10/07/2008

The Conservative Party Platform (cont'd)

The platform can be found here.
There were a few elements of the platform that were not mentioned in most of the news reports, but are interesting nonetheless.
Restricting Unfair Text Messaging Charges
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will prevent telecommunications companies from charging fees to customers for receiving unsolicited commercial text messages. We will amend the Telecommunications Act to strengthen the power of the Commissioner of Complaints for Telecommunications Services, including the creation of a code of conduct for wireless services. We will also create a compliance and deterrent power that allows the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to block these and similar unfair charges in the future.

Admittedly, I don't have a cell phone. However, most of the people I know do. Nothing is more annoying than companies who send you text messages and then charge you for them, without your permission. As far as I am concerned, it is a type of theft. I will be interested to see what proposed legislation will look like.
Protecting Against Internet Spam
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will introduce legislation to prohibit the use of spam (unsolicited commercial email) to collect personal information under false pretences and to engage in criminal conduct. The new law will reduce dangerous, destructive and deceptive email and web site practices, and will establish new fines for those who break the law.

I support this initiative. However, in my opinion, governments generally have to be careful when crafting laws with respect to technology. I will have to withhold any further judgment until I actually see their proposed law.
Protecting Creators and Consumers of New Ideas and Products
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will reintroduce federal copyright legislation that strikes the appropriate balance among the rights of musicians, artists, programmers and other creators and brings Canada's intellectual property protection in line with that of other industrialized countries, but also protects consumers who want to access copyright works for their personal use.
We will also introduce tougher laws on counterfeiting and piracy and give our customs and law enforcement services the resources to enforce them. This will protect consumers from phoney and sometimes dangerous products that are passed off as reliable brand-name goods.

As I said above, governments have to be careful when crafting laws with respect to technology. In my opinion, the Canadian version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act did not strike the appropriate balance between consumer protection, artist's right and corporate rights. Wiki has a brief description of some of the issues with the bill. This bill could have a potentially negative impact on open source software developers. but, this post is intended to deal with the Conservative Party platform and not the DMCA, so I will leave this thought for now.
Protecting Consumers with Stronger Competition Laws
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will implement a strong consumer protection plan by modernizing Canada's outdated competition laws. New competition laws will:
- Make it easier to investigate and prosecute bid-rigging and hard-core cartel behaviour such as price fixing.
- Raise maximum penalties for bid-rigging and cartels to a $25-million fine and 14 years in prison.
- Introduce fines of up to $10 million – $15 million for repeat offenders – for companies that abuse their dominant market position.
- Provide for restitution for consumers who fall victim to deceptive marketing practices.

In light of the behaviour of gas and oil companies, such legislation can only be a good thing.
Reforming or Abolishing the Senate
The Conservatives and Stephen Harper believe that the current Senate must be either reformed or abolished. An unelected Senate should not be able to block the will of the elected House in the 21st century.
As a minimum, a re-elected Conservative Government will reintroduce legislation to allow for nominees to the Senate to be selected by voters, to provide for Senators to serve fixed terms of not longer than eight years, and for the Senate to be covered by the same ethics rules as the House of Commons.

This measure was briefly mentioned at the Globe & Mail, but I haven't seen it anywhere else. As I mentioned in a previous post, this issue more than any other, ought to secure the Conservatives a majority. Unfortunately, everyone is panicking about the economy, so it probably won't receive much attention. Still, Senate reform is a major step towards improving democracy in Canada. We simply have too many senators who don't take their jobs seriously enough.
Offering Fair Representation in the House of Commons
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will introduce legislation to move closer towards representation by population in the House of Commons for Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, while protecting the seat counts of other provinces.

I am curious to see what this sort of legislation would look like.
Reforming Public Appointments
We will establish a task force to report within one year on unnecessary federally appointed positions that can be eliminated, with a target of reducing federal appointments by 10 per cent overall.

Reducing the number of government appoints is also another important step towards improving democracy in Canada.
Making Government More Accountable for Taxpayers' Money
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will require all federal departments and agencies to produce detailed quarterly financial statements.

Good. They should be doing this already.
Respecting the Provinces and Territories, Establishing a Charter of Open Federalism
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will respect the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories in the Constitution Act, 1867, and will enshrine our principles of federalism in a new Charter of Open Federalism.

I am also interested to see what such a Charter would look like. Certainly, a measure like this is intended to woo Quebec, but there would be benefits for the other provinces too. There is a lot to be said for being able to manage your own affairs without the interference of the Federal government. In a similar vein, the Conservatives are also offering:
Limiting the Federal Spending Power
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will ensure that any new shared-cost program in an area of provincial or territorial responsibility has the consent of the majority of provinces to proceed, and that provinces should be given the right to opt out of the federal program with compensation, so long as the province offers a similar program with similar accountability structures.

By far, the most significant difference between the Conservatives and the other parties is the way crime is dealt with. Unless I missed it, there isn't anything in the Liberal platform about crime and I simply don't think the NDP approach is specific enough, nor do I think it would be effective. The Conservatives offer tougher sentences and protect victims first.
The cost of the Conservative plan is relatively modest and can be found at the end of the platform. Their total plan cost is about $8.6 billion. Their current projected budgetary balance is about $16.7 billion. This leaves them nearly half left over. This ought to be more than a sufficient buffer.

1 comment:

Richard said...

I like a lot of what I see here. The federal spending power limits and the respect for the BNA Act should help a great deal in Central Canada, both Quebec and Ontario.

This race is not over yet. A lot depends on how much play these policies get in the media. So far, most of the media play has been towards the arts policy and assistance for the manufacturing sector.

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