Liberal Party Releases Platform – Our Analysis (Part 1)

The Liberal party has released their platform. So, we offer our analysis of it like the other parties.

Freezenet is continuing to run away with the title of best election coverage in Canada through the lens of digital rights. First, we have the best and most detailed coverage of the Conservative platform (Part 1, Part 2). We then became the only site to cover the NDP, Pirate Party of Canada, OpenMedia, and the Bloc. Of course, we aren’t resting on our laurels by any means. We’re going to continue to prove we dominate in this space even further with our analysis of the Liberal platform.

The platform was just released recently and can be found on the Liberal party’s website. Alternatively, you can simply get their platform in PDF format.

Now, as a reminder, the Canadian Liberals really entered this election as the party that is leading the way in cracking down on the Internet as a whole. They pushed for a disastrous Link Tax law, ramming through Internet censorship and killing domestic websites through the online harms proposal (which received universal and international condemnation as well). Further, the Liberals were pushing Bill C-10 which would effectively choke off free speech on the Canadian Internet. So, really the anti-Internet party.

Before we dive into the platform, we wanted to ensure that everyone is on the right page with our analysis. So, throughout the platform, we’ll include both the paginated number and the PDF page number (both are very different). The PDF basically contains a number of pages that are before the actual content and paginated pages which throws the PDF page number.

Claiming to Support Innovation

It’s not much of a mention, but it is a mention. On Page 22 (PDF page 29), we see the following:

Recovery is underway in Canada. But recovery can’t just be about getting back to the way things were before.

It’s about helping our businesses grow, especially small businesses, and making them competitive in our digital future. It’s about the innovation, entrepreneurship, and determination of Canadians.

You can’t help but burst out laughing reading that. After all, we had to issue a response to their online harms proposal by pointing out how it would decimate innovation and entrepreneurship in Canada. Depressingly, we had to also note how we know full well that our response to the “consultation” (or consultation by notice) would likely get ignored given that all this was laid out in such a way that responses really won’t be listened to or read. So, seeing this in the platform after that was quite rich for us given how their actions while in power clearly didn’t reflect the above commitment.

Grants for Business Adopting New Technology

Moving on to page 24 (PDF page 31), we do see the following:

Helping Small Businesses Grow

Small businesses create good local jobs in every corner of Canada, including rural Canada. We know that supporting them is key to supporting a strong economic recovery.

Seizing the Opportunities of the Digital Economy

During the pandemic, we did more business online than ever. As the digital economy grows, we have to make sure that Canadian businesses are poised to compete and win. That’s why we have a plan to help almost 160,000 small and medium-sized businesses adopt new technologies and digitize their offerings. And we’ll create jobs for almost 30,000 young people in the process.

We will move forward with our plan to implement the Canada Digital Adoption Program which will:

  • Give microgrants of up to $2,400 to smaller Main Street businesses so they can afford the costs of new technology.
  • Create training and work opportunities for as many as 28,000 young people so they can assist small and medium-sized businesses in adopting new technology.
  • Offer zero-interest loans to small and medium-sized businesses so they can finance larger technology adoption projects.

It would be questionable just how successful this could possibly be. It’s certainly possible for, say, a restaurant, to start something up online. The thing is, with the link tax and the online harms proposal, those businesses would effectively be hamstrung. In short, the government is promising loans to start something up, but if you want to expand your business in any way online, you’re basically going to be heavily reliant on large social media platforms at best. This is because businesses would have severe limitations on what they can offer thanks to these potential new laws that would later come in.

Mention of the Digital Charter

Meanwhile on page 26 (PDF page 33), we see the following:

Protecting Rights and Competitiveness in the Digital World

Canadians now live in a digital world—many of us work online, buy groceries online, our children even go to school online. We connect with loved ones online, we post pictures of life’s milestones online, and we do some of our most sensitive transactions online.

A digital society must be built on a foundation of trust. In 2019, we launched Canada’s Digital Charter, which lays out 10 principles to build that foundation of trust. In November 2020, we proposed legislation to implement the Charter.

  • We will move forward on legislation that will implement the Digital Charter, strengthen privacy protections for consumers, and provide a clear set of rules that ensure fair competition in the online marketplace.
  • Indeed, in 2019, the Liberal party was going to try and implement a “Digital Charter”. This alongside privacy reform in October of 2020 which was badly needed by 2019. Both of these were positive signs that, finally, the Liberal party got the message to treat digital rights seriously. In fact, many digital rights observers were very supportive and even did a little cheer-leading on this.

    As we know now, all that fell apart by October 2020 when the Liberals ejected its digital agenda. Privacy reform was basically abandoned, the Digital Charter was shelved, and the crackdown on the Internet began with Bill C-10, the link tax, and the online harms proposal. The abandonment of privacy reform was particularly surprising for observers because it’s something that was broadly supported among Canadians and even got unanimous support from all party leaders during a leaders debate during the last election.

    So, here we see the Liberals effectively dust off their Digital Charter and saying, “see? We’re pro-Internet! Re-elect us and we’ll totally implement it this time!” Obviously, based on the actions of the Liberals while in power, they have no intention of really implementing it. In fact, a reasonable expectation is that they will probably shelve the plans again once the election is over and continue their three pronged assault on the Internet after.

    Copyright Reform

    On page 27 (PDF page 34), we see the following:

    Arts & Culture

    Arts and culture draw us together and help tell us who we are. Culture is a shared experience, but for a year and a half, we have had to stay apart. Many of Canada’s stages are dark, concert halls sit empty, and exhibit halls are bare. The reality is that cultural workers and businesses are facing challenges that put their future at risk.

    A re-elected Liberal government will:

    • Protect Canadian artists, creators, and copyright holders by making changes to the Copyright Act, including amending the Act to allow resale rights for artists.

    So, essentially, the plan is to ratchet up copyright laws. To what end, we don’t really know. This, of course, has been a well worn path that extends throughout my entire career which reaches clear back to 2005. Whenever people like us hear about copyright reform, it usually means bad news for users and artists alike. whether it’s through copyright term extension (which harms the Public Domain), ratcheting up laws for DRM (which typically kills innovation), or making it easier for record labels, movie studios, and so-called “anti-piracy” outlets to target ordinary Canadians for something they probably had nothing to do with, we almost never see anything good come from this.

    So, an ominous warning that something that has a long history of not being good is coming here.

    Broadcasting Act Reform

    Moving to later on the same page (page 27, PDF page 34), we also see the following:

    Supporting Canadian Music, Film and Television

    As more and more of us stream shows, movies, and music on multinational digital platforms instead of tuning into Canadian TV and Radio, Canadian creators and audiences are at real risk of being edged out by foreign giants. We need a Broadcasting Act that’s built for today’s world.

    A re-elected Liberal government will:

    • Within the first 100 days, reintroduce legislation to reform the Broadcasting Act to ensure foreign web giants contribute to the creation and promotion of Canadian stories and music.

    This, in short, is in reference to Bill C-10. As Freezenet readers know, this would tilt the online ecosystem into the favour of legacy corporations in Canada while leaving Canadian creators high and dry. It also clamps down on freedom of expression as well. It’s not really a surprise that the Liberals are wanting to ram this terrible bill through quickly, but what is a bit surprising is the fact that the Liberals are openly running on a platform that says that they will crack down on freedom of expression online.

    Pushing the Link Tax

    On page 28 (PDF page 35), we see the following:

    Levelling the Playing Field with Digital Giants

    In 2021, most Canadians get their news from digital platforms which drives key advertising revenues away from Canadian news organizations and towards platforms owned by social media companies and digital giants.

    A re-elected Liberal Government will:

    • Introduce legislation, within 100 days, that would require digital platforms that generate revenues from the publication of news content to share a portion of their revenues with Canadian news outlets. This legislation would be based on the Australian model and level the playing field between global platforms and Canadian news outlets. The bill will also allow news publishers to work together to prepare for collective negotiation.

    This, of course, is in direct reference to the link tax law. The Australian model has been an absolute disaster and nearly drove Facebook and Google out of the country. Both giants then saw how they could consolidate their monopolies and drive their competitors into the ground and opted to go along with this despite it being rather painful in the short term for them.

    In Canada, Facebook then went into negotiations with some of Canada’s biggest publishers so they could work out a deal. Some of those publishers chose not to participate, instead, opting to hope for a better deal from the Canadian government. This ultimately caused a rift between publishers who chose a private deal and publishers who went all-in with a government solution. At the time, most people simply dismissed the publishers who opted for a government solution as merely hold-outs in an otherwise largely settled debate.

    For us, however, we pointed out that the Canadian government, driven largely by lobbyists in this area, would probably move forward with this anyway. So, we noted that it’s very possible that those “holdouts” will actually get what they want anyway. This platform is actually proving us right because, why else would they run on pushing through a competition crippling link tax?

    Either way, like Bill C-10, it’s not surprising to us that they are going to push this prong on their war on the Internet, but it is a bit surprising that they don’t even bother hiding it.

    Rural Broadband

    On page 29 (PDF page 36), see see the following:

    Connecting Rural Canada

    The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted much of our lives online and transformed how we live, work, learn, and do business. Rural communities without access to broadband are worried about getting left behind.

    Since 2015, we have invested more than $8 billion to accelerate the delivery of high-speed internet and wireless service across Canada. That is more funding committed to broadband investments than all previous federal governments, combined. We have partnered with provincial governments, municipalities, and telecom providers so that we can deliver for rural Canadians.

    Because of our investments, this year alone over 400,000 more Canadians will have access to high-speed internet. But we know there are still rural and remote communities
    without access, and broadband projects waiting to be developed.

    A re-elected Liberal government will:

    • Require those that have purchased the rights to build broadband actually do so. With this use it or lose it approach, Canada’s large national carriers will be required to accelerate the roll-out of wireless and high-speed internet in rural and northern Canada by progressively meeting broadband access milestones between now and 2025. If these milestones are not met, we will mandate the resale of spectrum rights and reallocate that capacity to smaller, regional providers.

    This has been a sore spot for multiple governments for well over a decade. Connecting rural and indigenous communities to broadband has been pretty much moving at a snails pace at best. For a lot of the more rural communities, they really haven’t seen a difference. They still don’t have access to high speed Internet. This after multiple wireless spectrum auctions that supposedly had the promise of, at least, bringing in competition. By all accounts, this was pretty much an absolute failure. In fact, more and more people are having to rely on Elon Musks Starlink program to finally get reasonable broadband speeds. While customers admit that they are paying a premium for this, as far as their concerned, it’s worth it over the little to no access in their areas.

    This promise of a “use it or lose it” system seems to be a running theme across different platforms. Of course, as is the theme throughout, what they promise here and what they actually do once in power could very well be two different things entirely.

    Conclusions So Far

    So, quite a lot to chew through. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to write a full analysis of the platform today. So, the plan is to continue this tomorrow. What we found so far in this platform is the following:

    • A promise to push forward with the Digital Charter for reals this time
    • Ominous promise of copyright reform
    • Pushing through Bill C-10 in 100 days of getting into office
    • Pushing through the link tax within 100 days of getting in to office
    • Expanding broadband to rural and indigenous communities by implementing a “use it or lose it” system for providers

    For the record, we left off on page 38 (PDF page 44). So, that is the page we’ll be starting off with in our next round of analysis.

    So far, a largely disastrous strategy for online innovation. Still, it shows that the Liberals aren’t even going to bother hiding this anymore which certainly speaks to the confidence that they will win this election on other area’s of debate. In a way, that’s really sad.

    Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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