Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

So You Want To Stop Bill C-8 (ACTA)?


But I'm posting a copy of it here on my blog in case it gets downvoted to oblivion (or deleted like a mod did to an earlier version of the same post in a different sub).

Some of us have been down this road before, and it sucks that we have to trek it again. But we knew this was going to happen. We knew that if it wasn't SOPA or PIPA or CISPA or ACTA it was going to be something else. They've been working hard to get this stuff through no matter how many times we keep coming together to say NO.
They're hoping to wear us down, keep trying until we just say 'fine, fuck it'. And yes, we could do that. Or we can keep on fighting. Staying vigilant.
If we want to have a shot at all in defeating this, that's just what we'll have to keep on doing.
For those of you just getting into this now, here's a brief primer on what all those letters mean:http://www.techadvisory.org/2012/08/what-are-sopa-pipa-cispa-and-acta/[1]
In Canada we've had C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act - which pushed through some provisions of SOPA (digital locks, etc) and now it looks like our Government is using bill C-8 to push through many provisions originally found within ACTA. There's an excellent breakdown of C-8 to be read here:http://excesscopyright.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/bill-c-8-re-anti-counterfeiting-is_26.html[2]
Luckily, those of us who've been in the fight for a while, we've also learned a thing or two about a thing or two since then.
We've learned that politicians don't care about our online petitions, or our emails. We get patronizing form letters back, if we're lucky. They deride our 'one click' democracy -- as if the fact that our 'click' wasn't enough of a decision for them to take it seriously. So let's try something different.
I put forward that we defeat C-8 by going old school.
There's one thing that does get a response, I've used it and it works well: Writing a letter, by hand. In my (albeit anecdotal) experience, a single, handwritten letter is easily worth 25 emails or more. It gets attention. (More than just filling up some politician's junk inbox, which an assistant may, eventually, get around to cleaning out).
We can get into ideas of hows and whys later, but believe me, if an MP starts getting a few hundred handwritten letters showing up at their doorstep telling them to not support C-8, it WILL make a difference. The Harper government is full of fractures right now and backbenchers are even starting to openly dissent against their leader. It might not be as simple as 'we have a majority so it's going to pass no matter what you say'.
Either way, it's worth a shot and it only takes 5 minutes of your time, a pen, a sheet of paper and an envelope.
  1. Go here, find out your MP:
  1. Send it to their Parliamentary Address (You don't even need a stamp)
  2. If you want your letter to be taken more seriously, read this article on proper styles of address when writing to your MP: http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1359145344405/1359145417936[4] (this is optional, but being respectful never hurts your cause)
Points to help you:
  • Write the letter out digitally first, transcribe it to paper after you're happy with it (to save you time and paper)
  • Keep it one page and on one subject per letter (C-8, and why you're against it) Clearly state that you are in their constituency and this is a VOTING issue for you. (You are willing to base who you vote for next on how they come out on this issue)
  • NEVER THREATEN THEM - just to state that as clearly as possible
  • If you can, make it personal to you. Why it matters to you. A well-told personal story, that they can retell, that can be used in speeches can help sway others.
  • Ask for a response. (Include your name and address at the end) For personal records, scan or take a photo of (or photocopy) your letter. And that's it. We can get into formatting and stuff if you really want to, but it's just that simple.
Here's mine:
Ms/Mr ----- -------, MP
House of Commons
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Dear Mr/Ms -----:
My name is BCLaraby, I live at (address), within your constituency, and I'm writing today to express my disdain for my Government's attempt, yet again, to sneak in some sort of 'privacy' legislation behind my back. Online it's already been a heck of a fight - first it was SOPA then it was PIPA then it was CISPA and then ACTA. Each and every time, I have stood up with my comrades, online, and said 'No' to those efforts. When our Government put forward C-11 (The Copyright Modernization Act) wrote in to protest it and its Digital Locks provisions. And, now we have C-8, an attempt to slip the provisions of ACTA in through the back the door here in Canada.
I understand that our Prime Minister has 'stakeholders' to appease, but we're the ones that have to live with these bloody laws, these provisions that we keep rising up against to swat down and say NO to. I believe that Canada should be a reflection of the will of Canadians, not American stakeholders. This bill does little to protect me but very much to protect the interests of those outside our nation. I ask that you please join me in fighting this deplorable bill. I will be watching CPAC and I hope to see you there standing up to help bring this bill down.
When you have time I would love to hear back from you on this issue and if you have time to meet to discuss it further, I would gladly like to do so as well.
Thank you very much for your time today, Mr/Ms -----,
BCLaraby
All we can do is try. I hope you'll join with me in sending a letter to your MP, who knows -- maybe your passionate plea will spark something in them. Maybe inspire a speech that could bring the whole thing down.
We are the caretakers of our Democracy. We cannot stay silent on the things we do not approve of.
It's worth a shot.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

'Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,' says Mayor Rob Ford

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/rob-ford-councillors/article15263319/?click=tglobe

Crack is a hell of a drug.

A Schedule 1 Narcotic, to be precise.

So, uh, yeah.  That's probably not a good thing when your Mayor publicly admits to smoking it, right?  I mean, for him.

Anyway, just for fun:

Go to Google

Type Crack

Hit Enter

That's our Mayor.  That's what he's become synonymous with.

But thanks to Ford Nation, there's still a good chance he might get re-elected.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-mayor-rob-ford-could-easily-get-re-elected-1.2355481

*facepalm*

I don't even...

Monday, July 01, 2013

#DenounceHarper: One Year Later

One year ago, I wrote a post expressing my frustration with our government.  I was - and am - quite frankly, pissed about the direction our country has been heading.

As it turned out - as I found out - one year ago, today, I wasn't alone.

By the end of Canada Day, last year, #DenounceHarper had trended Worldwide on Twitter for several hours and I found myself both overwhelmed and inspired by the outpouring of support - over (or "only" depending on who you ask) 5000 people took to Twitter to take part, to share their stories, anger and frustrations with our Government.

It was amazing - watching people jump in from all across the country.  I truly felt like we were on track to make a real difference.

But the day passed and, as it happens, the world moved on.

And people moved on.

And it didn't seem like anything HAD changed.

But then Bev Oda quit (*cough* golden parachuted from *cough*) her job. 

Huh.

Now, when I say 'we', *I'm* not taking credit for that -- or anything else that will be said below.

But, Oda's disgraceful exit was a direct, tangible reaction due to the public pressure we all put on the government - and it was the first true public showing of weakness from a man, and a Government, who up until that point had basically protected each and every single person from the backlash of their scandals.

I mean, he called Christian Paradis's ethics violations 'learning experiences' - of which there were three separate occasions - and made THAT go away.

There is, and has been for a while, a genuine anger building among Canadians.

It's an anger and frustration that #DenounceHarper tapped into and built on.  I suspect that we have #TellVicEverything to thank for that, which, I also suspect, grew with and built on the frustration of being unable to find #13Heroes.

Since then our numbers have been growing, slowly, but gradually.  The disenchanted, the frustrated, the plain, ol'-fashioned Pissed off.

#IdleNoMore continues to scare the shit out of our government, especially as our First Nations brothers and sisters took to the streets and began peacefully protesting EVERYWHERE, showing the rest of us how it should be done.

And our numbers grew again, in support, in knowledge and understanding.

#PMHarperMustResign burst out onto the scene just last month, in response to the PMO senate scandal -- almost 44,000 people took to Twitter to express their outrage at our Government.

Just as Movie studios have been using Twitter to gauge the 'pulse' of their movie, one could say that Twitter offers a direct undercurrent to the pulse of our nation.

Of course, like I said above, I can't take credit for 5000 people becoming 44,000 in the space of a single year.

No, that honour goes to our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper - who, under his watch and despite the mistakes of the last year - has continued lead a Conservative party full of scandal and unethical behaviour.

Here's a brief list top 5 list of what's come to light about our Harper Government in just this last year:

1. Federal Court judge Richard Mosley ruled (full text here) that in the May 2, 2011 election, electoral fraud occurred nationwide using “a concerted campaign by persons who had access to a database of voter information maintained by a political party,” *cough* CIMS - The Conservative voter database *cough*.  Incidentally, Marc Mayrand has now publicly called the Harper Government out for 'not helping' Elections Canada get to the bottom of the Election Fraud investigation. Gee, I wonder why that would be?

2. $3.1 Billion in 'unaccounted for' anti-terrorism funding - our tax dollars so inconsequential to them that 'oh, it's around here somewhere' is considered an acceptable answer to public outrage.  Maybe it disappeared into the black hole of our CSEC MetaData surveillance machine?  Or the 'Anti-Terrorist' TrapWire program that we're so fond of? (More on that below)

3. The Mike Duffy/Nigel Wright Senate expense scandal -- ALSO of note, the allegations that the Conservative Senate had first tipped off Duffy that an audit was coming, then had their original report edited to soften the language used against him -- at behest of the PMO (who, of course, says that they would never do such a thing).

4. Temporary Foreign Workers Scandal - It all began right here and quickly spun out of control (second source), reporting that 191,000 Temporary Foreign Workers were admitted to Canada in 2011, with up to 300,000 still residing here. Those workers, given jobs at tens of thousands of Canadian companies - including 18 of the 50 largest companies in Canada - lined up to take advantage of it.  We're talking big names: Subway, Tim Hortons and McDonalds, RBC Dominion Securities, BMO Financial Group and ING Direct Canada.  In a time when Canada is still experiencing a Youth Unemployment Crisis, I'm very encouraged to find Subway, Tim Hortons and McDonalds had been shipping in Temporary Foreign Workers at a discount rather than give jobs to Canadians.  Again, none of this would be possible without the Harper Government.  So remember to thank them for that.

5. Like the American's NSA over-reach, it's come to light that, under the Harper Government, Canadians are being spied upon by CSEC - reading the Metadata of our phone calls and emails (as much as they will admit).  Now you might just say 'oh, it's only Meta Data' but Metadata alone is considered informative enough for them to catch Terrorists, to build maps of their movements and interactions -- who they know and who they're talking to.  "Some of CSEC’s metadata activities raise issues that make us question whether CSEC is always in compliance with the limits,".  Of course considering what we now know about our Government spying on Canadians, it makes it even more worrying that Harper eliminated our CSIS watchdog (to save $1 million/per year) - Incidentally, they also tried to warn us about CSIS's data access and info sharing.  Side Note: This is a MUST READ Government report on the Communications Security Establishment: The CSE - Canada's Most Secret Intelligence Agency

This list doesn't even touch any of the other ethics breaches or even internal dissent fomenting withing his own party.

Stephen Harper's iron fist is rusting and even his own party has begun to turn on him.

And that could not happen without YOU.  Without US.

Continue to support great Journalists who dig on our behalf.

Continue to REMEMBER the story once it fades.

And Continue to hold our leader's feet to the fire.

Demand Accountability.

The Transparency we were promised.

And don't stop until you get it.

#DenounceHarper

Monday, May 27, 2013

Crackstarter is a Go

It looked touchy for a while - especially with Gawker seeming to have dealt a death-blow to the campaign just before the weekend.  The holder of the video has gone dark and no one can find him.  A lot of people, myself included, thought that the whole thing would just up and die at the $167,000 mark.

But that was not to be - because tape or no tape, Canadians refused to let the possibility of a $200,000 donation go to waste.

Truly, if there's one heartening story to be found out of all this chaos it's that despite the ever-shrinking hope that this tape would see the light of day, folks continued to donate in the hopes that the money might end up in the hands of a worthy charity (as stipulated in Gawker's fine print).

And today, at 3:57pm, that goal was met and surpassed.

Though there is a part of me that wonders if a good part of that second wind wasn't, at least partially, due to Mr. Ford's ill-conceived comment - you know, the one where he called journalists "Maggots"?

He finally got around to apologizing today but the damage was already done as donations poured into the site - what was easily a $16,000 deficit as of 8am this morning was obliterated by the late afternoon.

And now the wait begins - either the tape will surface and 8355 funders will get what they paid for -- a 90 second video that clearly shows Rob Ford smoking crack, calling Justin Trudeau 'a faggot' and describing his football team as 'a bunch of minorities'.  Classy stuff -- or $200,000+ will find its way into the coffers of a deserving substance abuse charity (I'm pulling for CAMH on this one).

In the mean time, his house of cards continues to crumble -- after firing Mark Towhey last Thursday for allegedly asking Rob Ford to 'get help', today both George Christopoulos, his Press Secretary, and Deputy Press Secretary Isaac Ransom handed in their letters of resignation.

While Ford and his Nation continues to decry the scandal as 'ridiculous', the rest of the city - and country - watch in horror as each new factoid bobs to the surface.

This one, for instance, can't be helping them much - especially since Ford's been so adamant as of late that the video "doesn't exist":

Homicide detectives interview Rob Ford staffer after ‘tip’ on whereabouts of alleged drug video from mayor’s office

More to come as it happens.

UPDATE:

This article is an excellent response to my earlier question about why Rob Ford hasn't sued TorStar:
Why hasn’t Mayor Rob Ford sued the Toronto Star?

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

If Rob Ford Is Innocent

Why hasn't he immediately sued TorStar for Defamation of Character?

Think about the MILLIONS of dollars he'd be able to get out of them in damages.

If this is untrue, he should be standing at the podium shouting fire and brimstone -- and we know he's capable of it.

But what do we see instead?

Rob Ford running from cameras as fast as his legs will carry him.

Video or no video, this speaks truth to me more than anything.

His silence, his cowardice, damns him.

By the way, the Rob Ford "Crackstarter" campaign is almost at $120,000 out of the $200,000 needed to purchase the 'alleged' video of him smoking crack (and calling Justin Trudeau a 'Faggot'... yeesh).

I'm not a fan of the idea of putting $200K into the hands of drug dealers - but at some point you've got to say "enough is enough".  Our media won't touch it, our police would sock it away into evidence and it'd never see the light of day.

If this is true, the people who voted for this man need to see the truth.

And don't even get me started on this Goddamned Senate scandal.

This, however, is a great read:

We already have enough facts to know Harper is the true author of Senate scandal

I don't know if I'm back in the saddle just yet - for those unaware, between work and life my writing time - let alone my blogging time - has been almost nonexistent since just before the New Year.  What little time I do have I've devoted to writing which will hopefully further my long-term career (independent political blogging, while immensely fun... is not exactly profitable).

But I had to hop back online for this one.

Hopefully I can find the time to pick this back up again - 'cause man we are living in some interesting times.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, December 31, 2012

Please Don't Go, Kevin

Earlier this year when I had my conversation with Kevin Page there was a little detail that, if you were like me, didn't even really hit home at the time - a very relevant factoid that will have profound implications for the next 3 years.

Mr. Page's mandate runs out in March of 2013.  Furthermore, after his mandate, Mr. Page will be retiring.

Now, if you're embedded in the game, this comes as little shock - apparently Mr. Page has been vocal from the get-go that one term would be enough.

And in my (many) follow-up conversations with the man since my last interview he's been more than adamant that he is not the position, that there are wonderful, talented, strong people working along side him who are ready to fill his shoes once he leaves.  That he feels that he can do so much more on the outside of the position, where he could be free to speak honestly of the nature of the PBO and the 'bad legislation' that created the position.

And that's all well and good -- except for one little thing:
The Parliamentary Budget Officer serves at "the pleasure" of the Prime Minister [PDF Warning, but excellent read!]

From the article:
"Under the current legislation, for instance, the Parliamentary Budget Officer serves "at the pleasure" of the Prime Minister, a constraint by which no other officer of Parliament is bound, and one that could promise serious consequences for a PBO whose independent fiscal analysis displeased the PM."

Considering that Mr. Page and this arms length, incredibly useful office -- that was created to ensure that our government is not only transparent to Canadians but to itself as well -- is currently taking our government to court in order to get the information needed to do his job, well, I feel pretty safe in saying that our PBO is not currently serving 'at the pleasure' of our PM.

There's a fantastic read over at Huffington Post -- where they recently named Kevin Page "Canada's News Story of 2012" -- and if you care at all about what the next three years of our government will look like, I encourage you all to take a moment and give it a read.

But the long and short of it is this:

The way the legislation that created the position worked, the way it placed the PBO under the Library of Parliament -- forgoing giving the position true independence to the point where, if I remember correctly, they're not even allowed to hire their own staff -- it became known as the job 'nobody wanted'.

The idea was great on paper, but the execution was flawed.  And flawed by design.

The reason we're even talking about the PBO at all is because Kevin Page took this job... and then built the office from the ground up.  His integrity and determination, his refusal to quietly sit in the corner and count the beans that were handed to him -- his drive to be truly USEFUL to Canadians and our Parliament, pushed him to tackle important issues like the F35 scandal.

F-35 jets cost to soar to $29B: watchdog

He was the first one to come forward and say 'these numbers don't add up to what we've been told'.  And what did he get for that?  Ridicule and attacks from the very Government that hired him to hold them accountable.  Only after the Auditor General came forward and backed up those numbers was the PBO 'vindicated'.

Auditor general slams Canada’s plan to buy F-35 jets

I'd like to share with you Mr. Page’s opening statement to the government operations and estimates committee (on the topic of reforming the estimates review process) -- the first words from the man and a hint of what was to come:

"One of the key principles underlying responsible parliamentary government is that the House of Commons holds the “power of the purse”. The House must be able to satisfy itself, as the confidence chamber, that all spending and taxation is consistent with legislation, Parliament›s intentions, and the principles of parliamentary control. When this is accomplished, Parliament is serving Canadians. In my view, this is rarely accomplished." -- Source

In March of 2013 our Prime Minister will stand with the rest of Parliament and applaud this man publicly for a job well done, even as he continues to fight and stonewall the position that he created, as he fights to keep information out of the PBOs hands, and thus out of the hands of Canadians.

But what will happen when Mr. Page leaves?

Will the PBO be quietly folded into another department like our CSIS watchdog was?  Scuttled to the dustbin like some sort of failed experiment?

Or will he appoint quiet 'yes-man' to the post? A bean-counter happy to work only the projects handed to him/her and never, ever speak out against the Prime Minister.

Because if there's one thing we know about our PM it's that he really, really, doesn't like having his feet held to the fire.

Having to be held accountable for answers to questions like 'why are you keeping two sets of books on the F35 purchase -- one for internal estimates and one for public release?' don't help him.

So while Mr. Page says that he works alongside a number of talented, strong people who are ready to fill his shoes after he leaves, I have to wonder: Why would our Prime Minister choose any of them?

He's going to want someone who will play ball.

And yet, in my view, the PBO has been successful because it has been so adversarial.  It shouldn't exist to make friends or serve 'at the pleasure' of anyone.

The PBO exists for Canadians, to ensure that those who are voting in Parliament have access to all of the information necessary to make an informed decision.

It exists to ensure the 'Transparency and Accountability' that our Prime Minister promised us (and quickly backpedaled on).

Mr. Page will be retiring after his mandate in 2013 so the task must fall on us to demand that someone of equal caliber is appointed.

To ensure that the PBO continues to work for Canadians and doesn't disappear behind a veil of secrecy like so many other aspects of the Harper Government.

We must demand that 2013 be the Year of Transparency - and work to hold our Government to that standard.

To that end, here's what I'll be doing this year - starting as soon as possible:

Writing letters to and meeting with my MP.  I want to open a dialogue and understand our Government better.

Writing to MP Peggy Nash who put forward a bill this year to strengthen the PBO and also has an excellent understanding of the limitations of the position. I hope to open a dialogue and learn all I can while, hopefully, helping to build support for the bill.

I'm also going to start trying to get more interviews with MPs and other integral players in our Government, ones that I hope to share with you here.

Now this isn't an exhaustive list by any means... but it's a start, a step forward in taking this offline, out into the real world.

And I hope you'll walk with me this year.

Help me make 2013 the Year of Transparency.

Thank you,
Brandon

#YearOfTransparency

PS: I tried out the official Google Blogger App today and it is horrendous.  It almost messed up this post beyond recognition when I tried to edit it on the go.  If anyone knows of any decent mobile blogging apps, please let me know in the comments. Yeesh.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A Crooked Politician's Greatest Fear Is An Engaged Citizen

Those who just finished watching Rob Ford's denouement can attest to this, but I'm sure that there are other Mayors and politicians all around the country (and globe) cursing Democracy under their breath at the moment -- And by 'Democracy' I mean the right of the citizen to stand and challenge their leaders and hold them accountable for their actions.

Of course, to listen to the critics, the citizen responsible for Ford's downfall is nothing short of a political assassin. How dare he bring about 'lawfare' to attack a man who brazenly broke the law and hold him accountable for his actions?

Not 'How stupid could Rob Ford, this person we trusted to lead us, be?' or 'After 10 years, how could he not have read the basic rules of his job?' or 'Why did he ignore all the advice from his political allies and friends?'

No, instead it's the citizen who slew the giant that's at fault. 

And then it's all: How DARE they? Those citizens! Those simpletons! Can't they understand how the rules can't possibly be applied to [insert politician's name here]?

Or it's the "bad" law's fault.

(Incidentally, the same "bad" law that's been on the books for HOW long now that no other mayor has had any problem with?)

If there's one common theme in all of the political rancor that I've been following it's how indifferent our leaders have become to the rules and laws that govern them - or, in some cases, the blatant, bull-headed assertions that somehow they shouldn't be held accountable for their actions.

Those same laws that they so boldly swore to uphold when they took office and the public's trust.

The reality of the situation is that a good number of our leaders have squandered that trust - have played on our good natures or our busy lives so that they might have their cake and eat it too.

But we're catching on.  We're waking up to their shell game.


You know, one of the things that I really loved about Occupy was that at the very heart of the movement was this:

The power is in your hands.

The time for waiting for permission; for others to tell you that it's okay to demand better of your ersatz 'leaders', is over.

You are the arbiter of your nation's fate.

If nothing else, I believe that it was the one sentiment truly driven home by Occupy -- and, I would contend, that it's the one thing that's continued to fester and grow beneath the skins of decent, hard-working people.

In fact, a recent Samara poll has shown that only 55% of Canadians believe that "Democracy is working well in Canada", down from 75% in 2004. (Where will number sit in 2015, I wonder?)

Now, unfortunately, we don't know if that has been a steady decline or if our nation's fallen off of a 'Confidence Cliff' in regards to our leaders... either way it doesn't bode well.

For our Government.

See, when things are going well everyone's happy to not rock the boat.  But things aren't going well.

Our Prime Minister is slashing jobs and keeping secrets and aiding in the trashing of our National Environment -- and then there's that whole nagging question of whether or not the last election was legitimate.

(And that's just off the top of my head).

The murmur of frustration is growing again, especially as our PM prepares to ram through yet another Omnibus budget bill -- this one clocking in at 457 pages.

But the question remains: What will we do about it?

Cheers,
Brandon