[kwlug-disc] Asking questions of candidates during the election.

Russell McOrmond russellmcormond at gmail.com
Wed Mar 30 17:52:11 EDT 2011

(Copying to the Canada-wide DCC and the KWLug discussion forums.  Hope
cross-posting won't cause a problem.)

  A discussion thread started in the Kitchener-Waterloo LUG mailing
list after Bill C-32 died that included discussions about asking
questions of candidates.  There are of course different forums for
this, including asking at all candidates debates, at the door when
candidates come by, or as a survey sent to them in email (Or as I have
done in the past, both email and printouts dropped off at campaign

Quick reminder of past

  In the 2008 election there was Michael Geist's Copyright Pledge that
many candidates signed onto:

  In 2006 CIPPIC had a series of questions
http://www.cippic.ca/en/projects-cases/election-2006/ , based on the
questions they asked in 2004
http://www.cippic.ca/index.php?page=election2004q .  We were
coordinating publishing on digital-copyright.ca all the answers that
individual candidates sent back, attached to the individual electoral
districts.  CIPPIC was focused on party responses, but as in this
election I am focused on the ideas of individual candidates as which
MPs get elected is really important for this area of policy.  I've
seen 180degree policy shifts with the change of a single MP within a
party (Example: Charlie Angus replacing Wendy Lill as NDP
culture/copyright critic), and expect that can happen with all the
other parties as well.

  In 2004 I sent out my own set of questions
http://www.digital-copyright.ca/node/321 , but given the greater
visibility of CIPPIC these didn't get any traction.  This is why I
didn't create my own questionnaire in later years to send to all
candidates, but did send district-specific questions when specific
candidates made statements/etc.

  If you want to generate your own questionnaire for the candidates in
your riding, the above may be useful.  If you get an answer, please
send to me so I can post to digital-copyright.ca (or you can sign up
and post directly yourself).

Note: you can go to http://www.digital-copyright.ca/activities to see
postings attached to previous elections, our petitions, etc.

What is the purpose of the question(s)

  This is an important thing to ask yourself, as it will change the
type of question you will ask.

  Are you a partisan that is trying to trip opposing candidates up?
Are you a partisan sending questions to the candidate of your own
choosing and want them to sound as good as they can?

  Are you looking to try to learn something that will help you decide
who to vote for?

  Are you looking to plant a seed into the minds of candidates, with
the goal being to follow-up with whomever gets elected?

  For my own questions it has been a mixture of the last two.  I want
to ask questions in a non-partisan way to get answers that I can
publish that will help fellow Canadians decide who to vote for in
their local districts.

  I am in this for the long haul (*1), so am thinking past the
election.  I want to be able to have follow-up meetings with the
elected MPs to try to help them to understand the perspective we bring
to the table.  As much as the candidates are focused on winning over
opponents, I am focused on opening a door to continued discussion with
whomever becomes the MP.

  My hope is that there will be others that will do something similar,
focusing on their districts.     Some will be partisans, and that is
fine: make sure the candidate of your choice knows who you are, and
ensure they know the importance of technology law issues to you.
Others are less decided, but either way you want to become someone the
candidate or MP will call upon post-election when they want to learn
more about these issues.

Example Electoral District:  The Kitchener-Waterloo

Incumbent is Peter Braid, one of the MPs who attended every one of the
20 meetings of the special legislative committee on C-32.  He wasn't
the most visible, vocal or most controversial member (within his party
or within the committee), but within his questions to MPs you could
see he had a unique perspective.

In 2006 he received 36.1% of the vote, with Liberal candidate Andrew
Telegdi receiving 36.0% of the vote, so a very close race.  In 2006
Andrew Telegdi won with 46.9% of the vote, and in 2004 with 48.1% of
the vote.

(Side-note: In this district the top two contenders are likely to
still be the Liberal and Conservative.  For other districts it is
entirely different.  Please do *NOT* get distracted by the national
campaign and believe this is about Conservatives vs Liberals.  In
other districts the mixture is entirely different.  In many BC
districts it is between Conservatives and NDP with the Liberals not
playing a major roll.  In some Quebec districts it is CPC vs BQ, and
in others it is LPC vs BQ, etc.  Know your own riding if you are even
remotely thinking about voting strategically.  Oh, and don't get me
started on the civics lesson to deal with the "coalition" nonsense
some candidates are embarrassing themselves with. :-)

Given how close the race may be in Kitchener-Waterloo, a few hundred
votes one way or the other could decide the riding.  I would be
hammering Peter and Andrew with questions, and saying that their
answers (including the fact that they took time to answer) will factor
into the choice.  Let them know that while young voters haven't tended
to vote, young people are very interested in technology issues.  If
they gave good answers this might even decide the election in the

Groups like LUGs could become instrumental in "get out the vote" in a
community that otherwise has tended to be apathetic (or armchair
participants, yelling at those "dumb MPs" even if they didn't vote or
get their friends to all vote.)   This may not be a top issue for an
active voter, but it might be the issue to turn a non-voter into a

  Please don't assume that because someone was on the committee, or
even on the government side, that this person is automatically a
negative for us.  The Conservative, Liberal and NDP members all had
things to say our community would agree with, and some they would
disagree with.  When the Conservatives came into power in 2006 I
fairly quickly launched the Petition to protect IT Property Rights.
The Conservative party has as a founding principle the protection of
property rights.

  Mr Braid has seen my "4 things in my hand" presentation, so has been
introduced to the idea that there are potentially 4 owners to consider
in digital copyright legislation.  He will hopefully understand what
someone from his constituency would mean if they asked how he would
work to protect all owners implicated by digital copyright legislation
(I would be very interested to know if that is true, and whether he
understood the issue!)

  If I were asking a question at an all candidates debate in the
riding, it would have the following flavour (Please use your own words
-- I'm told I talk/type funny :-):

"Bill C-32, which died on the order paper when the election was
called, seemed to only consider one owner.  A typical scenario which
this law would regulate might impact the rights of four owners, and
many believe that Bill C-32 abandoned protecting the rights of the
other three owners.   If elected, what will you do to protect the
rights of copyright holders, owners of tangible media containing
copyrighted works,  the competitive software marketplace, as well as
the owners of information technology."

  In my own riding I have always sent out a questionnaire first, so
that all candidates are given the opportunity to have thought about
the question.   While I only get a minute to ask my question, they
have the opportunity to give much longer answers.  You can't be making
a speech or educating people in your question, so you have to have set
out the groundwork for your question to work well.

 Hope this is helpful, and will encourage people to get involved in
their local campaigns.  Please remember that since so few people
actively participate these days that a small group of individuals can
have a large influence.  Please don't discount the impact of your
voice!  And please be willing to lean on those of us who have been
hammering at this for a little bit longer.  I'm no expert on any of
this, but willing to share anything I've learned thus far with fellow
community members.

*1:  I wish someone had told me I would have become a "lifer" in this
area of policy in the summer of 2001.  I might have just deleted that
message from Montreal warning me that Canada was contemplating passing
a DMCA :-)    Naw, probably not... Hacking this type of code (legal
code, public policy) is kinda fun too..  "Hack the Planet" really does
start in your electoral district :-)

Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.ca/>
Please help us tell the Canadian Parliament to protect our property
rights as owners of Information Technology. Sign the petition!

"The government, lobbied by legacy copyright holders and hardware
 manufacturers, can pry my camcorder, computer, home theatre, or
 portable media player from my cold dead hands!"

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