Inside Pierre Poilievre’s Vision for the Internet

Pierre Poilievre has become the leader of the Conservative party. We look at what his vision for the internet is from what we could find.

Let’s not sugarcoat anything here: Canadians knew for a long time that radical right wing extremism was slowly infecting the Conservative party of Canada. In fact, this was on full display early on this year with the American funded terrorist occupation that saw citizens assaulted, the Ottawa downtown core illegally occupied, and even significant pieces of the Canadian economy hijacked. If there was anything that was made clear, Donald Trump style politics had seeped across the border and is menacing the country.

For those who followed the events closely, one aspect of this is the fact that Pierre Poilievre was seen and pictured schmoozing with the occupiers, openly supporting the extremist behaviour. Poilievre’s support meant that there were definitely elements within the Conservative party that was openly sympathetic to the extremist activities. There was hope that this sort of thing might have been isolated to the far right People’s Party of Canada, but it seems the insanity had much bigger ambitions.

Earlier this week, however, we learned that Poilievre had not only run for the leadership of the Conservative party, but had also won that leadership as well. While some Liberal supporters dismissed the win as a guarantee that Trudeau will remain in office, the moment bears scary similarities to the US presidential election where Hillary Clinton was practically a shoe in for president while pitted up against the unhinged Donald Trump presidential campaign. While Clinton won the popular vote, the electoral college vote system handed Trump the keys to the White House anyway. It’s proof that nothing is ever certain in politics and Canada has already repeated what happened south of the border when Trump was nominated the Republican leader.

When Poilievre won his nomination on the first ballet, it was a sign for many that moderate conservatism had died and that the extreme elements had taken over the party. The new leader wasted no time pandering to white supremacy and hate after attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for being part of a “radical woke coalition“. If there was any sign that the tone will be muddled in an effort to garner more moderate votes, that pretty much said that Conservatives are the “big tent party” no more. Conservative “purity tests” are no doubt going to be the new thing that defines conservatism no doubt.

Of course, what is less known is Poilievre’s vision for the internet. While Poilievre made no secret that he intends on repealing Bill C-11 (which is a good thing), internet policy goes far beyond a stance on Bill C-11. So, we took a deep dive into Poilievre’s website to see what else we can find.

Crypto Currency

In this post back in March, there were comments made about crypto currency which includes the following:

Government is ruining the Canadian dollar, so Canadians should have the freedom to use other money, such as Bitcoin.

The Blockchain economy is about more than new forms of cash. It’s also about decentralizing control of our economic decisions. A Poilievre government would welcome this new, decentralized, bottom-up economy and allow people to take control of their money from bankers and politicians. It would expand choice and lower the costs of financial products, and create thousands of jobs for engineers, programmers, coders, and other entrepreneurs.

To unleash this potential, a Poilievre government will simplify and streamline rules and taxes and will:

  1. Keep crypto legal and reject a China-style crackdown.
  2. Make the rules clear:
    1. Work with provinces to align rules and definitions across jurisdictions to make it easy for blockchain companies to operate across Canadian jurisdictions at the same time without a cobweb of contradictory rules. (Provinces control securities regulations. The goal would be to get them to voluntarily align their approaches).
    2. Simplify tax treatment of crypto so it is easy for buyers and sellers to comply.
    3. Apply the principle of treating “like-things-like”, so that laws, taxes, and regulations treat crypto assets the same as their equivalents in the traditional economy. Crypto assets that act like a commodity should have the same taxes and regulations as traditional commodities, like gold, for example. What is legal to do with Canadian dollars should be legal to do with crypto currencies and vice versa.

Choice and competition can give Canadians better money and financial products. Not only that, but it can also let Canadians opt-out of inflation with the ability to opt-in to crypto currencies. It’s time for Canadians to take back control of their money and their lives by making Canada the freest country on earth.

On the surface, none of this really makes any sense. Canadians are currently able to buy and sell Bitcoin and other crypto currencies if they like. So, what is really the intended change here? Well, we know that during the terrorist occupation, one of the ways government tried to stifle efforts to keep Canada’s economic activities crippled is to suspend or otherwise block foreign efforts to fund the occupation. Given Poilievre’s close ties with the occupation, this is more directed at trying to maintain that flow of cash to such terrorist initiatives and less about allowing Canadians to simply use crypto transaction.

In fact, Poilievre doubled down on this in April when he commented that he would remove taxes on crypt:

Candidate for Prime Minister Pierre Poilievre announced today that he would remove the capital gains tax from cryptocurrency donations to registered Canadian charities.

“It’s time to give people back control of their money,” said Poilievre. “It should be just as easy for Canadians to donate cryptocurrency to help out their local animal shelter or food bank as it is to donate stocks”.

A Call to Repeal Bill C-11 – Laced with Supporting Misinformation

As mentioned earlier, Poilievre has long said that he would repeal Bill C-11. What was apparently lost in those reports is what else was said along with these calls:

Trudeau’s Bill C-11 would give government bureaucrats the power to manipulate social media algorithms, so that only state-approved content is visible to Canadian readers and viewers. And recently, the Prime Minister empowered police to seize the bank accounts of political opponents.

This is on top of the government’s unscientific attacks on peoples’ medical decisions – attacks applied through malicious mandates that deprive people of the freedom to earn a living, for the crime of refusing to put something in their own bodies.

No wonder people feel like they are losing control of their lives.

Canada needs a Prime Minister who will honour not only the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the ancient British liberties dating to the Magna Carta that Canada’s parliamentary system inherited.

These liberties put commoner over crown, citizen over state, and people over government.

We must put these principles into practical action now by repealing Trudeau’s censorship laws, removing mandates, restrictions, and other medical controls, and by restoring the economic freedom needed for our young people to own homes, our single mothers to afford food, and our seniors to afford a dignified retirement.

The call to stop Bill C-11 (and its predecessor, Bill C-10 in the last government) has been a call made by digital rights advocates for some time. What the Conservative party did was detect that weakness in Liberal Party policy and hammered on it. Of course, as you might recall back in August, long before Poilievre would become the leader of the party, we commented how the Conservative party isn’t exactly a safe haven for free speech. What was laced in with the calls to free speech pretty much confirmed these suspicions.

One of the difficult to tackle problems has long been medical misinformation. Basic level of science common knowledge says that mandates were put in place because the vaccine for COVID-19 was in development or in short supply once developed. With a disease that has killed millions running rampant, efforts to control the spread were necessary. It was never about restricting people’s ability to live because government was evil, but rather, it was about stopping a virus that would otherwise kill an exponentially growing number of Canadian’s. You can’t have a properly functioning economy when a vast majority of the workers are dead or dying.

What we see in this posting is a rejection of science in general. So, if you are one to believe that something must be done to stop the spread of malicious medical misinformation, that posting above should scare the living daylights out of you if you didn’t already know Poilievre’s stance. Further, Poilievre’s stance opens the door to some of the undercurrent tendencies to call on social media platforms to crack down on speech they don’t like and leave speech they agree with up. In a follow-up post, Poilievre said that he would implement the “Free Speech Act“:

“The government is trying to control what you see in your social media newsfeed and what you can say online,” said Poilievre. “And on top of that, they’ve teamed up with elite corporate media gatekeepers to stifle the power of the independent media. When I’m Prime Minister, I’ll protect free speech online and make sure independent media have the right to cover the news”.

Poilievre would introduce the Free Speech Act, which would repeal online censorship law C-11 and eliminate the proposed “Digital Safety Commissioner” position and leave it to law enforcement to enforce the criminal code online.

“Freedom of expression is one of our most precious charter rights, without which no other rights are possible. The current government has attempted to rob Canadians of those rights. I will restore them, to put Canadians back in control of their lives and make Canada the freest nation on earth.”

This appears to be in reference to both Bill C-11 and the online harms proposal (we are, in fact, opposed to both).

What’s more is this posting claiming that academia is no longer a place for free thinking:

Universities are supposed to be places where ideas are openly discussed and challenged, but they have become places where gatekeepers and a loud minority silence students and faculty. The Trudeau Liberals have done nothing to protect the rights of students and faculty to speak freely. Their obsession with woke culture has allowed campus to change from a place where people learn through discussion and debate, to a place where popular professors, like Dr. Jordan Peterson, must resign and student groups must cancel events or even lose resources, just because of their different viewpoint.

“We see new examples of people deplatformed, students silenced, and professors attacked,” said Poilievre. “As Prime Minister I will champion our charter rights to academic freedom.”

Poilievre outlined the plan he would implement to protect free speech on campus as Prime Minister: As a condition of receiving direct federal research and other grants, universities will have to commit to uphold section 2 of the Charter:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.

To get federal grants, universities will be required to not only promote section 2 Charter freedoms on campus, but also defend them when they are attacked, including by other students and faculty.

Poilievre’s approach will protect a culture of free and open speech, debate, and research. This includes speech that members of the university and the public may find disagreeable and offensive, so long as it does not rise to the level of hate speech that the Supreme Court of Canada has held may be lawfully restricted under section 2(b).

Poilievre will appoint a Free Speech Guardian—a former judge who will report on compliance by universities and will investigate claims of academic censorship. He or she will enforce the requirement by reporting to the federal government on breaches of the universities’ undertakings and recommending reductions in direct federal grants to specific universities that fail to protect free speech and academic freedom. No federal-provincial transfers will be affected by this policy.

While it isn’t overly clear here, this is actually in reference to climate change denialism. While there is lots of hyperbole to be had in this snippet, this does suggest that there is a tendency to support climate change denialism. When Stephen Harper, the last Conservative Prime Minister, was in power, there was an effort to brand environmentalists as “eco-terrorists”. As such, there was this push for law enforcement to crack down on such groups. It represented a disturbing attack on freedom of expression. Will we get a repeat of this? It’s hard to say. Still, it is a non-zero chance that this will happen.

A Push to Ban Moderation?

One thing is for sure, the posts we found had some very careful wording. Although they more or less dance around the fact, they do touch on the potential to try and ban moderation (just like the efforts in the US). You can very easily read into this with the massive amounts of “freedom” laid about, but taken into context, what are these calls to “freedom” supposed to protect? Is it truly to protect the freedom of expression for all people or the speech of a select few individuals? If there was an organized attack on a climate change organization through massive amounts of hate, who would Poilievre defend? The environmentalists or those launching a hate campaign on those environmentalists?

Conclusions

While the word “freedom” is thrown around a lot, the question ultimately boils down to this: are we talking about actual freedom of speech or freedom to hate? While it is, indeed, laudable that there are calls to kill Bill C-11 and online harms, the worrying part revolves around what initiatives are going to be in their place. My own fear here is that this will get replaced with legislation that bans moderation of content and enforces a policy of “free speech for me, but not for thee”. After reading the posts, my concerns are not really eased in any of this.

What’s more is that there is no real mention of what the leaders stance is on Bill C-18 (link taxes).

For me, the signs here are that the very real concerns of online harms and Bill C-11 are in the process of being hijacked by white supremacy tendencies and the denial of science. If Poilievre really believes in actual freedom of expression, then he has a heck of a lot of convincing to do at this stage.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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