Election Called in Canada: Will Digital Issues Disappear?

It’s official: The Canadian election is on. While major digital issues are happening, the question is, will it disappear into the polarized noise?

It’s something that was going to happen, now today, it is official. Canada is headed into a 40 day election. From the CBC:

Canadians “have an important choice to make” about their country’s future path, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today as he triggered the official launch of the federal election campaign.

The Liberal leader and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau arrived at Rideau Hall in Ottawa this morning to ask Gov. Gen. Julie Payette to dissolve Parliament, launching Canada’s 43rd general election.The vote is to be held on Oct. 21.

Dogged by new questions about the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Trudeau — who is seeking his second four-year mandate — wasted little time in posing what the Liberals hope will be the ballot box question.

“We’ve done a lot together these past four years, but the truth is, we’re just getting started. So Canadians have an important choice to make. Will we go back to the failed policies of the past, or will we continue to move forward?” Trudeau told reporters outside Rideau Hall.

Of course, as one goes through not only that article, but a lot of different forms of coverage, one thing stands out: the absence of all digital issues. There are a few issues that are currently making headlines. Among the issues are the SNC-Lavalin scandal, political parties wanting to ram through a pipeline so many oppose, xenophobia, the environment, and the economy. Other issues certainly have a possibility of cropping up such as the flow of drugs going into Canada, marijuana, or the sawmill jobs crises going on in BC. A question is whether or not any digital issue will even surface in the election in the first place.

It’s not to say digital issues aren’t happening. In fact, things have been quite active on that front from a Canadian perspective. There are privacy issues such as the fact that people’s phone numbers are up for sale thanks to a Facebook data leak or Canada’s proposed war on encryption which received considerable pushback.

Another issue that can crop up is the length of copyright terms. Currently, Canada sits at the extremely long length of life plus 50 years. With NAFTA 2 now working its way through the legislative system, there could be considerable pressure to extend copyright term lengths to the even more extreme life plus 70 years.

Internet censorship could become an issue as well. While the proposal to censor the Internet was rejected by the CRTC, but free speech opponents are continuing to push for it in the copyright review process.

Then there’s always that possibility that lawful access could rear its ugly head again. That, of course, is the Canadian version of warrantless wiretapping. While not an issue that came up that much in the previous government, if the Liberal party gets in again, that opens up the possibility that they could be emboldened to crack down on privacy again, falling back to their old ways of governing in the process more so than before.

So, it’s not as though these issues don’t exist. They are all present. The problem this time is the fact that with the election of Donald Trump, so many polarizing issues are bubbling up to the surface in places beyond the US border. Politics is practically upside down and it would be foolish to pretend that it isn’t having an effect in Canada. Just look at the founding of the People’s Party of Canada headed up by former Conservative Maxime Bernier. As a result, it is going to be especially difficult to bring important issues like the above to the forefront with so many other distractions.

As long time readers know, I’ve actually covered my share of Canadian elections in the past. Certainly, there were dominating issues in each election, but each election I covered had digital rights just below the surface. These issues include record labels being permitted to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars out of Canadians based on a highly questionable accusation (file-sharing lawsuits). Another issue that has come up is, of course, Lawful Access when both Liberal and Conservative governments pushed for those laws once they seized power. Really, it took technicalities in the system to stop a lot of these controversial laws from going through.

This time around, this election definitely has an air of being different. Unless something big happens that penetrates the political noise, there is a real possibility that these issues will simply not get discussed. That could allow a lot of bad policies to simply resurface after the election is over and Canadians may be left without a say at a critical time in politics.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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