Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
With at minimum six parties powering (sometimes sputtering) through the federal campaign just passed, voters had a near-full slate of proposals to choose from. Not full; nearly full. Canada had no Bernie Sanders—nor any Trump either— even the NDP with its innovative record, or the Greens’ wisely generous proposals, and the new PPC on the Right, offering a tight-fisted menu, and even with the Bloc back in the game – plenty of voices, plenty of bases covered, and yet the solutions proposed by all of the parties are the old ones, slightly tweaked, pumped up or
budget-slimmed … but hardly novel.
Election after election the same old sore spots cry out for good governance. Where were any new directions or new solutions to these old problems?
No lack of issues: climate upheaval, environment, oceans, our national debt and our extractive economy’s woes, for starters. Add the high cost of living, shortage
of housing, cost of higher education (and prescriptions), plus infrastructure investment, including tele-communications. Despite all the noise and accusations, almost every party agreed on the basic issues with the argument focused on degree or speed or time-frame and, sometimes, cost. It was pretty well what we heard in the last election (apart from cannabis). And the election before that.
We haven’t, in our wisdom, exhausted the possibilities. For example, there’s
a novel, get-the-job-done approach in the big question of switching everything to digital. It’s interesting that for internet and cell-phone coverage all parties proposed up-grades, extensions, price-protection, and so on, in this national switch to things digital. Their differences were in details.
Our last two governments, provincial and federal, have wanted as much business and communications switched to a digital format as is possible. No parties opposed this, except in details. We all seem to support this … fad. Our personal, social, business, and governmental business should be done via cell phones, e-mail, and, especially, social media. International diplomacy is carried out on Twitter.
This is not the argument. Digital, fine – but better service has been the priority for years! Every governing party has promised better cell phone service and coverage, andbetter internet connectivity. This is not a new idea, but a government priority for years, Conservative or Liberal, and it has received millions of public money as ‘financial persuasion’ – and yet coverage is still a problem, still insufficient, still needing even more money.
Yes, we’re a massive country, rough, uneven terrain, small population, many tiny towns … these difficulties are challenges, but surely, after so much money, so many years? Have any political parties looked outside any box with this problem? So here’s a good example of why radical or innovative ideas are worth a look – the cautious proposals have failed. Digital connectivity may be a cash-cow for
certain interests, but there’s a radical idea that no one has even explored.
Why shouldn’t our government take over the corporations that are delivering our telecommunications services so poorly and at such high costs to us? Nationalize
the internet giants, more-or-less as China has done. Communications is a national necessity, a public good. Why should that be handed over to profit-driven companies – which, after all these years, have not delivered.
Think of Hydro-Quebec, delivering the most reliable power on the continent at the most reasonable prices. Let’s make Hydro-Quebec a verb: “we want to Hydro-Quebec the electronic highway”. We did it with electricity, a massive challenge and a world-recognized success. Today we have another crying need: cell phone and
internet service everywhere, at reasonable prices.
Sure, this novel idea (and it’s not novel at all) is a sacrilege within our Religion of the Market … corporate interests will tell us it can’t be done, or will be super-expensive, or will lead to Nazi-Stalinist authoritarianism. And how will they tell everyone? By email? On Google? Not everyone.
Haven’t we had our fill of passive listening? Haven’t we had enough elections fought on the same problems, every time? Time to consider a few new, even radical, ideas?