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How to Handle a Convervative Majority, Part Three

07/14/2011

This is the final post in a three-part series attempting to put into perspective the recent Canadian Conservative party’s majority win. This, the last installment, will focus on how we, the Canadian public, might respond to our new government.

As Parts One and Two suggested, Stephen Harper’s track record is not one weighed down with scruples. And now that he leads a party with a majority, he will be even less restricted in working toward his objectives. We may not know the full extent of these objectives, but we know they include some really big jails, a lot of fighter jets and the ability to spy on private Canadians over the Internet with impunity.

Harper and his Conservatives won their majority with just 39.6% of the vote. The other 60.4% of us are not powerless to restrain them. In fact, there’s substantial evidence to the contrary.

In 2007, the Harper government began trying to pass a restrictive copyright bill modeled after similar American legislation. The Canadian public rallied around law professor Dr. Michael Geist to oppose the bill, which was repeatedly delayed and has never been passed into law. A recent Wikileaks cable revealed that it was this enormous public outcry which defeated the bill–that “Conservative MPs were worried about the electoral implications of copyright reform.”

Recently, a similar outcry was elicited by big Canadian telecoms, when they tried to introduce metered Internet billing, a scheme that promised to kill innovation. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved metered billing, but after nearly half a million Canadians signed an online petition against it, then-Industry Minister Tony Clement ordered the CRTC to reverse its ruling.

Now the Conservative party is attempting to pass legislation requiring Internet Service Providers to install new infrastructure that will allow the government to monitor law-abiding Canadians over the Internet, in real-time, without having to seek a warrant first. OpenMedia.ca, the same advocacy group responsible for the petition against metered billing, is conducting a summer-long campaign to marshal the public against this invasion of privacy. Over 41,000 have signed the petition already.

There are other organized efforts to limit the Conservative party’s abuses. Leadnow.ca is a website designed to allow voters who didn’t cast a ballot for the Conservatives (i.e. most voters) to easily send a letter to the Prime Minister reminding him that “although he has a majority of seats, he does not enjoy majority support.”

Clearly, the Internet has become an effective tool for public participation in politics. As I see it, our duty now is to ensure that it remains effective, by taking a stand against oppressive legislation such as the abovementioned surveillance bill.

If we are successful, the public’s political clout can only increase. During the election, my Facebook feed was full of posts from my peers, the majority of who seemed to be voting against the Conservatives, mostly because of their dishonourable behaviour. In four years’ time, when the next election rolls around, an even greater percentage of voters will be using the Internet. We will be able to spread news of corruption farther and quicker.

A free and open Internet means a more informed, more united electorate.

Those familiar with the Conservative party’s abuses worked hard during the election to alert fellow Canadians. After such an enthusiastic effort to preserve the essence of Canada is met with failure, it’s easy to feel powerless. But it is crucial that we resist these feelings. The Canadian public is perfectly capable of influencing national affairs in ways other than voting–we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. There are many good reasons to hope, but hope is useless unless accompanied by action.

Oh, and one more silver lining I almost neglected to mention: the new NDP minority!

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