Categories: politics

My Platform for the Canadian Federal Election

The other day, I listed & evaluated the clarity of federal party platforms, as they appear on their platform pages on their websites. I promised my own platform/priorities. Before I do that though, I think it’ worth making a comment:

Every party now is more or less committed to fiscal conservatism[ref]Testing simple footnotes.[/ref] — ie balanced budgets — whether left or right. While 20 years ago their may well have been a significant difference between how parties managed their books, these days everyone is committed to matching expenses to revenues. The Conservatives are more likely to cut taxes and spending; the Liberals and NDP are more likely to leave things as they are, but on balance, from a fiscal view, no one is going to do anything radical.

So the question really comes down to party priorities: how will a party allocate budget and focus? Which party’s priorities is likely to build Canada into a country you’d like to live in?

With that short introduction, here are my priorities:

General Statement of Governing Philosophy

Having a healthy, innovative economy gives us the ability to invest in the luxuries we expect as a wealthy country: education, health, infrastructure, arts and other things. At the same time, having a well-educated population, which doesn’t need to worry unduly about healthcare, enables us to build an innovative, and healthy economy.

So a government’s role – my government’s top priorities[ref]Testing footnote #2[/ref] – is three things:
1. to make sure there is a good environment for a healthy economy
2. to determine how much wealth from that economy should be spread to other uses (and keep books balanced in the mean time)
3. to define the priorities for the distribution of excess wealth (mine are: health & education)

My Priorities – Short Version

Economy & Innovation: Invest heavily in high-tech R&D, and simplify corporate taxes.
Healthcare: Increase funding for family doctors, nurses, and implement a national drug purchasing plan.
Education: Invest in high-tech R&D.
Environment: Implement a “starter” carbon tax, and a cap & trade system for big emitters.
Democracy: Prioritize open/accessible government data, and a yearly receipt explaining where taxes go.

My Priorities – Long Version Version

1. Economy & Innovation
Canada’s wealth is based almost entirely on the resource sector, with only a handful of major Canadian companies [RIM(!), Thompson Reuters, Bombardier] having a significant impact on rest of the world. That’s dangerous, and unhealthy, especially given the challenging economic times we live in. We need to have a broader and more innovative economy than we currently have, and putting in place the foundations for such an economy will be the top priority for my government. We will:
– invest heavily in high-tech research & development.
– target Canada to have top 3 broadband penetration in the OECD, and bring Canadian broadband, wireless & data rates in line with the most innovative economies in the world.
– simplify the corporate tax structure.

NOTE: there has to be more here, and the best and the brightest of my government will be set loose on finding good ways to encourage more innovation in the Canadian economy.

2. Health
Our health care system is a shambles, and we can’t even talk about it in any honest way. Private is verboten, which would be fine if our existing system was working, but it isn’t. We need to fix that, and we need to do it in a cost-effective way.

In the short term:
– Increase funding & national priorities for adding more doctors and nurses for primary care (family doctors).
– Implement a national drug purchasing scheme – to establish the best and most cost-effective drugs, and get bulk purchasing benefits.

Long term:
– Define specific healthcare outcomes that we want to prioritize.
– Undertake an analysis of the health care systems of France, UK, Australia, and the US, measured against our priorities.
– Craft future Canadian health system based on above (NOTE: There will be private provision of health care; there already is private provision of healthcare, it’s just that no one is allowed to talk about it honestly).

3. Education:
I’m so far out of the education system, that I have trouble figuring out what priorities ought to be here, but education sure as hell is essential for building an innovative economy. Here are a few radical statements that will contribute to our approach to the education system: educating our kids is really, really important; a great liberal arts education, coupled with many people working on the outside edge of exciting R&D, is likely to make for the most innovative outcomes; access to post-secondary education is essential, but innovation doesn’t come only from schools.

So:
– We’ll invest heavily in high-tech R&D.
– Any suggestions?

4. Environment
Hey, remember climate change? Yeah, me too. Well, living next to the USA means we do have to be cautious about how radical we are about implementing actual reductions, but we need to get a real national policy in place, with teeth, to start cranking down emissions. We will:

– Establish some achievable emission reduction targets, to start working towards our (right now, totally out of reach) Kyoto commitments.
– Implement a carbon tax.
– Implement a cap and trade system for big emitters.
– Improve efficiency standards of cars on the Canadian road & continue a big push for energy efficiencies in Canadian homes & buildings.

5. Democracy
Given the shabby way the Harper Government has treated the Canadian institutions of democracy, it’s worth making this a priority. I will govern with a respect for the democratic traditions of Canada, and beyond that I will:
– Make open/accessible government data a priority.
– Provide every Canadian with a yearly tax receipt that explains where tax money goes.
– Propose a more open system for nominations of Supreme Court judges.
– Take a look at this Senate thing. I don’t understand what it’s for, and why the Senate can block legislation.

Some things I won’t do

* I won’t invest billions in building new prisons, unless there is clear evidence that new prisons are the most cost-effective way to meet stated crime objectives.
* I won’t prorogue parliament mid-session.
* I won’t cut federal funding for political parties.
* I’m not likely to invest $30+ billion in fighter jets.
* I won’t use the Senate to kill legislation I don’t like.


Categories: politics

Canadian Federal Elections: Their Platforms

The federal election is about a week away, and I have no idea what any of the federal parties stand for. The media has done a terrible job; the politicians have done a terrible job.

For you: A brief outline of all the parties’ platforms

So, Web guy that I am I went to the websites of all the parties to find out what they had to say for themselves, and below you will find an extraction of the main policies of each party, along with my evaluation of the clarity of presentation on their policies on their websites, based solely on what is on their platform page. I have not followed links, or delved further into their sites, PDFs (ug), or other such nonsense.

NOTE 1: If it is not on your platform page, you are asking too much of your readers. In fact: why aren’t your platforms on your front page?
NOTE 2: I am not making political assessments of the platforms (I’ll leave that to you), but rather making a neutralish comment on the clarity and ease of access of political messages on party websites.

Conservative Party of Canada

“The platform provides Canadians with a prudent low-tax plan to protect and create jobs by completing our recovery from the global economic recession.”

Conservative Priorities [link]

(Note: priorities were listed as is)

1. Creating jobs through training, trade and low taxes.
2. Supporting families through our Family Tax Cut and more support for seniors and caregivers.
3. Eliminating the deficit by 2014-2015 by controlling spending and cutting waste.
4. Making our streets safe – through new laws to protect children and the elderly.
5. Standing on guard for Canada – by investing in the development of Canada’s North, cracking down on human smuggling and strengthening the Canadian Armed Forces.

Conservative score:

* Clarity of priorities: +1
* Design of website: 0 for ugly design (but not -1, because info is accessible, site is clear)
* Open data format of priorities: +1 (yay! plain text!)
* Inspiration of message: 0 (Conservatives: actually, not terrible, but I want a vision of the future please)

Conservatives Total: +2 (max = +4, min = -4)
Qualitative assessment: Technocratic tax cutters & spending cutters.

Liberal Party of Canada

“Our platform objective: to make equal opportunity a reality for every Canadian.”

Liberal Priorities [link]

(Note: I had to extract this information from a long letter from Ignatieff.)

1. We will invest in quality, affordable child care for every young family that needs it.
2. We will help every family with the costs of college or university
3. We will help families take time off from work to look after sick loved ones at home.
4. We’ll strengthen universally accessible health care for all
5. We’ll build on the Canada Pension Plan so everyone can retire in security and dignity.
6. We’ll have a new tax credit to help with the up-front costs of renovations to make your home more energy-efficient.
7. We will promote Canadian success overseas and stand up for the proud ideal that a citizen of Canada is truly a citizen of the world.

Liberal score:
* Clarity of priorities: -1 [a) you don’t even list them, I had to do it for you, b) what do any of these objectives/priorities mean?]
* Design of website: -1 for design (it’s pretty, but you have no idea what message you want to convey)
* Open data format of priorities: 0 (buried in text )
* Inspiration of message: -1 (Liberals: Do you even know what you stand for? Or what you are offering Canada?)

Liberals Total: -3 (max = +4, min = -4)
Qualitative assessment: Mushy policy by committee.

NDP

“Today I’m releasing my affordable plan to get Ottawa working for your family – one practical step at a time.”

NDP Priorities [link]

(Note: I had to extract these priorities from a .gif image (!))

1. Hire More Doctors and Nurses: We’ll start training more doctors and nurses
2. Strengthen Your Pension: double your public pension
3. Kick Start Job Creation: 2% corporate tax cut, plus tax credits for hiring in Canada
4. Help Out Your Family Budget: Cap credit card fees at prime +5, remove federal sales tax on home heating, and help consumers control home heating.

NDP’s Score:
* Clarity of priorities: +1
* Design of website: +1 for nice design (though you are never going to elect a government with orange & green)
* Open data format of priorities: -1 (WTF, a priorities gif?)
* Inspiration of message: 0 (NDP: what is your vision of the future of Canada?)

NDP Total: +1 (max = +4, min = -4)
Qualitative assessment: Spend more money on health & pensions.

Green Party of Canada

“If you are looking for a serious, realistic and sensible option to the old line parties and old school politics, read this platform.”

Green Priorities [link]

(Note: these priorities were extracted from a vague introduction letter from Elizabeth May)

1. A vision for a modern, smart economy
2. Deficit reduction
3. Creation of new jobs that won’t be gone tomorrow
4. Reduction in pollution in energy generation
4. Healthy communities, eating safe and healthy food, and enjoying a life-giving, healthy natural world.

Green score:
* Clarity of priorities: -1 (generalities, though if you dig into the site things get more specific)
* Design of website: +1 for nice, relatively clear design
* Open data format of priorities: -1 (PDF? and link through to each individual policy plank? Can I get a clear statement on one page please)
* Inspiration of message: +1 (Greens: You’ve got the most ambitious vision for the country, which is good, but you need to communicate it more clearly).

Green total: 0 (Max = +4, Min = -4).
Qualitative assessment: Utopian vision.

Bloc Quebecois

N/A … Platform is contained in a PDF and a link to a flash PDF reader. Hence the Bloc has not put their platform on the Internet.

Bloc total: -4 (Max = +4, Min = -4).
Qualitative assessment: Please use the Internet.

Summary

The scores of the parties, in order of clarity of message on their websites is as follows:
* Conservative Party of Canada: +2
* NDP: +1
* Greens: 0
* Liberal Party of Canada: -3
* Bloc: -4

I will follow-up with my own policy platform shortly.


Categories: philosophy, politics, web

You Can’t Shut WikiLeaks Without Shutting Democracy

My mother just asked what i thought about WikiLeaks … and finally I had an answer (my gut reaction from the beginning has been to support WikiLeaks, but i haven’t articulated that support till now):

1. There is nothing you can do about it.

The internet is designed to support anonymous dumping of masses of documents. You can “shut down” WikiLeaks, but it doesn’t matter: there will be any number of ways anyone with documents they wish to leak will be able to do so, including reams of similar projects that will pop up all over the world, smarter and better than WikiLeaks. Trying to stop WikiLeaks is a pointless exercise, unless you wish to give the state the right to designate people or organizations illegal at will, with no due process.

2. If you shut WikiLeaks with law, you shut the free press.

If you say that the government can prosecute people for publishing information that the government doesn’t want published – for “national security” or any other reason – then you no longer have a free press or free speech. If the government has the ability to outlaw public discussions on whatever topics they please, based on national security, the government then can control the speech of the press, private citizens, and any other kind of mixture of the two. This is what Lieberman’s SHIELD law proposes.

So: there is no point in trying to stop WikiLeaks, and if you do, you have to criminalize activities that are fundamental to our understanding of Western Democracy. There’s not really a middle road, as far as I can tell.


Categories: buisness, politics, science, web

Good Links – Weekly (July 10)

The Great Montreal Link Exchange continues (sorry this is late): Every week Mitch (w / t) picks a link for me and a link for Alistair (w / t). Alistair and I do the same.

Losing Our Cool”: The high price of staying cool.

Alistair for Hugh: Since Montreal’s in the middle of a heat wave, with temperatures cresting at 41 Celsius (105 Fahrenheit for our friends to the South) I thought this would be a good fit for Hugh. It’s about air conditioners. I never gave them much thought, but according to Losing our cool, they’ve shaped us more than we know: encouraging people to reproduce in the summer months; swelling the ranks of voters in Southern states; contributing to a drop in immunity, and more.

How to Teach a Child to Argue.

Alistair for Mitch: For Mitch, who’s frequently called on to convince others, here’s a piece my extremely expectant wife found on teaching your children to argue. While that sounds like a horrible idea, critical thinking and rhetoric can help children reason and figure things out. As we trust crowdsourced data, upvoted stories, and word of mouth more and more, the ability to think discriminately and to distinguish good arguments from bad will become a vital life skill.

Quantum Entanglement Holds DNA Together, Say Physicists.

Hugh for Alistair: Talking to Alistair often leaves me with a sore brain. Another thing that gives me a sore brain is quantum physics, particularly quantum entanglement. Entanglement is a property of quantum systems that links two particles’ states, even if they are separated by vast distances. Or, to quote from today’s link: ‘Entanglement is the weird quantum process in which a single wavefunction describes two separate objects. When this happens, these objects effectively share the same existence, no matter how far apart they might be.’ Well that’s pretty weird. Even weirder would be if it turns out that quantum entanglement is what holds DNA together. Be sure to read the comment thread.

A short History of the development of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology by Dr. Joseph Woo.

Hugh for Mitch: Jaron Lanier has written critically about Wikipedia entries replacing the more idiosyncratic pages by individual experts/hobbyists that used to crop up in web searches in the ‘old days’. At least Wikipedia is for the most part real text written by real people with the intention of helping readers get the information they want. But recently there’s been a new scourge, vapid pages of filler commissioned to match search queries to high-value adwords (see: Demand Media). So, I was shocked and awed and thrilled when I did a recent search for ‘pre-natal ultrasound history’ and found this page: ‘A short History of the development of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology’ written by Dr. Joseph S.K. Woo of Hong Kong. Says the homepage: ‘Rated among the top 5% of all Internet sites by Lycos in 1995’ (!) … A lovingly put-together treasure from the early, innocent days of the web. And still #1 ranked on Google for ‘prenatal ultrasound history.”

Who Is The New CEO?.

Mitch for Alistair: A fascinating Blog post by Vineet Nayar over on the Harvard Business Review Blog where he asks: ‘What then is the role of the new CEO? Is it to personally add the most value to the business? Or is it to enable those at the heart of this new value zone? If, as I believe, the latter is the case, we need to rethink our leadership styles and adopt one that is aligned better with current realities.” As businesses try to re-define themselves in a post-recession and New Media world, why aren’t we looking for a new definition of our top leaders as well?

Cyber Dissidents: How the Internet is Changing Dissent.

Mitch for Hugh: Freedom of information is something we all need to be paying a lot more attention to. This is an excellent panel discussion (it’s a video) that looks at how online technology is allowing many stories to get told in real time. While many of us are quick to point to instances like the elections in Iran or the Haiti disaster, there are many, many other stories that are being told as well. None of this would be possible were it not for technology and Social media tools, channels and platforms. After watching this panel discussion, you may start thinking differently about Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as real tools of change and access to freedom.


Categories: politics

MPs: Please Get Back to Work

I haven’t been writing much bloggy stuff lately, certainly not political rants. And true enough I don’t know much about the history/implications of suspending parliament by prorogue (can anyone point to a good recent source that explains Harper’s action in a historical context? Is it usual? Unusual? – I’d never heard the word before last year, and now he’s done it twice).

On principle, I don’t like it. MPs are elected and are supposed to represent us in parliament. Which they cannot do when parliament is suspended early. Because of the Olympics? Come on. The Olympics? You have to be kidding.

Anyway, why not put voice to your annoyance at a democratic government that wants to govern outside of democracy? Some ways to do it:

1. Join the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook Group.

2. Email Harper & tell him you don’t like it: pm@pm.gc.ca … you could say:

Dear Mr. Harper,

Canada is supposed to be a democracy. For democracy to function, our elected officials are supposed to represent us in Parliament, which they cannot do because of yet another prorogued session. Please reconsider, and get our MPs back to work.

3. Email your MP (mine is Tom Mulcair: Mulcair.T@parl.gc.ca) and tell them you don’t like it:

Dear Mr. Mulcair:

I am writing to you register my strong disapproval at the government’s decision to prorogue parliament. Please do everything in your power to help MPs get back to work soon.

4. email the Governor General: info@gg.ca

Dear Ms. Jean:

I am writing to you register my strong disapproval at the government’s decision to prorogue parliament, again; and your agreement with the decision. Our parliament is supposed to represent the people of Canada, which it can’t do while suspended.

RESPONSES:
Response from Mulcair’s office:

Dear Mr. McGuire,

On behalf of Thomas Mulcair, Member of Parliament for Outremont, I acknowledge receipt of your e-mail.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the shutting down of Parliament by Mr. Harper. We share your outrage.

Stephen Harper is locking out Members of Parliament, preventing them from doing the very important work they were elected to do.

By pulling the plug on Parliament, Stephen Harper killed 36 government legislations which were making progress, including bills dealing with important issues such as consumer protection, white collar crimes or digital policy. It is our view that this is a further attempt by the Harper Government to avoid being held accountable for torture issues in Afghanistan.

The NDP Caucus had a retreat planned the week before the scheduled return of Parliament. The meeting will go ahead as planned,
and NDP MPs will attend and discuss the strategy for the next few months.

Sincerely,

Mathilde Rogue
Adjointe parlementaire
Parliamentary assistant
___________________________________________________________

Thomas Mulcair, député/MP Outremont
Tél. : 514 736-2727
mulcat@parl.gc.ca


Categories: politics

Canadian Health Care

I have not been paying much attention to the US health care debates, but I gather those opposed to Obama’s health plan have been portraying Canada as some kind of healthcare disaster. “We don’t want to be like Canada,” they say, “where the government has ruined healthcare.”

My wife Christine is an emergency doctor, so I know a bit about the problems in Quebec, which is probably as “bad” as anywhere in Canada.

The concise description of Canada’s health system is the following: critical health issues are dealt with quickly, and well. Less critical health issues mean longer wait times. And generally health outcomes in Canada are equivalent to outcomes in other industrial countries, and often better than those in the US.

Plus, we have universal coverage: for most healthcare, you don’t pay a cent, except through taxes (which turns out to be a much cheaper way to do it than thru insurance).

There is an excellent article in Bloomberg, Canadian Health Care Even with Queues, Beats US looking at the studies done in the past five years, including a recent one done by the OECD:

Opponents of overhauling U.S. health care argue that Canada shows what happens when government gets involved in medicine, saying the country is plagued by inferior treatment, rationing and months-long queues.

The allegations are wrong by almost every measure, according to research by the O and other independent studies published during the past five years. While delays do occur for non-emergency procedures, data indicate that Canada’s system of universal health coverage provides care as good as in the U.S., at a cost 47 percent less for each person.

“There is an image of Canadians flooding across the border to get care,” said Donald Berwick, a Harvard University health- policy specialist and pediatrician who heads the Boston-based nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “That’s just not the case. The public in Canada is far more satisfied with the system than they are in the U.S. and health care is at least as good, with much more contained costs.” [more…]


Copyright Consultations – Hurry!

There are five days left in the federal government’s copyright consultations. Go make your voices heard!

http://copyright.econsultation.ca/

For more info, see Michael Geist’s info page: Speak Out on Copyright.


Canadian Copyright Consultations

The Government of Canada is holding copyright consultations, which you can answer by sending an email to the this address [info AT copyrightconsultation DOT gc DOT ca] which answers the following questions:

1. How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?
2. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time
3. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?
4. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?
5. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?

Visit here for more info & to submit your responses.

Michael Geist has posted his short answer.

My short answer would begin by noting that the five questions can really be grouped into three key issues:

Why does copyright matter to you?
How can the government ensure that copyright reforms remain relevant in the long term?
What specific reforms should the government prioritize (having regard for creativity, innovation, competition, and the digital economy)? [more…]


Beers for Canada: Visiblegovernment.ca Fundraiser

beers for canadaFor the price of a beer (or a pitcher, or a round), you can support VisibleGovernment.ca … the non-profit that promotes online tools for government transparency, openness and accessibility around government and civic data (yay!).

They’ve got a little fundraiser going, in celebration of Canada Day: Beers for Canada

How we’ll spend your money

We work on several aspects of transparency:

Creating new tools: We work with developers and designers to build websites that encourage citizens and governments to communicate openly.
Encouraging government openness: We show elected officials the benefits of open, two-way discourse, highlighting places where information is lacking and celebrating the efforts of those who want to be more transparent.
Public awareness: We emphasize the civic importance of transparency and open government.
Working with other organizations: We share and collaborate with organizations like the Sunlight Foundation, MySociety and Changecamp.

We’re also organizing Code For Canada, an application design competition that awards prizes to people who build web, facebook, and iPhone apps that provide visualization, analysis, and access to federal government data sets.

So, go support a worthy cause.


Those Darned Kids

Kids boycott classroom with CCTV cameras. People call them brats. Kids respond with an op-ed that every adult should read.

Many users suggested that cameras were a good idea because they could be used to keep an eye on bullying and student behaviour, we were accused of been “narcissistic megalomaniacs” angry at “being nabbed for our churlish troublemaking”. This stereotypical and frankly ignorant view ignores the fact that Davenant Foundation School produces some of the best exam results in Essex. Violent behaviour among pupils is simply not an issue, making the justification for putting cameras in our classrooms more surprising…

Eroding standards in schools and deteriorating discipline are down to a broken society and the failure of the education system. The truth is that we are whatever the generation before us has created. If you criticise us, we are your failures; and if you applaud us we are your successes, and we reflect the imperfections of society and of human life. [more…]

[via boing]