People’s Party of Canada Releases Platform, Almost No Plan for Tech Drew Wilson | September 24, 2019 Freezenet is learning that the People’s Party of Canada released their platform. There’s some vague free speech commitments, but no real technology plan. For a while, we were only aware of one political party releasing their party platform. That, of course, is the Green Party of Canada. The platform itself addresses numerous digital and technology issues. As such, the platform manages to set the bar extremely high for other parties. Ever since, we’ve been on the lookout for other parties to release their platforms to assess. Today, Freezenet has learned that the Green Party is no longer alone in releasing a point-by-point plan for Canada. Now, they are joined by the relatively new party, the People’s Party of Canada. For some background, the People’s Party of Canada is really a new political party and is going through their first election. It was founded by former Conservative, Maxime Bernier. While the party is new, it didn’t really take long for the party to experience scandal. In early September, Bernier himself got embroiled in a scandal where he was effectively accused of cyberbullying Greta Thunburg by calling the 16 year old climate activist “mentally unstable”. When reporters questioned Bernier about his behaviour, Bernier said his actions were “perfectly justifiable”. More recently, the party itself caught controversy when Global News discovered that the party is backed by American neo-nazis. This over top of the fact that there is an overall sense of a rejection of science altogether given how Bernier referred to climate change as “hysteria”. Controversies aside, we decided to look at other substantive elements of party stances. More specifically, we wanted to know if the party has any plans for technology and digital rights. So, we visited the official website and looked at the party platform. What’s In the Platform After thumbing through numerous blocks of text rejecting science and multiculturalism, we finally came across one part of the platform that even references the Internet at all. That, of course, is found in the free speech and discrimination section. That section states that the parties intends to do the following: A People’s Party Government will: Restrict the definition of hate speech in the Criminal Code to expression which explicitly advocates the use of force against identifiable groups or persons based on protected criteria such as religion, race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation. Repeal any existing legislation or regulation curtailing free speech on the internet and prevent the reinstatement of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Repeal C-16 and M-103. Ensure that Canadians can exercise their freedom of conscience to its fullest extent as it is intended under the Charter and are not discriminated against because of their moral convictions. Withhold federal funding from any post-secondary institution shown to be violating the freedom of expression of its students or faculty. So, the party is all for loosening hate speech laws on the first point. That could effect speech online, but it would affect speech everywhere, really. The second point only really says that they will defend free speech. There doesn’t appear to be any specifics on that point, just a vague promise. As for the third point, we had to do some digging around to figure out what is being referenced. We found a Wikipedia page. The bill itself was supported by 84% of the Canadian population, so it’s hugely popular. Essentially, the bill protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The entry further states the following: Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, criticized the bill, saying that it would compel speech. Peterson argued that the law would classify the failure to use preferred pronouns of transgender people as hate speech. According to legal experts, not using preferred pronouns would not meet legal standards for hate speech. So, really, the bill itself is pretty non-controversial outside of a few myths that have long since been busted. That leaves M-103. Again, we never really come across this before ourselves in our research, so we did some digging around. We found a Wikipedia which says it’s a motion to condemn Islamophobia. It’s also worth pointing out that it’s a motion, not a law. The Wikipedia entry further states the following: Others have accused M-103 of going against free speech and leading to “blasphemy laws”. This was argued by Brad Trost and Charles McVety. Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose repudiated such claims and said: “To be clear, this is not a ‘bill’ nor a ‘law’. It does not ‘introduce Sharia law’ as some people have suggested nor would it ‘ban freedom of speech’.” The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also said that M-103 does not restrict free speech in any way. We further tried to find any other opposition that would point to how it could impact free speech and the entry only referenced a few protests: All of the Conservative Party leadership candidates sitting in the House of Commons, with the exception of Michael Chong, announced their opposition to Motion 103. Demonstrations organized by the Canadian Coalition for Concerned Citizens against M-103 were held on March 4, 2017 in several cities across Canada. In Montreal, Quebec City, and Toronto demonstrations were attended by hundreds, while others in cities like Saskatoon, and London, Ontario were smaller. Stephen Garvey, leader of the newly formed nationalist National Advancement Party of Canada, organized protests against M-103 in Calgary. Many of these demonstrations included contingents from far-right groups including La Meute, Pegida, and the Soldiers of Odin. So, as far as we can tell, it’s a generally non-controversial motion that, with the call of the election, isn’t even something that is in force (however a motion could possibly be in force that is). So, it’s unclear how such a motion can be repealed in the first place from our standpoint. Moving on to the next point, the party is basically saying that they will protect free speech and guards against discrimination. There’s really no specifics to speak of on that point, though judging by the previous point, it runs contrary to other points they raise. While the last point touches freedom of expression, it relates to educational institutes. Unfortunately, at this point, this is an area outside of the scope of Freezenet entirely. We then went through the rest of the platform and were unable to locate anything else related to technology or digital rights. What’s Not in the Platform We really could fill an encyclopedia of what we didn’t see in the platform. There’s no stance on copyright. There’s no stance on encryption. Naturally, we didn’t see anything about data leaks and the security of information. There’s nothing about encryption. There is no stance on disinformation. There’s no stance on cell phone and Internet bills. Surprisingly, there’s no stance on the conglomeration of the media or even anything about the CRTC. That’s just what we can think of off the top of our head. Conclusions Apart from what amounts to lip service for free speech, the platform pretty much shows that the People’s Party of Canada are without a plan. That is in the context of digital rights and technology. We tried looking for substance in this party and found almost nothing. What we did find, we really had to stretch things out by quite a bit for the sake of this article. So, if the party was hoping to sell itself as a large political party with big ideas, they did nothing to convince us of this after reading the platform. If anything, it cements the idea that they are a fringe far right party. Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.