Vote for Me on Tuesday

by Hugh

Here is my platform that I undertake to implement as Prime Minister of Canada. Please vote for me on Tuesday.

Broadly, I will:

  • Make Canada a recognized global leader in communications technology, and energy technology
  • Increase regulation of financial markets
  • Address climate change
  • Strongly articulate the Canadian Vision to the world, one that focuses on our success at integrating a multiethnic population, based on shared values of a strong social fabric. [NOTE: this sounds a bit bullshitty, but I strongly believe that in these very troubled times in the world, Canada seems to have negotiated the difficulties of the 21st Century remarkably well: we should use this to our advantage].

Specifically, here’s what I will do:

1. Economy (Part 1: Financial System)

Things are bleak, and I have to admit I don’t know how to fix it. The real terror here is that maybe, just maybe, the very basis of “growth” as the fundamental driver of economic and social policy might have been stretched to it’s limit, and broken. If that’s the case, we’re in trouble, because we don’t even know how to talk about anything else. The short term problem is that there is very little Canada can do about it: we are at the mercy of a global economy, and a neighbour that looks to be in disastrous trouble. At the very least, Canada should:

  • develop better regulation of national and international financial transactions and systems, no more unregulated asset classes
  • implement stricter control on the sale of key corporate assets to foreign buyers (it’ll be less of a problem now that credit has dried up, but what better time to work on this)

But that doesn’t deal with the current crisis, so we better focus on that. We’re all going to have to tighten our belts, roll up our sleeves and work very hard to navigate the coming storms.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t have any answers yet, but I promise you, this will be the top focus for the government. I think anyone who says they have solutions right now is lying – it’s hard to even know what the problems will look like.

2. Economy (Part 2: Innovation)

Communication technologies will continue to be the dominant transformative force in the world, economic melt-down or not. Canada needs to position itself to be a true world leader in this sector, instead of the pathetic laggard it’s become in the past decade, notwithstanding RIM and Flickr. This means a few things, including:

  • implement policies that make Canada’s mobile space competitive with the world, for consumers and developers
  • commit to broadband for all
  • massive investment in hackerism in our education systems

In addition to commitments to leadership in communications tech, we’ll identify two other sectors where Canada is a high performer, and target a global ranking in top 3 by 2013. One of them will be energy: massive investment in developing new energy technologies, exporting energy, and/or exportable expertise.

3. Arts

Arts. This is a tough one. Can I level with you? I’m not sure that all this government Arts funding & grants results in very good art. A lot of what Canada produces is, let’s face it, mediocre. Maybe a bit of hunger and global competition would help the Arts more than hinder it. But, don’t worry I won’t be too radical. There will still be a big pot of money, but I’d like to explore new ways to fund arts in more interesting ways. This is a dodge, I know, but I have to be careful with how this one plays in Quebec.

Oh: I will strongly support the CBC, the NFB, the NAC and a few other similar institutions, but in order to get a cent of funding they have to put everything on the web for free. And CBC is not allowed to make any more TV series set in the 1800s in the Maritimes. Also, production of other kinds of schlock will not be encouraged.

4. Environment

Climate change is going to be a doozy, if we aren’t careful, and we are running out of time. There is a reason Kyoto was signed in 1998, without commitments until 2008-2012: To give us a decade to adapt our economy. Instead we pissed that decade away, and didn’t do a thing. So let’s try this again, starting in 2010, all major polluting companies will have to bring down their GHG emission by 1%, 2011 2%, 2012 3% and 2013 4% … and then we’ll see how things are going. We’ll make a carbon trading market, with strict criteria on what acceptable credits are (none of this tree planting bullshit). We’ll integrate with other international markets (EU and the state-lead initiatives in the US); but only 30% of purchased credits to meet obligations can come from international markets, the rest will have to be internal reductions or Canadian-based credit purchases. A 2% tax will be added to all transactions, to go into a federal climate fund, that will fund R&D and adaptation. As the market develops and matures, we’ll start adding requirements on vehicles to either meet new GHG standards, or to be sold along with a stream of pre-purchased carbon credits that will offset a portion of emissions caused by the car. This means that business and consumers will all share the brunt of this. I’m sorry, people, but that’s the point: it is going to be more expensive (though maybe offset by efficiency improvements). If no one had to sacrifice anything, we would have dealt with this years ago.

5. First Nations

It struck me today for some reason that we need to make a serious effort to solve, or move towards solving, the problem of the First Nations in Canada. Question: as you’ve been gloating about how amazing it is that racist USA might just elect a black president, have you wondered how likely it is that we’ll elect a Native Prime Minister in our next election? That says lots of different things, all of which we should seriously try to address. The problems with First Nations are complex, with blame to go all around: you can probably shovel as much of it onto the doorsteps of Native leadership as on the front yards of all the major political parties, and Canadians in general. But finding out who is at fault isn’t worth a thing. Finding out how to solve the problems is. So, as Prime Minister I will commit to sitting down with Native leadership, to define the three most serious issues facing First Nations. Then we’ll start figuring out how to solve them. No bullshit proclamations, I mean really implement serious changes. For some reason, I feel like this might be crucial to Canada’s successful future. No idea why, but that’s how I feel about it.

6. Defense

Afghanistan is going to cost us $16 billion by 2011, and only this past year did the military investigate the history of the Russian involvement in Afghanistan. Jesus Christ, guys. I don’t even know what to say. Turns out we’ve made all the same mistakes as the Russians. Look: we need to define the goal or get out. I would not commit to immediate withdrawl, but someone damn well better be able to articulate a decent vision of “victory in Afghanistan” that has a chance in hell of actually happening. And if no one can do that, then let’s get out. I’m willing to talk on this one, but I tell you I am leaning heavily to: Get Out. My only hesitation is that, love em or hate em, we have to play nice with the USA, since they are our neighbours, and we are tied to them whether we like it or not. Oh, and by the way, when I do cut the Afghan mission, I’m not going cut military spending, I’ll just focus it better on military infrastructure and domestic needs, including the Arctic. I think the Canadian military has been starved of funds, and I just don’t think that’s a good idea.

7. Copyright

This might seem like a niche issue to some, but to me copyright law is the legal framework that underpins how we create, use and share information. It is the legal basis for the intellectual life of the country. We will implement a modernized law, that takes into account the Internet, drops criminalization of personal use and doesn’t have any of this damned anti-circumvention crap in it. We’ll consult with New Zealand, and Israel, who apparently have recently come out with new laws. Michael Geist will be my special advisor, and we’ll do a wide consultation before committing to law any stupid legislation that might screw up Canada for a generation.

8. Transparency in Government

First, we will ditch Crown Copyright, and commit to making taxpayer-funded datasets available to citizens for free, in accessible formats. We’ll start with StatsCan, and work out from there. In addition, we will actively support grassroots initiatives that build on government datasets. In addition we’ll work to have government decision-making processes opened up to more scrutiny on the web. Everyone in my government will sign the I Believe In Open Pledge, and maybe we’ll pass it into law.

The first dataset we release will be the set of postal codes tied to electoral districts.

9. Education

We’ll tie education in with #2, innovation in the economy, with lots of money for educational hackerism, and for wonky abstract arts too, since that’s where so much innovation comes from, even if it takes a while to trickle back to the rest of the world.

We’ll increase commitments to funding post-secondary education.

10. Health

Health. God, what a mess. Whatever we are doing, it is not working. Things are getting worse and worse. We will:

  • Define specific Canadian health priorities (with a focus of preventative medicine – not the fake kind that gives everyone drugs for diseases the might get later)
  • Better manage drug costs, with a Canada-wide drug insurance plan (provinces that don’t want to play can go on their own, and when studies show the Canada-wide durg costs 25% lower than the independent province costs, they can let their populations decide what they want to do)
  • Examine 4 healthcare models (Australia, France, UK, Canada), match outcomes with our health priorities, and then model Canada’s new health system on the best practices from those countries
  • Level with Canadians and tell them that our healthcare system is broken and getting worse, and that we already have so much private stuff in our system, that we just have to face up to the fact that it’s going to be part of the solution.
  • Get more nurses on the job, and shake things up so that nurses and Doctor’s assistants can do more of the routine work
  • Prioritize on increasing numbers of family doctors