For many years, governments took a hands-off approach to the Internet and the world witnessed technological innovations that were beyond our wildest dreams. From the creation of e-mail and the World Wide Web, to the browser wars of the '90s, to the creation of online payment systems, streaming video, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, and the open source movement, a spirit of competition and innovation created the modern-day Internet. Likewise, personal web pages, blogs, and other technologies have given people around the world the ability to express themselves to a mass audience. The low barriers to entry that the technology provides created a marketplace of ideas that is unparallelled in any other communications medium and at any other point in history.
Yet, all this seems to have changed. Nowadays people portray Internet service providers as the big bad wolf, arguing that government must step in to save us from the multinational corporations. They say that government must spy on us to protect us from terrorism. That our ideas should be censored because they might offend someone else. They ignore that government is the one entity that can hold a gun to our heads and call it justice; the one entity that can take our money and call it charity; while companies operating in a competitive market have every incentive to provide people with what they want. At the same time, governments are introducing strict laws that prevent people from using the technology to its full potential. Laws that prevent us from sharing our lives and participating in our own culture.
It is now clear that the Wild West is gone and in its place we have something far more tame and much less free. The Internet, however, has become an indispensable tool in many of our lives. People rely on it for business, education, entertainment, and communication. The future of the Internet is, therefore, more important than ever. My new website Fencing the Digital Horizon: How Government Regulations Threaten Internet Freedom, produced as part of my masters thesis, explores the issues of copyright law and net neutrality in Canada from a free market perspective.
The Danish cartoons, as published in the Western Standard
In February 2006, riots spread throughout the Muslim world over a series of editorial cartoons, depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad, which were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten almost a year earlier. While the violence garnered international headlines, many editors made the decision not to publish the cartoons, even though they were central to the story. In what turned out to be an ironic twist of fate, the Western Standard magazine republished some of the cartoons alongside an article about press freedoms.
“So, in the interest of resisting those who would put limits on what subjects news organizations are free to cover, the Western Standard is publishing the cartoons that so many others are afraid to. They may offend some readers, but this is no excuse not to report the news,” read the article.
There are a number of ways in which the freedom of individual journalists and media organizations can be constrained. These include, laws, the market, cultural norms, and the architectural makeup of the physical world. The editors of the Western Standard were concerned that press freedom was being restricted by fundamentalist Muslims who were trying to impose their cultural norms on Western media outlets.
Below is my response to the following interview between Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and Toronto Now columnist Susan G. Cole regarding Ann Coulter's scheduled appearance at the University of Ottawa, which was canceled due to the disgraceful behavior of a group of Marxist protesters. Please notice the difference between those who support free speech and those who do not. I call for Ms. Kelly to represent the other side of the debate, while Ms. Cole believes that Ann Coulter should not be speaking on Canadian campuses (that's right, those institutions that are supposed to foster the free exchange of ideas and encourage debate).
A CBC reporter tries to spark grassroots fury on Canadian streetsLast spring, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff stood in front of Canadians and issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Stephen Harper: unless the government passed meaningful Employment Insurance (EI) reforms, the Liberals would force election-weary Canadians back to the polls. Of course the Conservatives never passed any EI reforms and Ignatieff never defeated the government.
This did not, however, stop Ignatieff and his cronies from trying to discredit the prime minister through some underhanded political moves. On July 8, 2009, Canada was rocked by a political scandal. Harper was caught on camera at a Catholic funeral taking a communion wafer, but the camera did not capture whether or not he put it in his mouth. The circus freak-show that people lovingly refer to as the mainstream media quickly jumped on the bandwagon of what would come to be known as Wafergate.
After two failed attempts to reform Canada's copyright law, the Government of Canada recently completed a process of consulting with Canadians and industry stakeholders over the future of copyright in Canada. Copyright law was initially intended to foster innovation in intellectual works and protect content creators from publishing companies that had the technology to mass produce copies of their work. At the time, it was easy for a publishing company to produce many copies of a book, while it was painstaking work for an individual to produce a single copy. Therefore, the laws targeted the publishing companies, rather than the individual. The Internet, however, has created a paradigm shift. It is now virtually as easy for an individual to produce one copy of an electronic book as it is to produce 1000.
Yet, in an attempt to adapt copyright law to these changing circumstances, governments are increasingly curtailing the rights of individuals to share information with their peers and build upon the huge body of work that represents the history of great minds and human achievement. The government's two previous attempts at copyright reform favored the interests of content distributors, over the rights of consumers.
Even though the recent round of copyright consultations has ended, this is no time to get complacent. The government is expected to introduce a new copyright bill in either the fall or spring session of Parliament. University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist discussed the issue of copyright reform in a speech in Vancouver on Thursday. You can listen to his talk via the player below.
Driving from Calgary to Vancouver reveals some stark contrasts. The vast farmlands of the foothills morph into the majestic Rocky Mountains. The ominous mountain passes lead to an oasis of sprawling lakes in the Okanagan Valley before climbing into the heavens to traverse the Coquihalla Pass. The desolate mountain landscape then fades away to reveal the lush Lower Mainland before heading into the sprawling metropolis of Metro Vancouver.
If one looks closely, however, another stark contrast can be seen. Between the rocky divide that separates Banff and Golden, one may notice a significant increase in the price of gasoline. The price then increases again when you hit Vancouver. This is because B.C. has much higher gas taxes than Alberta. Residents of Metro Vancouver pay 20.5 cents per litre in gas taxes, plus 5 per-cent GST and a six cent transit tax, compared to just nine cents plus GST in Alberta. If this wasn't bad enough, the "right-wing" Liberal government recently imposed a carbon tax, which adds 3.51 cents to a litre of gas and will eventually reach 7.2 cents by 2012. In a show of just how out of whack B.C. politics is, it was the NDP that campaigned against the carbon tax in the last provincial election.
There was a time when so-called "progressive" politicians could at least pretend their policies were designed to help people. If one promises to steal from the rich and give to the poor, it actually sounds like they intend to help the poor. And while I don't agree with these policies, I can see the rationality in electing someone who promises to give you something for nothing. The remarkable thing about the green movement is that they have somehow made it possible for politicians to implement policies that are designed to help no one.
It's that time of year again. Buses and trains servicing the country's institutes of higher learning are now standing room only. Campuses have been brought back to life as students fill the halls and lounge on the grass in a desperate attempt to soak up the last rays of sunshine before they are forced to face the realities of another harsh Canadian winter.
And so I found myself sitting in my first journalism class of the new semester, tense with questions of what the coming year will bring. What is the professor like? What kind of workload will I face? The professor wasted little time introducing himself and the course. This week's assignment: read a collection of articles compiled by NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen.
The articles were all written in March 2009 by a variety of reporters, technology specialists, and media types. The theme of the articles quickly became apparent: newspapers are dying and no one knows how to make money in journalism anymore. Way to go, as if I don't have enough to worry about, I'm now being forced to read about how my chosen profession is in the midst of its death throes. There's already a high rate of suicide among students. Forcing them to spend hours reading about the futility of their chosen career would not seem to be helping the situation.
On July 24th, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against some of Alberta's Hutterite communities, ensuring they will no longer be exempt from being required to have photographs on their drivers licenses.
The Hutterites believe that photographs are prohibited by the second commandment. While that belief would seem to fall under their constitutional right to freedom of religion, the ruling states that being exempt from having their photograph taken on religious grounds does not satisfy Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that our rights and freedoms can be overridden if it can be "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." You can thank Trudeau for that one.
In his latest column written for the Western Standard, Pierre Lemieux examines the ruling and questions the need for photographs on government identification in the first place:
The Western Standard has released a video of artist Lindy Vopnfjord performing his new song, which speaks out against the Canadian Human Rights Commission:
The incredibly talented musician Lindy Vopnfjord put together a song in honour of our friend and former publisher, Ezra Levant, and his continuing battle against the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The song, appropriately called "Shakedown," sharing a name with Ezra's book, is a tribute to freedom of expression, and hammers home the message that the Canadian Human Rights Commissions are in violation of this traditional Canadian freedom.
The song was debuted at this year's Liberty Summer Seminar. Here is the video:
Oil industry executives now see Manitoba as the best jurisdiction in Canada to invest in, while Alberta fell to 92nd out of 143 international jurisdictions, according to the Fraser Institute's Global Petroleum Survey 2009:
Manitoba has dethroned both Saskatchewan and Alberta as the most attractive Canadian province or territory for oil and gas investment, according to an international survey of petroleum executives and managers released today by independent research organization the Fraser Institute.
Saskatchewan, which was the top province in 2008, drops to the number two spot in Canada. But investors are most critical of Alberta, ranking the province as the least attractive among Canada provinces ranked for oil and gas investment. Aside from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Alberta now also trails Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.…
"The survey results clearly show the industry's dissatisfaction with the Alberta government's misguided policies. Punitive royalty rates, a lack of consultation, and a growing anti-energy bias are common complaints about the Stelmach government," said Gerry Angevine, Fraser Institute senior economist and coordinator of the annual petroleum survey.…
Manitoba, the highest ranked province in 2009, is 21st internationally. Saskatchewan fell from 10th (of 81) in 2008 to 38th (of 143) worldwide. Nova Scotia ranked 54th, Ontario ranked 60th, Quebec 68th, British Columbia 71st, Newfoundland and Labrador 82nd, and Alberta 92nd.
Alberta's poor showing puts the province behind China, the Philippines, and Brazil as an attractive place to invest in upstream oil and gas development.