearly a million Canadian citizens cast Green votes in the last election without electing one.

The thing is, we might have bought that argument had Elizabeth May not participated in just such a debate in a previous election. Excluding her now is not only grossly unfair, but a sign of just how well she did last time.

Unlike our American Neighbors, Canada is a multi-party country. So long as our nation subscribes to party politics, I’m inclined to think that any leadership debate ought to include the leaders of every registered political party. The point of an election is that the slate is wiped clean. No one has been elected yet for the 41st Parliament. So all the candidates – and leaders – ought to be treated as equals. I’m sure that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney would be happy to tell you what a difference an election can make.

It is in our own best interests to stand up for our democracy. The leader of Canada’s fledgling Pirate Party hit the nail on the head when he tweeted:

pirate party of canada


A vote for anyone other than your first choice undermines democracy. We should vote for,
not vote against

I don’t know about you, but as inefficient as our system is, and as badly as we need electoral reform, I’m rather partial to democracy.

And elections are a really good time to get out there and find out what the candidates think.

Or at least what they say.


Canadian Political Party Logos
Registered Federal Canadian Parties include neorhino, Christian Heritage, Communist Party of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador First, Libertarian, Work Less Party, People’s Political Power Party, Green Party, First Peoples National Party, Bloc Quebecois, Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Marxist Leninist Communist Party, and the NDP

Image Credits

AVRO Arrow, painting by Lance Russwurm

Andrew Telegdi photo by Chris Slothouber

Tony Clement, Twitter account image (fair dealing)

Elizabeth May photo by Grant Neufeld, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5) License

All political logos reproduced as fair dealing.

All other images created by laurelrusswurm and released CC by-sa

4 thoughts on “Ding Dong Bill C-32 is Dead

  1. While I agree with the spirit of your message, I disagree with some of the specific things you’ve said. In particular, characterizing voting for a candidate other than your first choice as “a big waste” seems particularly naive.

    Consider my situation. Up until this election, I lived in a Liberal stronghold. So strong, in fact, that they could have run a plant as the candidate and it would probably have been elected. In that riding, I could vote for my first choice freely, because, frankly, it didn’t really matter. But now I find myself in a “swing” riding – a riding where the difference between the Conservative and Liberal candidates in the last election was very small, and where there has been much swinging back and forth between the two over the past several elections.

    Here’s my dilemma. I would *love* to vote for a “third party” (pardon me, I find that term a little demeaning to the other parties when used in the general sense, but it is accurate in this particular riding), but consider what would happen if I did (and, assume my vote actually makes a difference). If I vote NDP or Green rather than Liberal, I increase the chance that the Conservative candidate will win. Which, of course, increases the chance that Harper will get his majority. Which, of course, given his piss-poor record of respecting the democratic process, means that ultimately I’m *surrendering* control of my government. Follow? In essence, by voting my first choice, I am effectively surrendering my democratic power – not *just* like I would if I just spoiled my ballot… but *even more so* than I would if I just spoiled my ballot (because not only am I *not* increasing my own democratic power, I am actively increasing the power of someone who will probably take it away). By contrast, if I vote Liberal – even though I’d rather not – I help break a potential Harper majority, and keep some semblance of democracy in the government.

    The problem in my case is not my own apathy or lack of understanding of the democratic process – I would not be “wasting” my vote – it is the fact that the electoral process itself is flawed. Because the *system* is broken, I *can’t* get what I want by voting honestly – voting honestly, in fact, would *hurt* me. *This* is a perfect example of why we need electoral reform – and not just mucking around with proportional representation, but changing the actual voting process to something like ranked-voting rather than first-past-the-post. You’re right when you say “as inefficient as our system is, and as badly as we need electoral reform, I’m rather partial to democracy”, but your priorities are wrong… real democracy does not and cannot come before electoral reform. We have a broken system; the best we can hope to do is fudge with it to make it work as well as possible. The hard reality is that I have no *real* democratic power, because I have no way to vote for what I really want without making my situation much, much worse; that’s not a democratic vote, that’s a Sophie’s Choice between Canada and my own principles.

  2. I do hear what you are saying, and on the face of it, it sounds reasonable. Yes, we are certainly agreed that electoral reform is necessary. Being open to new ideas does not signify naiveté. Nor do I suffer an illusion about how truly democratic our system is. Things are bad now, and could very well worse. That’s why I think strategic voting needs to be stopped.

    This idea of “strategic voting” has been touted as a valid work-around for more than a decade. And people have bought into it. Yet what has changed? All it appears to have done is to shore up the two party dance between the Liberal and Conservative parties and help erode many of the things Canadians hold dear.

    The reason you aren’t going to vote for the candidate you want or the party of your choice is fear of a possible negative outcome. That’s the fuel behind “strategic voting”, the force that is eroding the possibility any other parties will be able to achieve traction.

    The thing to realize is that so long as it’s a two horse race, electoral reform will never happen, because neither of the two parties that alternate in ruling our nation will benefit from electoral reform.

    As bad as a Conservative majority would be, a Liberal majority would be as bad. We need to start empowering the parties we want, rather than propping up the ones that we’re stuck with.

  3. I disagree – not that strategic voting is bad, but that we shouldn’t use it, and your characterization of it favouring the big two parties. Strategic voting is indeed terrible, and the fact that we need to resort to it is a symptom of our broken system. But the plain fact is, as you say, the big two have no motivation to do anything about it, and it would be foolish to believe that that will change if we just *hope* for it.

    Both the NDP and the Green Party have made election reform a major issue (for their own self-interest, of course, but that doesn’t really matter), so if we can just increase their numbers to the point where the major parties *have* to capitulate to them, we *might* just finally get the broken system fixed. But in order for that to happen, we need to be smarter with our votes. To put it bluntly, the system has screwed us for decades… it’s time to screw it back. The NDP and Green combined got 25% of the popular vote last time, but only 12% of the seats – but if we plan, organize and vote strategically, we can do better. Not only can we see to it that the seat % is closer to the vote %, but we may also increase the vote % (for example, with cases like mine).

    While it would be nice to just hope that everyone will vote for their first choice in their district, or to say that they *should*, the hard fact is that they *shouldn’t*. Mathematics will trump hope every time, and, mathematically speaking, it would be irrational for most people to vote their first choice. My case is an example of why. I don’t want either the Liberals or Conservatives to have a majority (I don’t want *any* party to have a majority), but the hard truth, given the information I have on hand now, is that a Conservative majority is not an unlikely outcome – so if I want to prevent a majority, the mathematically rational thing for me to do (using game theory to model voting strategies) is to do everything in my power to make sure Conservatives lose seats. And the only practical way to do that in my district… is to vote against my first choice.

    Now, you imply that that means that strategic voting only serves to prop up the two big parties, but that’s not really true. It’s true in *my* case, because in my particular district, the battle is between Conservative and Liberal… but it’s not true in *every* district. For example, in the Northwest Territories, it’s between NDP and Conservative. In Central Nova Scotia, it’s between Green and Conservative. In St. John’s South in Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s between Liberal and NDP. And this is where vote swapping comes in.

    If I want to vote for the NDP (for example), what I could do is swap a vote with someone in NT who wants to vote Liberal. Their vote there would probably be useless, and, if the Conservative wins the seat, that means less power for their party. On the other hand, if the NDP representative wins, it doesn’t *really* take away from Liberal power… but they would be voting against their first choice. So, if we swap votes, I vote NDP in their district, increasing the chance of an NDP win there, and they vote Liberal in my district, increasing the chance of a Liberal win here… and we both win. I get an NDP guy in, and they get a Liberal in, both or either of which may have been Conservatives had we not worked together. (And if I preferred Green over NDP, I’d contact someone in Central Nova Scotia. If I preferred NDP and didn’t mind giving this district to the Conservative, I’d contact someone in St. John’s, and so on.)

    Don’t get me wrong, strategic voting is not good, but we *need* to use it if we’re really serious about giving more power to the parties that deserve more. There are many times when you have to do something terrible to fix a bigger problem – like cutting someone open, which is normally a really bad idea, but necessary to perform life-saving operations. We have to do it because the system is broken, and stacked against us, and we need to increase our influence on the equation. We can’t just say “it’s bad” and *hope* that things will get better, because, with no other variables in the equation, there is no reason that they should. In my case, if I don’t use strategic voting, I give even more power to the big two, and surrender more of my own. If we really want to end the two-horse-race paradigm, we have to use strategic voting to accomplish that, because it won’t happen on its own.

    Once we finally get election reform and institute a *functional* voting system, strategic voting will not only be unnecessary, it will be pointless. But until then, it’s a tool we have to leverage, or it – and the system – will be leveraged against us.

  4. Our government should represent all Canadians. It doesn’t. Yes, we need a rational, functional voting system. We don’t have one.

    Even so, your insistence that people shouldn’t vote for the candidate they want because “mathematically speaking, it would be irrational for most people to vote their first choice” makes no sense at all.

    You are falling into the trap of looking at past stats. Since people have been voting strategically, past stats aren’t valid. Not even close.

    How many people who would have voted Green to save the environment instead been convinced to vote Liberal to save us from that demon Harper? How many citizens who might have voted NDP to reinvigorate universal health care instead voted Conservative because they are frightened of what Michael Ignatief might do if he were given the helm?

    The reason that I say strategic voting only helps the two alternating ruling parties is because they are the only two that benefit.
    Liberals enlist the support of the other parties
    the unimportant parties who have no hope of being elected
    to defeat the Conservatives.

    Just as Conservatives enlist the support of the other parties
    the unimportant parties who have no hope of being elected
    to defeat the Liberals.

    That’s the real reason why the other parties have no hope of being elected….
    voters are told that they can’t or shouldn’t vote for who they want to vote for.

    On the basis of what: the past? Brian Mulroney’s party was virtually wiped out in a single election.

    Or on the basis of the pundits? Like the pundits who said American president Harry Truman would never be elected for a second term with such assurance that the newspapers trumpeting Truman’s loss were in circulation when he won.

    Your elaborate vote swapping strategy presupposes so many impossible variables as to be useless.

    If you believe the odds are so bad in your riding, change the balance of power by getting people who don’t usually to go out and vote. Convoluted impractical scenarios won’t provide leverage so much as confusion, which does nothing but support the alternating ruling parties..

    The reality is that people who think their vote won’t count don’t vote.
    We all need to vote. And as important,

    we need to vote the way we choose for ourselves.

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