Votes don’t split, Justin Trudeau

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

First off, thank you for putting yourself on the line for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Names notwithstanding, the act is one that is necessarily of self-sacrifice, since the job of leading is often thankless, rarely appreciated for what it delivers, and may very well likely make you age before your time. It is the call of duty that is more admirable, that you would take on a responsibility that most Canadians would prefer to avoid. It will be refreshing to have a younger perspective on what has become a party bogged down in its past mistakes, real and perceived, and how that party could be transformed into something more relevant.

It is that relevance of which I am concerned. I am currently sitting in Calgary Centre, awaiting the outcome of a by-election. It’s been an interesting contest, and to some degree, has become even a microcosm of what we’ve seen across Canada. The same messages, the same tactics, and the same mistakes. It will be a turning point, of that I have little doubt, even if (regrettably) the “status quo” is maintained — there are lessons to be learned, here, Mr. Trudeau. And a very important one to which you need to pay very close attention:

Votes do not “split”.
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Royalties on Alberta Oil Sands

For those of you who haven’t caught wind of this, Alberta’s in an election again. It’s a fairly depressing event, as I’m realising that I’m actually having to consider the Less of Two Evils and lean towards the incumbent PC just to avoid the potential idiocy of the upstart Wildrose.

Anyway, one topic that’s come up a few times is the issue of royalty rates that companies pay to extract oil from the oil sands. The NDP (who’ll never see office in this province) want to raise the rates, the Liberals waffle, and both the PC and the Wildrose are adamant that the rates not change. It got me to wondering: are our rates even remotely fair?

To paraphrase Adam West’s Batman: To the internet!

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Canada: You’re about to lose your freedom

I’ll keep this one short folks, I promise.

Do you use the internet (even watching videos on YouTube and Facebook counts)? Do you use an iPod/iPhone/iWhatever? Do you watch downloaded movies? Are you a student (or thinking of going back to school)? Then you’d better pay very close attention, because your beloved Federal Government under Stephen Harper is about to pull the rug out from under you.

If you somehow missed the bruhaha over the United States’ failed SOPA bill, you cannot afford to miss Canada’s attempt at the same thing. We’re very close to passing bill C-11, a bill sponsored by big media (notably movie studios, the music industry, and publishing giants) who want to control the way you access your music, TV, and books. They want this control because they are unable to cope with the digital economy, and want the Government to create laws that heavily restrict your actions, and impose ridiculous punishment.

Now I am no expert on these things, but I read someone who is: Professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa, the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law. (I mean, really, could you possibly get anyone better?) He has written some excellent articles on just how bad C-11 is — and has been very clear on how it could be improved so it’s not so terrible. (The Government, to no surprise, is not listening.)

I offer you the following from Geist’s blog. The intros here are my paraphrased summaries of the articles.

And he also visited with Strombo on the CBC to talk about C-11. It’s less than two minutes, and it explains just about everything. Even if you don’t read the above articles, you really should watch this video.

In short, our beloved Government is refusing to adopt the perspective that they represent the Canadian people. They are preferring to listen to corporations and corporate associations, and worse still — foreign corporations who have no business dictating our laws.

Okay, so what do you do?

First, sign up with OpenMedia’s petition. It only takes a moment, and every single little bit helps. (SOPA died in the United States because the vocal backlash was loud enough.)

Then, can I suggest sending the following text to the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper (stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca), the  Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture) Hon. Christian Paradis (christian.paradis@parl.gc.ca) (he’s the Minister putting C-11 forth, and hence is responsible for our impending nightmare), Nycole Turmel (nycole.turmel@parl.gc.ca) (she’s our official, albeit interim, Leader of the Opposition), Hon. Bob Rae (bob.rae@parl.gc.ca) (our most experienced elder statesman in Parliament), and your Canadian Member of Parliament.

Dear Gentlemen and Madams,

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding Bill C-11, now put forth in our Parliament.

While I am very much aware of the need to address copyright laws within Canada to ensure that they meet international agreements, the terms and conditions being put forth in C-11 appear to be overlooking the needs of the Canadian people, both in the present and in the future. These terms go far past those required by international agreement, and introduce unnecessary restriction and overly  punitive  damages.

The proposed conditions are being driven primarily by corporations, and are also heavily influenced by foreign governments and foreign corporations who have no right to comment on Canada’s laws. The Canadian Federal Government is supposed to stand for its people, yet we are being considered last in this process.

Please stop the blind approval of this damaging legislation and reopen it to Canadian legal experts who have offered wise and just opinion on how C-11 could still address the needs of Canadian law while not imposing unnecessary (and unfair) restrictions on law-abiding Canadians.

Most sincerely,

[Your name here. Please use a real one.]

2011, A Year In Review

I like long years. Really. Yes, I complain about when things seem to drag out far longer than they should, or if I’m busting my arse far harder than I think I should. That’s part of being human, no? In the end, though, I like long years because I get to look back and not worry about how quickly time has flown by. Time should never fly by quickly — it means I’ve missed something, and … well, darn it, I just hate missing things!

This last year was a big one for me in one major way: it was a redefinition of my professional existence. Since the end of 2009, I’ve transformed from a professional manager to a … hmm … well, my title (however formal it needs to be) is “Solutions Lead”, but that belies a lot of what I do every day, and just using “web developer” or “programmer” — even with a “Senior” prefix — completely understates the reality. This year was really about taking all the skills and knowledge I’d acquired as a leader, and merging that back into my day-to-day development practices.

And that, as the saying goes, was only the tip of the iceberg…

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Canada’s Two Political Parties: Conservative, and Other

It’s Federal election time here in Canada. Which means it’s a fast-and-furious stream of incoherent messaging all tantamount to white noise as the various political figures attempt to sway Canadian passions (which are, at best, as politically frigid as Winnipeg in February).

Adding to all of this are, new to this run, a number of social media-style services all helping to add “information” (and likely being more like more noise to the signal) to help people align themselves with the political party of choice. I came across one, recently, and suddenly realised that despite the fact we have five major political parties vying for seats, they’re really only divided two ways.

Which means you either vote Conservative, or you don’t.

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An argument for wired city council

As little as a hundred years ago, North Americans lived (generally) in towns and (much smaller) cities, where it was possible to know your elected representatives personally, meet with them, and have a person-to-person chat. In the years following, our representatives have been accused more and more of being “disconnected” and “out of touch” from their constituents, as the towns and cities grow, and the number of people in a given district rise well past the point of “manageable” by a single person.

The biggest problem is not really the number of people — it’s the time councillors need to connect with them all, while still doing the job for which they were elected. In a physical sense, it’s nearly impossible. Some have turned to the internet to help bridge the gap, using technology to connect.

Allow me to show you an example, which I experienced today…

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Suggestions to our political “leaders”

We’re barely a week into the 2011 Canadian Federal election, and it already feels like a month. I suppose if there’s one good thing about elections up here, it’s that they’re short — none of this near-two year campaigning that goes on south of the border.

Already, the various political parties are … well, failing. I’m rather stunned how fast that happened, actually. You’d think they’d actually try to get out a message first, but they stooped to mud-slinging pretty much out of the gate. Yeah, real positive way to foster respect and attract voters, folks…

So I feel that, as a Canadian with some significant sense of civic duty (and certainly more than enough know-it-all-ism), I need to offer up some suggestions to our so-called “leaders” (read: I choose not to lay insults as they are neither interesting nor constructive) if they have any hope of inspiring Canadians to vote for them … if at all.

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Dear Canada, grow a backbone!

Well, Canada, we’re in another pickle. The on-going “me, too!” power struggle that has dogged us for five years is now going into Round 3, thanks to a non-confidence (read: get enough people to whine the ruling party out of power) vote. In just over a month, we’re back at the polls, likely to do what we did last time, and the time before that: Make no decision whatsoever.

I dunno what it is, but we Canadians seem to really love to not rock the boat. We don’t want heavy-handed politics, but we also want our cake and eat it, too. We want our health care, dammit, but we don’t want to pay for it. We want to leave our lights on 24/7, but please don’t raise our energy bills. And above all, we still want to be the “Nice” people in North America.

Let’s face it, folks, we’re a bunch of pansies.

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Greed kills innovation

I was sitting at my kitchen table, poring over recommendations I’m writing for my client (partially communicative, partially CYA), when I had one of those sudden thoughts: I need tea.  While I was drinking my tea — a pomegranate green tea, if you must know — I had one of those epiphanal moments when something becomes radically clear.

Greed kills innovation.

It’s short, it’s simple, it’s sure to raise the ire of a lot of people, but it’s also a major problem we’re seeing lately, especially in internet technologies. It’s a problem that’s dogged humanity for generations. And it’s getting worse.

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Copyrights are the new Colonialism

The late 16th Century was the dawn of the British Empire. England had triumphed on the seas, and had set its eyes on colonising the New World (before its enemies did). Patents were issued, companies were founded, and flotillas of ships dispatched to every corner — known and unknown — of the planet in the name of Queen/King and country. Colonies were born out of determination, slavery, and blood extracted from those too weak to defend themselves from British will.

In time, a phrase was born: The sun never sets on the British Empire. Great Britain’s influence extended far beyond its native shores, its power unquestionable. A few thrived under the colonial system, but the majority — the people living under colonial rule — were marginalised as being little more than the ignorant masses; significant numbers suffered horribly.

It’s really no wonder that the Empire collapsed under its own weight.

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