a sad day for Canada

Jack Layton stands before a Canadian Flag
Jack Layton
July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011

Today we lost Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s Official Opposition Party, the NDP (New Democratic Party).  Regardless of what party (if any) you support, Canadians know Mr. Layton was a good and great man.

He will be sorely missed.

A Canadian flag hangs limp before a grey sky



Image Credits
Jack Layton photo by Matt Jiggins under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.
Sad Flag cc by laurelrusswurm

whose election is it anyway? #elxn41

Elected Members of Parliament from the previous session of parliament are by no means guaranteed a seat in the next Parliament.

The clearest example of the change that can take place in the course of a single election can be seen by comparing the 34th Canadian Parliament and the 35th Canadian Parliament.

Every registered political party running candidates in the election should be treated the same. Because NO ONE has been elected yet.

Gilles Duceppe on the Campaign Trail with Berard Bigras

During the televised “Leadership Debate” Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe stated:

“Mr. Layton, you know this just as much as I do.   I, say it, will never be prime minister. And you know, you won’t be prime minister either,”

—Gilles Duceppe, “Duceppe says he has saved Canada from a Harper majority

Although M. Duceppe is quite correct in stating that he can not hope to be Prime Minister of Canada, it is because thus far his party exists only in La Province du Québec. Even winning every possible riding in La Belle Province can not garner enough seats to form a Canadian Federal Government. If Mr Duceppe wishes to be Prime Minister of Canada, he first needs to extend his base of support beyond Quebec’s borders.

This is not true of Jack Layton’s NDP.

The New Democratic Party of Canada has fielded Candidates across the country. This means that enough NDP MPs could be elected to form a federal government. Which would transform Jack Layton into the Prime Minster of Canada. Not impossible.

Jack Layton at rally, standing in front of flag.
Prime Minister Layton?

Particularly considering the ideological bankruptcy of both the CPC (Conservative Party of Canada) and the LPC (Liberal Party of Canada).

Prime Minster May?

The same is true for Elizabeth May. The Green Party of Canada (GPC) has fielded candidates all across Canada. If enough Green Party candidates are elected, as the leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth may would become our Prime Minister.

This is why the televised Leadership Debate was such a travesty. The arbitrary rules set by the consortium are in fact meaningless. In a first-past-the-post democracy, it does not matter who formed the last government. That’s old news. Just because they have been elected in the past doesn’t mean they will be elected again. That’s history. All the leaders of all registered parties should have been included.

Every election is a fresh start, as Anne of Green Gables would say, “with no mistakes in it.”

Because no one has been elected, all the candidates are supposed to start on a level playing field.

Canadians have been under the apparently mistaken impression that the Elections Canada mandate was to ensure a fair election. To ensure as level a field as possible. Yet it seems Elections Canada was powerless over the televised Leadership Debates. The way the “debates” were conducted was left entirely in the hands of “the consortium.” This utterly unaccountable media consortium decided that the only leaders allowed on the televised debates would be the ones with elected representatives.

Elections Canada lacks any authority to mandate any rules of fairness.

Previous governments have written laws allowing these unaccountable media corporations to define the terms of election broadcasts. This places the broadcast media in control of what the electorate is allowed to see.

More than ever before, this election is being held at a time when the unaccountable consortium of broadcasters is a special interest group.

Who is in charge of Canada’s mainstream media “consortium”?

Ahem. Bell Canada Enterprises just happens to own the CTV Network, The Globe And Mail, much of Canada’s land and cell phone networks, as well as a huge chunk of the Internet backbone. The supposedly arms length CRTC has failed Canadians by granting the gigantic Bell more and more control over the Canadian media when in fact a good regulator would be breaking it down into smaller parts to diminish the unhealthy stranglehold this corporation has over the Canadian digital economy. Usage Based Billing is just one of the perks that Bell has attempted with the assistance of the CRTC.

Suffice it to say that Elections Canada should be calling the shots, not media special interest groups.

democracy #fail

The deliberate exclusion of Green Party candidates by the media in the supposedly non-partisan meetings seems the recurring theme for this election. The media supposedly “covering” these all candidates meetings and debates is actually controlling them.

The Renfrew Conservative candidate walked out of a debate that had excluded the local Green Party candidate.

Then there was the “Kitchener Centre Forum” put on by the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce at Kitchener City Hall on April 21st. This forum only invited four of the seven candidates registered to run in this riding. Stephen Woodworth (Conservative Party of Canada), Karen Redman (Liberal Party of Canada), Peter Thurley (New Democratic Party), and Byron Williston (Green Party of Canada) were allowed to attend while Mark Corbiere (Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada), Alan Rimmer (Independent), and Martin Suter (Communist Party of Canada) were excluded.

Canadian media coverage used to be equitable to all the candidates.

Instead of fair election coverage, Canadians are getting scripted debates and reality TV.

up close and personal: local level debates

I missed the first Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meeting in my riding since it conflicted with the televised leadership debate.

What I heard went on revealed it to have been something of a travesty. Albert Ashley, the Green Candidate was absent altogether (out of the country), making the “All Candidate” meeting short one candidate. Like the televised “Leadership Debate”, this local debate was rigidly controlled by the media companies, in this case, Rogers Cable and The Record newspaper. Apparently candidate answers were limited to 30 second sound bites, making the answers, for the most part, shorter than the questions.

The published Record story downplays the fact that the incumbent Albrecht’s ‘office’ had been caught out for registering his opponent’s domain name and putting spurious content online.

What would have been a major scandal back when we still had a watch-dog press, instead came out in the Record as a partisan whitewash. The characterized this breach of ethics (if not law ) as “website pranks.” In fact it is very close to Identity theft, and may well constitute libel or fraud in the business world.

What the Record would call it if someone were to register the http://www.thekwrecord.com/ domain name and load it with spurious content?

Apparently Harold Albrecht laid off the responsibility for this attack on “an overzealous volunteer,” named by the Record as “his former chief of staff Jeff Chatterton.” Apparently Albrecht offered to sell the domain names to Liberal Candidate Bob Rosehart.

A closer look reveals Jeff Chatterton is no eager innocent, but rather a former journalist who hung out a public relations shingle and cut his teeth in damage control for the City of Walkerton during the Walkerton water crisis. Chatterton’s bio indicates he has made a career of characterizing scientific findings in opposition to his corporate client’s interests as “junk science.” According to Chatterton’s Facebook Page, the tag line for his company, Checkmate Public Affairs, is “Keeping clients OUT of the news – and doing it alarmingly well.”

Which makes me wonder what other improprieties are conducted in Mr. Albrecht’s office that can be blamed on underlings.
What ever happened to personal responsibility?

Possibly the most disturbing thing about the article is the Record implication that the Green Party candidate’s absence is spurious. Scheduling an all candidates meeting for a date when one of the four candidates is out of the country, and then blaming that candidate for the absence is masterful politicking.

But it is not what one would expect from an unbiased media.

looking over a creek at a very nice neighborhood in winter

The Elmira All Candidates Meeting

Put on by the “Greater KW Chamber of Commerce,” and again run by the media, this time the local 570 News Radio station. There were perhaps 200 to 300 seats, all filled, with an additional 50 or so standing room only attendees.

This indicates a far larger turnout than expected. (Interestingly, I also heard that Tuesday’s Kitchener-Waterloo All Candidates meeting was also standing room only, but their reported overages were in the hundreds.)

The format of the meeting was to pose a series of questions, which each candidate had the opportunity to answer. And at the end, “if time permits” they said they ‘might’ take questions from the audience. In other words, the corporate radio station decided the questions to be asked, while the citizens in attendance would only be allowed to pose questions on sufferance.

[They did, in fact, take audience questions at the end, and the moderator made a bee line to a young man in a suit whose first question exposed him as an embarrassingly blatant conservative shill.]

Applause

While it is may be reasonable to applaud a panel of candidates when introduced at the outset of such a meeting, it is wholly inappropriate to applaud each answer.
hands clapping

Since time was supposedly an issue, no applause should have been allowed. Interestingly, the applause was loudest and absurdly long for the only professional candidate, the Conservative incumbent, Harold Albrecht.

The applause reminded me of those talent programs where the loudest cheering section, not talent, decides the winner. It doesn’t matter how talented or not the participant is, the contest is won by how many friends they can bring. This bit of showmanship is important only as a demonstration of political power.

Which is, of course, precisely why applause should not be allowed at an ostensibly non-partisan political meeting held during an election. I wonder how much that influenced the trickle of attendees who walked out though out the show…
er, meeting.

Party Platforms

The theme of all answers given by both the Conservative Party incumbent and the Liberal Party challenger was to attack each other’s ruling party record. Of course the Conservative cheering section applauded Harold Albrecht’s Liberal attack-answers just as the Liberal cheering section applauded Bob Rosehart’s Conservative attack-answers.

The worst of it is, both cheering sections were right. Every bad Liberal deed that Albrecht pointed out was true, just as every bad Conservative deed Rosehart mentioned was. The problem is that the partisan cheering section doesn’t seem to care that the team they cheer … er their party … has done bad stuff, too.

Many who blindly pick a leader and a party will follow them no matter what bad deeds they have done or are going to continue to do. They have made a choice to allow someone else to decide what to think and who to vote for, and are not going to change. And that’s their right. Where it becomes a problem is when they pack a hall and engage in an “applause battle” in an attempt to exert peer pressure, itself a form of bullying, to pressure others to vote for your team… er, party.

Since the NDP and Green Party haven’t ever had the opportunity to rule, they weren’t included in the slagging match, and had no choice but to answer the questions. The Green Party’s Albert Ashley made it clear that his candidacy was last minute, so he was really just getting up to speed, and clearly not as conversant with his party’s platform as the other candidates. He did manage to crack up the audience with the observation that no one had hijacked his domain name. NDP candidate Lorne Bruce answered all the questions posed concisely and well, something not often seen in a campaign.

Ironically, one of the key topics was the decisions that lay ahead for the Region in regard to the expansion of public transit. The implication was that these decisions for the region would be made at rarefied stratas by the rich and powerful who do not have to actually use public transit. Which may explain why both Conservative Harold Albrecht and Liberal challenger Bob Rosehart champion the sexy LRT expansion option, rather than the more prosaic NDP intention to expand bus service to ensure citizen access before adding luxury bells and whistles.

But clearly, any citizens actually needing public transit have been excluded from the Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meetings.

IXpress bus driving in urban area

As it turns out, a third All Candidates meeting was added for the Kitchener-Conestoga riding tonight. When I first heard, I thought it would provide an opportunity to allow citizens reliant to transit access to the electoral process. Silly me. This one was held in New Hamburg, and again without and public transit access. I didn’t attend this one.

Since all four candidates are on Facebook, yesterday I asked them all this question:

Laurel Russwurm
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?

I do understand that time is short, and social networking is anything but universally adopted. It takes time to master, and there is an election to run. So I don’t hold it against the two candidates who have not yet responded. Still, the responses I did receive were interesting.

First, I need to mention that I included the link to my Voter Apathy article with the question, as I felt it provided background on the disenfranchisement of voters. And three of the four candidate facebook pages allowed the link to be posted.

The only one that didn’t was Harold Albrecht’s. His Facebook page is also the only one that does not allow visitors/fans to initiate content. So the only way to post my question was to attach it to an existing Harold Albrecht status as a comment. So I did.

Imagine my surprise when someone other than Harold Albrecht responded for Mr. Albrecht. This is the exchange:

Laurel Russwurm
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?

Jeff Chatterton
Laurel – Harold is no more to blame for All-Candidates Meeting locations than you or I. He simply goes where the meeting is held, he doesn’t organize them.

Laurel Russwurm
I asked what he will do to compensate for the fact no “All Candidates Meetings” are being held in transit accessible venues. How is he reaching out to the citizens that rely on public transit?

Greg McLean
Harold, your re-election office is less than 2km’s to my neighbourhood. Haven’t seen you or any or your team door-knocking.. how come?

Harold Albrecht
‎@Laurel, I’m reaching out to citizens with or without access to public transit the same ways: advertising, doorknocking, a website, this facebook page, and participating in All-Candidates’ Meetings. As was noted above, I do not control w…ho invites me to attend ACM’s.

@ Greg, it may be that we’ve knocked on your door and missed you, or it may be that we haven’t reached your neighborhood yet. It’s physically impossible for me to meet in person at the doorstep with the 100,000+ citizens I’m privileged to represent, but as the thousands of people I’ve had the privilege to meet during this campaign will attest, I’m trying my best.

Thank you both for your questions.

Harold Albrecht’s Facebook Page

At the time I received the defensive answer from Jeff Chatterton I had no idea who he was. Possibly a zealous Albrecht booster, but more likely a staffer. Having discovered he was Harold Albrecht’s “former campaign manager,” the speed and firmness of his defensive response makes me seriously wonder how “former” his association with Harold Albrecht really is.

The other response I got was from the NDP candidate, Lorne Bruce.

Laurel Russwurm
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?

Lorne Bruce
Laurel, I understand how you feel about this issue. Many of my campaign staff use transit as well. Because we do not plan these all candidates meetings we have very little say in where they are held. The best we can and have been doing is organizing car pools for those who do not drive. There is one debate left in New Hamburg on Tuesday. If you would like us to try and arrange a carpool give us a call or email @ 519-569-4040 ndp@kcndp.ca and we will do our best.

Lorne Bruce Facebook Page

It was refreshing to hear someone wasn’t making excuses, but putting an effort into addressing the inequity.

All in all, I am left feeling quite disturbed about the way this election is being run.

Why are business associations and media special interests allowed to dictate the course of the election process?

It is disturbing that previous governments have granted so much unaccountable power to corporations. They have put in place election rules and legislation that allows this undemocratic manipulation. If these practices continue, we are likely to end up with some new form of corporate feudalism. Personally, I’d rather see a restoration of democracy.

The Conservatives and Liberals are more concerned with attacking each other than Canada’s problems.

Perhaps because they are responsible for many of them.

Four Canadian political parties have fielded enough candidates to form the 41st Federal Government. I think it is time for a change.

Don’t you?

Conservative NDP Green and Liberal logos



[note: Public figures and their staff are fair dealing to quote particularly during an election; private citizens, however, are not.   I have included Greg McLean’s permission to include his question, which I thought particularly germane to the Voter Apathy issue.]

Image Credits
Gilles Duceppe on the Campaign Trail with Berard Bigras photo by davehuehn under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License

Jack Layton photo by Matt Jiggins

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

“Applause” cc by laurelrusswurm

All political logos reproduced as fair dealing.

Voter Apathy?

Canadian Flag, Old City Hall, Toronto

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 …”

Youth Voter Turnout in Canada
2. Reasons for the Decline and Efforts to Increase Participation

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?

Representative democracy?

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.

beautiful tree lined residential street in Toronto

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?

urban street with 70's era apartment tower and hydro poles

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

IXpress bus driving in urban area

Misconceptions

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.

Conservative NDP Green and Liberal logos
four parties are capable of fielding a 41st national 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).

Pirate Party of Canada logo

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.

DeMOCKracy

woman holds a sign reading "demockracy" overhead at a cold weather rally

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.

Canadian Politics

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.

And we have a growing Vote Mobs multi-partisan movement started by actual Canadian young people under the name Leadnow. Our youth are certainly taking an interest.

Anything is possible.

Because an election wipes the slate clean. If Canadians wanted to, we could elect an NDP or Green Party majority, making Jack Layton or Elizabeth May Prime Minster without even needing a coalition.

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.
red maple leaf graphic

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!



Image Credits:
Original photographs by laurelrusswurm released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License

Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA

Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA
(or DCMA)

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:

Electronic Frontier Foundation logoRT@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.

being heard

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?

American Flag hangs down

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.
[Mixed up links corrected above]

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?

no DMCA Canadian Flag

boingboingboingboing: Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks

Michael Geist

Michael Geist: PMO Issues The Order: Canadian DMCA Bill Within Six Weeks

p2pnet: It’s official – the United States of Canada

Zero Paid

Zero Paid: Canadian DMCA To Be Tabled Within Weeks

Forums » O Canada! » Canadian » Canadian Broadband
» PMO Issues The Order: Canadian DMCA Within Six Weeks!!


Millsworks: Canadian DMCA In 6 Weeks

ideas revolution: Canadian DMCA Bill Within Six Weeks?

Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights: Dear Canada, your voices don’t really matter. Canadian DMCA in 6 weeks. Regards, Stephen Harper

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 • #9 said:
“…they didn’t listen to the consultation; why would they listen this time?”

— boingboing: Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks”

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.

Canadian Flag Superimposed on American Flag

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.
pile of Canadaina newspapers

  • 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.
  • 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:

    Conservative Party of Canada logo

    Prime Minister
    The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Minister of Industry
    The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
    House of Commonscopyright symbol over a red maple leaf
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Minister of Heritage
    The Hon. James Moore, P.C., B.A.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Liberal Leader
    Michael Ignatieff, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    BLOC Leader
    Gilles Duceppe
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6
    [*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]

    NDP Party of Canada

    NDP Leader
    The Hon. Jack Layton, P.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    NDP Technology Critic
    Charlie Angus
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Green Party LogoUnelected leader of the Green Party
    Elizabeth May
    http://greenparty.ca/contact
    [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 Canadapirate party of canada
    Jake Daynes
    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.]

    Canadian Flag through tree

    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

  • 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?.

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
Marc Garneau
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Liberal Heritage critic
Pablo Rodriguez
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

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:

“We Don’t Care What You Do, As Long as the U.S. Is Satisfied”