The Pirate Party of Canada (PPCA) is currently undergoing a search for an expanded platform. Officially, they’re looking to naturally expand along their constitution’s stated objectives:
All of these aspects as a part of examining the value of the commons and the rights of the individual. As such, I recently submitted some proposals based in large part of issues and suggestions that’s have been previously raised here. Interested individuals are encouraged to post their suggestions on the party’s forum. There are plenty of avenues from which the PPCA can expand, and that which has been included here is just a sampling.
Taxation & Financial Transparency (aka Canada’s Financial Commons)
Two of my recent posts have examined transparency in relation to financial matters,1 2 and the lack of an easily accessible, searchable, and comparable source for tracking and reigning in government expenditures on the public dime. The funds channelled to our government could easily be viewed as the funds of the commons, as they are meant to support and develop the country/province/city for the people of Canada. If I invest in something, I want to know where my money is going and how it is being used, and currently, other than a very general overview, we have no clue how the money of the commons is being spent. Government invoices & receipts should also be scanned and viewable, with the individual responsible for incurring those expenses being linked directly to them in the database, so that taxpayers can see who bought the $60 steak.
Additionally, taxation should be transparent and simple. Tax preparation companies continually lobby the governments to make the tax system more complicated, thereby requiring additional use of their services. This leads to more loopholes, complicated forms, misfilings, and money hidden. Since everyone must pay taxes, no one should be beholden to a third-party corporation in order to be able to do so. The taxation system for personal income taxes should be simple and straightforward, with a single bracket, a limit on deductions and only a few ways to obtain deductions, such as charitable contributions). I would consider this Taxation Tranparency a step in the right direction, and it would reduce the burden on individuals.
Corporate, Business and Non-Profit income tax and financial records would be the next category to tackle in terms of simplifying its structure. These tax filings and financial reports should also be viewable by the general public, as a form of corporate transparency. Any corporate breaks should be related to exhibiting net-positive effects on things we wish to encourage, such as job growth, (Employees 6+ months seniority this year – employees 6+ seniority last year to demonstrate growth & retention, expressed as a percentage).
Copyright & Patents (aka Canada’s Cultural, Intellectual & Health Commons)
As an author, a founding member of several writing collectives, and an authorial event manager, I have had a lot of opportunities to speak with authors about their work, their financial states, and the disappearance of their work. Musical, performance, and visual artists have been coming up toward the same hurdles and authors in these aspects. In short, unless you have a best seller (or even a best selling series), you stop making any real money off of your work about 5-years after its been published/released. Some residuals come in, but it’s a pittance in comparison, rendering the life+50 copyright term pointless. By reducing the length greatly, you enable a hiccup market and encourage the spread and maintenance of Canada’s culture.
Patents issues were demonstrated to be huge during the Osgoode Trade & Home Show3. With 20-year monopolies stifling creative and industrial output, blocking software and technological development, preventing people from returning to health, and slowing advancement in safe GM foods and the dispersion of new agricultural practices, there’s a lot not to like about the current patent practices. Although setting a specific time-frame for all industries is not advisable, there should be some way to vary the time based on development costs, with a maximum cap. If you have the knowledge and can’t market it, then it must be passed on to the public to use at their will. Patents should not be available for resale, they should be surrendered to the public and become a part of our intellectual commons.
And finally, if the public paid for something, like a study, research, cost-analysis, etc, then it should be released copyright/patent-free directly to the public. We’ve paid for the research to be completed, the study to be done, etc, we should be able to use it. This will lead to a better informed society as it will enable people to make their own decisions on numerous issues of state, and allow development based upon government-funded discoveries and inventions. This growth is good both intellectually and economically.
Internet, Telecommunications, & Transportation (aka Canada’s Communications Commons)
The recent Federal budget axed the Community Access Program, which provided vital internet connections at no cost to the users in public locations like libraries.4 As more and more information is becoming only available through an online source, the expansion of these programs would be better alternative, including additional and increased speed access in rural and low-income areas. The Internet often provides a vital lifeline to events throughout Canada and the world, making our citizens more nationally and globally active, and providing a wider and more useful resource for continual education. It also opens additional avenues to encourage the growing digital economy and can serve as a way to increase the funds the people of Canada obtain from foreign sources, leading to additional financial growth.
With wireless telecommunications growing across the country, we need to consider the dissolution of cancellation fees, the encouragement of additional competition, and discouraging content-supplier-umbrella provider ownership trees that could reduce the ability for information and entertainment to be utilized by people utilizing different umbrella providers. Some of these steps are already being taken at provincial levels, but as it is primarily a domain of the federal government, it’s something that needs to be examined. Additionally, we need to reform the regulatory body responsibly for these issue, which is mandated to protect the interest of Canadians so that the majority of its voting board members are not and have never been employed by any of the major telecommunications companies.
Transportation may seem like a strange item to file under Communications Commons, but the ability for people to affordably, and in a reasonably amount of time, go from one location to another is a part of what helped forge this country. With the laying of railway tracks across the country, to the expansion of highways zig-zagging throughout, and the eventual development of mass-transit systems in municipal areas, transportation has been integral to getting people to come together and communicate their ideas, spread their knowledge, sell their product, etc.5 The development of transportation systems have led to booms in many areas, and the dissolution of those systems has just as dramatically sunk many a small town. There are numerous projects that could be approached nationally, and through working with provincial and municipal governments, could see an increase in communication through live, in-person meetings and discussions.6 Systems could be revitalized, with new technology integrated to decrease the overall costs to the government, reduce smog/pollution, and increase inter-provincial, inter-city, or even cross-border traffic.
Energy & Natural Resources (aka Canada’s Environmental Commons)
Canada has been blessed with Natural Resources. Whether it’s fresh water, oil, lumber, coal, natural gas, iron, aluminum, or whatever else, we’ve got access to a lot of it. But only in certain areas. For example, we export oil to the US from the West, but have to import a far more expensive version of it from overseas in the East. We need to begin to search for a way to supply ourselves first, with exports and imports taking a back-seat to self-reliance. This does not require us to become insular, merely self-supportive. This would create a cushion against fluctuating world issues, and continue to contribute to a strong and stable country. I propose encouraging an East-West oil corridor7, with manufacturing and supply facilities operating in every province along the route, thereby enabling a rebirth in manufacturing industries within our country. This new development needs to take into account new, environmentally conscious methods and inventions, many hiding unused behind aging patents, to ensure great efficiency and minimal degratory impact on our Environmental Commons. Additionally, through these developments, we would see a huge growth in the mobilization of our greatest natural resource, the people, through a dramatic growth in employment.
Although Energy & Natural Resources currently have no direct relation to the principals the party adopted in its recent constitution, it works very well as an extension of the idea of digital sovereignty that used to be a core element of the part. Our national soveriengty is reliant on both being able to work together with foreign powers, and being able to assert control over vital areas that are necessary for our country to function (such as natural resources, communications, security, etc). I think this area may work as a very appealing aspect to our platform, and would fit well with both the party membership and the voting public.
Electoral Reform & Representative Responsibilities (aka Canada’s Governance Commons)
Again, technically the party has no stance on these issues courtesy of our constitution. It is, however, a necessity for the PPCA to embrace doing things differently to obtain better results. The party has consistently stressed that elements that lay beyond the party’s platform are to be developed by candidates with input from their constituents. This is a very admirable idea, and is very well received, however there is no real method to reinforce or encourage this behaviour with candidates. This stance needs to be made official, and we should encourage an extension of the time parliament sits to the full year, and REQUIRE every MP to spend a minimum of one week (all days consecutive) per month working within their riding consulting with their constituents. If this week is set on a regular schedule for all MPs, there should not be any increase MP truancy (hell, it may even decrease). This basic reform would do well for turning the MP’s responsibility back to the constituents whom they are supposed to represent.
We also need to begin to examine new electoral systems and come with our recommendations to the table. Personally, I’m in favour of a form of Mixed-Member Proportional, which would maintain voices of ridings, and balance party sizes in parliament based upon their proportion of the vote. Those running specifically for the constituency should be forbidden from having their party name next to theirs on the electoral ballot, and a second ballot listing all parties should be included to determine the proportional breakup. I go into a little more detail on this on my as-yet unfinished candidate site, and think pursuing something like this would be of benefit for the party and Canada as a whole.
I also happen to agree with the idea of randomizing the seating plan on Parliament Hill. The current “sit-with-your-party” attitude encourages unruly behaviour and an “us-versus-them” attitude in the house. Our MPs are elected to work together to forge the best legislation for our country, taking all views into account. Instead we end up with our current biggest-bully ruling method. By randomizing the seating, MPs will be mixed changing the way debates are conducted and hopefully encouraging a more genial and cooperative tone in Parliament.
Privacy & Security (aka The Rights of the Individual)
With the invasion of privacy from the Robocall Scandal,8 the upcoming assault of Lawful Access legislation,9 and the increased use of video surveillance10 the need for specific elements relating to Personal Privacy & An Individual’s Security within the Commons, are an absolute necessity to be addressed. The party’s previous platform loosely outlined three elements to this:
The first and third element from this platform are essentially maintain the legislation present prior to the 2011 election. We need to work toward drafting recommendations to strengthen our personal privacy rights and enshrine them. Merely maintaining the status-quo will not be much of a selling point. The status quo may have saved the PCs in Alberta’s election, and the Liberal’s in Ontario, but both returned greatly weakened. The other parties failed to inspire in terms of providing an active change and that’s what we need to examine in these regards. We need to examine the effects of video surveillance, provide additional means to maintain and create personal privacy during digital exchanges, and develop/find easy-to-use tools available to the commons that will ensure the safety and security of digital systems.
The second part, strengthening the powers of the Privacy Commissioner, is a definitely necessity. We need to define how we want to strengthen her powers, and what sort of enforcement she will be allowed to carry out. Is an increased staff required to more fully investigate cases, and under what protocols should the privacy commissioner operate. This element needs to be fleshed out and made concrete, with appropriate checks and balances remaining to ensure that it does not become a position that can be easily abused.
The Pirate Party of Canada offers an excellent alternative to the current parties dominating parliament in Canada. There is a lot of room for growth, and a lot of ways to naturally expand the core principals of the party into other avenues. By making a public call for aid in developing a more thorough platform, the party is taking huge strides in being taken seriously. I look forward to seeing how the platform discussion flows, and seeing what they will choose to stand behind in the future.
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