Monday, January 31, 2011

Canada Could Use a New Species of Conservative

The only politician whose twitter feed I follow is Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement. The vast majority of politicians’ twitter feeds are written by PR interns, and consist almost entirely of announcements of speeches and press conferences, or links to press releases that state generic party policies, except with greater vapidity.

But someone retweeted Tony Clement joking about some absurd piece of popular culture. Intrigued, I read through his profile and discovered a fan not just of sports, but of science fiction. I discovered a man who seems to be a genuine nerd for technological innovations. We have quite a few common follows as well. Clement follows a lot of my more noteworthy journalist friends, which is probably expected for a politician to follow reporters who may soon work on him. But he also follows some of the same weird celebrities I do, like David Lynch, Leonard Nimoy, Conan O’Brien, and Kanye West.

After I spoke with my friends who read far more tech news than I do this weekend, I became incensed at the CRTC ruling having the effect that independent internet service providers, although nominally allowed to compete with large companies whose physical networks they used, would not be permitted to offer more bandwidth than the ISP plans of those larger companies. This would severely restrict internet access in Canada, making it practically unaffordable to many businesses and individuals. Coffeeshops, for example, could no longer offer free wifi, and probably lose their shirts along with the lagging customers buying endless coffees, pastries, and sandwiches while they sit in a warm coffeeshop on a freezing winter afternoon.

So I sent a twitter letter to Tony Clement. In eleven tweets, I explained my major complaints and my idea that a truly pro-business government would encourage investment in the bandwidth infrastructure for small ISP businesses to thrive, possibly even without having to rely on the networks of large telecom corporations. That was the main positive contribution to my critique.

I was chuffed when I got home today to check my e-mail, and found a direct message in my twitter inbox from Clement. It was a quick notice to watch his website for a more detailed statement on the ISP ruling, but nonetheless, it was a direct message to me from a minister of the party whose platform I am largely the most distant from in the entire parliament of my country.

Mind you, the actual statement was pretty underwhelming in terms of spelling out any actual position the government was taking on the issue. But they did acknowledge that the ruling conformed to the lobbying efforts of a major network owner, without naming that company, which was Bell. I will likely never be a fan of Stephen Harper, but if Clement listens to the knowledge of well-informed Canadians who understand how harmful the bandwidth restrictions unfolding from this ruling will be to the country, there will be at least one Conservative in the party who I think is pretty okay.

For most politicians, pretty okay is like getting a high A. Not an A with distinction (that’s an alright), but it’s about as high as a politician can get until I become the industry or education minster in about twenty or so years.

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