David Graham, ParlVU screenshot

David Graham, ParlVU screenshot

Podcasts

The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 32: Reflections from the Open Source Member of Parliament – A Conversation with Ex-MP David Graham

David Graham was not your typical Member of Parliament. A Liberal MP from the Quebec riding of Laurentides-Labelle, Graham brought a background in open source issues to Parliament Hill. Over his four years as an MP, Graham was seemingly everywhere when it came to digital policy. Whether in the House of Commons talking net neutrality, the Industry committee copyright review or the Ethics committee work on privacy, Graham emerged as the rare MP equally at home in the technology and policy worlds. Graham’s bid for re-election fell short, but this week he joins the Lawbytes podcast to reflect on his experience in Ottawa with thoughts on copyright, privacy, technology policy, and the use of digital tools for advocacy purposes.

The podcast can be downloaded here and is embedded below. The transcript is posted at the bottom of this post or can be accessed here. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify or the RSS feed. Updates on the podcast on Twitter at @Lawbytespod.

Credits:

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, May 28, 2019
House of Commons, May 22, 2018
Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology,  June 19, 2018

Transcript:

LawBytes Podcast – Episode 32 transcript powered by Sonix—the best audio to text transcription service

LawBytes Podcast – Episode 32 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text in 2019.

Michael Geist:
This is Law Bytes, a podcast with Michael Geist.

David Graham:
If I have a Web site and I have Google Analytics on it, I’ve approved Google’s use of my Web site to collect data. But somebody’s coming to use my Web site doesn’t know that Google’s collecting data on my site. So is there implied consent or is that illegal?

Daniel Therrien:
It is one of the flaws of consent, probably that there is a term and condition somewhere that makes this consent, and that’s why I say that privacy is not only about rules on consent. It’s about the use of the information and the respect for rights. We should not be fixated on consent as the be all and end all of privacy and data protection.

David Graham:
Without mandated net neutrality there is nothing to stop a company from paying your ISP to increase access to their own services or decrease access to their competitors services. And to my point last time I spoke on this about overselling Internet connections, I don’t have much sympathy for ISP in that situation. And so the argument that net neutrality has to go because of capacity issues is spurious. In my view. ISP should be required to market minimum, not maximum sustained speed capability to their first peer outside of the network at typical peak usage times. Xplornet for example market twenty five megabit satellite service won’t tell you that for most customers, but only applies at 3 a.m. on a clear night with no northern lights and even then only during the full moon. I may be exaggerating, but only a bit. It isn’t that the satellites and ground stations can’t handle an individual connection at that speed most of the time. It is that the connections are oversold, resulting in constant bitter complaining and my writing from rural internet users who are stuck between the Xplornet rock and the dial-up hard place.

David Graham:
A number of years ago, the MPAA and RIAA, the recording industry association, went after individuals who were using P2P sites suing the pants off these poor families. How did that go? And what happened? And that still happened.

Wendy Noss:
Yeah, I’m not sure you’re getting that information, but that’s not a position of our companies.

Michael Geist:
David Graham was not your typical member of Parliament. A Liberal MP from the Quebec riding of Laurentides-Labelle, Graham brought a background in open source issues to Parliament Hill. Over his four years as an MP from 2015 until this year, Graham was seemingly everywhere when it came to digital policy. Whether in the House of Commons talking about net neutrality, the Industry Committee on Copyright or the Ethics Committee work on privacy, Graham emerged as the rare MP equally at home in the technology and policy worlds. Graham’s bid for re-election fell short last month as momentum for the Bloc was too much to overcome. This week, he joins me on the podcast to reflect on his experience in Ottawa with his thoughts on copyright, privacy, tech policy and the use of digital tools for advocacy purposes.

Michael Geist:
David, thanks so much for joining me.

David Graham:
And thank you for inviting me.

Michael Geist:
That’s great. So, you know, you were an MP, I think, with a bit of a different background. You’d served as a parliamentary assistant, so you knew the environment of Parliament Hill. But before coming to Ottawa, you were involved in open source issues. Before we get into the experience in your years as an MP, maybe you describe a little bit the path that ultimately resulted in you becoming a member of parliament.

David Graham:
Well, I had I’ve always had an interest in politics. I’ve always participated as a volunteer on campaigns from my teens. What I love doing and in 2008, in the second tech bubble burst, I was suddenly no no longer in the employee of the open source journalism world, as were all of my colleagues. We were all let go together. Decide what I actually wanted with my life. And so I called up my MP at the time who had helped in the campaign as his data chair because already doing data work. And I said, can I work for you? And I said, no, I’ve already filled my staff. And I said, OK, that’s not going to work so well. A few months later, I got a call from asking for some contract work. And shortly after I was hired part time, I thought, this is great, but it a technology work he was doing. The Web sites site is doing database stuff. It’s okay. That’s fine. So it’s a it’s a door in. And after a year of that, I said, I want to go to Ottawa. And I asked the MP if I could move to order one for him there. And he said no. So I quit and I went anyway. And so in Ottawa, showing up with a technological and political background, you can rise the ranks a lot faster than the myriad communications experts who show up here.

David Graham:
So I came to the party office and I wanted to volunteer my way to work. And they put me after about an hour at a computer and started giving me tasks. So taking people long time to do and get them done and saying, OK, what’s the next task? And so I got a reputation as understanding databases. I started playing with administrative side of the party database and limited knowledge of data. I got sent off to by to run data. I worked in both McGuinty campaigns, federal provincial on data. I just did data. And so that was a way of rising the ranks very quickly. And then in the end of 2012, I joined Justin Trudeau’s leadership team, just National Capital area. But I wanted to do the data and in the winter I got about it done on that on the database team. And then after that, when I helped Justin win, I think, OK. I come from rural Quebec and it’s my home, it’s where I grew up. That’s why I’d love to go back to that’s where I go whenever I have time to. Could I? If I don’t run at home, who’s gonna do it? Better do it. So it’s sort of a feeling of obligation. So I started figure out the system.

David Graham:
I had enough campaign experience know how to run a campaign. So I ran my own campaign and started figuring out the data I needed to figure out who were my supporters in a vast area of 20000 kilometres and go and find them and get their memberships which were still paid at that time. Go knock on the door. I had I realized at what level my riding as a poor area when I’d have couples choose between them, which one is going to buy the membership? Because $20 is too much for them to afford and that happened to me a number of times. But. By using data, by using the technological expertise I had, I was able to win the nomination, I should not have been able to win against the good old boys club. And, you know, I mean that. But it was it was a challenge and but it was technology that got me there. And so I won the nomination in 2014. Right. Won the election 2015. A week earlier, I would have lost to the NDP a week later to the block. You know, it was a very, very interesting election. But it was the technology background that got me to all way along there. And then once I got to the Hill, it was again, the technology influences everything I do.

Michael Geist:
It is interesting to see the role that it played coming in.

David Graham:
I’ve to all of that. I went I often joke that politics are just another system back.

Michael Geist:
Well, it sounds like you managed to hack it and kind of get involved.

David Graham:
And I had to as a politician, just.

Michael Geist:
That’s true enough. And I want to talk a bit about that. You know, your Wikipedia bio notes that you were the first MP to reference Linux and the Electronic Frontier Foundation on the floor of the House of Commons. Once you arrived as an MP, how did you find the state of technology policy familiarity amongst your fellow members of parliament?

David Graham:
Poor. It’s, um, technology is not something it’s understood and it’s almost like there’s a pride in not understanding it that drives me absolutely mad. You probably saw it back in early in the mandate and as that govern operations estimates and we had shared Services Canada and had some volunteers, my office preparing this long list of questions and I looked at shared services note to our volunteers and said, I’m not going to use these questions. I want to see what they understand about technology that they’re responsible for. And I start asking very specific technological questions that should have been fairly straightforward to answer and kind of work out of work. And that made slashdot and other website saying, oh, look, there’s an MP who knows that what a 32 bit integers like that, that doesn’t happen. But at the end of my questions, the chair made some comment about not understanding technology and not knowing how a fax machine works. This is a big joke in the next few days. The question is like, well, I guess you call me a dinosaur. But the frustration of all that is that there’s a feeling that not understanding or knowing or one understandable technology is something to be proud of. And that worries me greatly. We are in a ultra technological world where our dishwashers are programmed, for Pete’s sake. Now is that we have to take it seriously. It impacts every aspect of our lives. And if people in public policy don’t understand it, weren’t we all real trouble? Because it means the only understanding we have is what key lobbyists tell them to understand. And that’s not a healthy position, they have to have the knowledge and education and experience to go that’s not exactly true what you’re telling me. That’s that’s not really how this works. And that’s not in the public interest, only in your interest. And people have to say that. And I don’t feel that people are or can say that. And in great numbers.

Michael Geist:
Given that you were someone that had that expertise and experience and was recognized as such, did you find that there is a willingness not perhaps to defer to you or at least to to recognize that expertise that you’d bring to the table?

David Graham:
Not immediately. It took time. I’ve I’ve always sort of pigeonholed as the nerd, but doesn’t belong with no, it means that the number of times I’ve walked in the House of Commons and somebody. Who was it, David? They’re great. Here’s my phone. Please fix it. And you know, every person in technology is nightmare’s to be the I.T. guy that has to fix. It’s not what we want to be doing. It’s. That’s not the technology interest. Interesting to us. And I hate printers, too. By the way, when the first year and a half I was working. I served as the acting deputy house leader, as Arnold Chan was sick with cancer. He’d asked me to replace him during his illness. And so I was running debate in the House. That’s what my job in the first year and a half. And when he passed away in the fall of 2017, I was back to square one in terms of what my engagement was in the House of Commons. I wasn’t on that team anymore. I think, okay. What? Where’s the real influence I can have on this place? I tried creating a digital caucus. It became a speakers club, which is very interesting, but it wasn’t productive. We’re producing reports, you weren’t producing policy ideas. And so I sort of let that drop. I handed it over to another MP who’s running an innovation caucus and I left it with him.

David Graham:
And I continued as a speaking organization, which is interesting, but not initially what I wanted to be doing. So people wanted to look at what the committees are up to. I’m only on Procedure and House Affairs for the most part. Up to that point, which is another one. But then I started looking at ethics and transport and INDU and all these fascinating studies going on. I wasn’t even aware of. So I started paying attention to committees. Okay. Okay. I’m an MP. I have the right to go to any committee any time I want. So why don’t you start doing that? And I start showing up for committees. There’s an actual chair being pulled up because David there again, the way that all the critics will sort of keep my name tag ready just in case I showed up and sort of forced my way onto committees to get involved in. The first one was the high speed Internet study at INDU. I was involved in the really what’s called the Transportation Modernization Act study at Transport Committee. Everything that interested me, I just went because why not? I’m here. That’s my job. It’s if I have an expertise in a policy, I should be there trying to move that forward.

Michael Geist:
And what kind of response did you get from your fellow m.p.’s would suddenly start showing up to all these committees and I assume looking for an opportunity to ask questions along the way?

David Graham:
For the most part, great. Somebody who has good questions to ask instead of sort of structure, she is struggling and a lot of m.p.’s don’t know what to ask. And so there are a lot of questions that are almost pro forma now. There’s we have to ask questions. Here’s a question that researchers provided me. And the library provides really good questions asked. But often they don’t even offer to those. They say, well, you said you were not asked your question to make me sound smart. Instead of saying. What policy direction do we need to be going down to with this witness, what what we need to learn. Where we first connect was on that when I asked the Movie Producing Association of Canada. Are you the MPAA? Right. Its a simple question? I wanted the answer. It wasn’t because somebody gave me the questions because what they’re saying sounds familiar. I want to know, is it true? And sure enough, right. So it’s the mind of a journalist as it was before. And technology going that isn’t acceptable. Let’s get clarity. And so the openness of other MP is to let me take the spots as I’ve had very little trouble. And it relates to why you have somebody feels like you’re taking their place. Ask your question. I’ll take a second on the fourth round. I don’t care. And if you don’t give me time, here’s some questions that you may want to ask. Go for it. I’ve done that many times. Here are some ideas, but no the reception in very positive overall because I try and bring them to the table. And so I think that’s taken well by the clerks, by the analysts, by the other M.P.s on all parties. I’ve never been partisan about it. It’s the issues I wanted to discuss.

Michael Geist:
I mean, so what are the challenges that I assume an MP faces when they come to the Hill is how do you get involved in policy development? And it sounds like your way to hack the system, so to speak, if you’re not a cabinet minister or a parliamentary secretary, was just to begin showing up, especially at the various committees.

David Graham:
That’s right. And towards the end of the mandate, I wish I had a few more years to do this, because in the last year, in the last twelve months, I added INDU to my portfolio because we’re doing the copyright study there. And so this is really interesting and I’d gone to talk to them. One of their pre committee meetings where they’re discussing where they want to go and how they want to approach the file. They said here’s a dozen points that I think you guys should discuss. I’m not on their committee. It’s just food for thought. Here it is. And so I started showing up to the committees. I looked for who needs replacement on that committee. And I just take the spot. Right. So. Or to show up with that replacement. And then I can’t. The only thing I’ll lose is right to vote. And Jill, I went to whip and said I’d like to be on this committee properly. Finally, people have been more than two committees right now because we’re just we have so many committees and so on. People have to be on them. And that’s great. If I can do to I can do more. There’s four slots on my calendar. And it’s interesting work, so why wouldn’t I would not want to do it. So then I saw the public safety is working on a cyber security study and there’s already half over by the time I noticed it, which is frustrating if had I known that from the beginning. So I dove into that one and then the ethics grand committee came up and I started poking my noise around saying can I show up? Because this is different from the normal committees. If I just come is that OK? And the clerk said, look as far as the rules are, it’s just another committee. So without taking other people’s spots, without having any mandate to be there, I just started showing up to that as well. And as asking good questions I get, I have the right to ask more questions, even though in principle know we had a lot to share time. So it was just by forcing myself into the place. And then I won one more committee. I wanted to put on ethics permanently. And when I approached the whip for that one, he said, well, there’s no space available on ethics, how our natural resources have a spot. So is your fourth meeting. Great. Thank you.

Michael Geist:
Careful what you wish sometimes.

David Graham:
Just as interesting, we’re doing a study on indigenous relations in in resource development is that I’d written about before. So it was an interesting study, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. But I got to learn something there because that’s a community where people see them as obligation. I see them as an opportunity. Committees are the power m.p.’s have and more should exercise it.

Michael Geist:
I want to come back to some of the specific studies, provide some really interesting insight. But before we do that, it sounds like for someone interested in these issues, a really fascinating way to spend time in Ottawa and to try to have an impact. But you mentioned your riding being very large riding, poor riding. How do those these kinds of digital issues translate back home? Does it resonate or is there a disconnect at times between the work you’re doing in Ottawa with the work the people back in your local constituency are focused on?

David Graham:
Unless it makes a television news, nobody in the riding knows or cares what you do in Ottawa? And but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a very profound impact. And I do not know what I want to do in the riding. So the biggest single issue in my riding is it’s a large riding. It’s a poor riding. It’s a mountainous riding is telecommunications. A significant percentage of the riding, more than half have no proper Internet. A lot of communities have no cell phone service. We are in another era on telecommunication. So I was able to use my knowledge and technology to move that forward. So shortly after my election, the mayor of a small town, about 400 people in the north, struck a county level committee to create an Internet system for the northern county, three counties in the writing. And instead of saying, David, I want your you to write a check when the time comes, it’s what most people say in politics. It’s can you come sit on this committee? We don’t have a technology background. Sure. Absolutely. And so they made a schedule around my availability and that of the MLA, the provincial MP who had been involved in the file a long time but had a political non-technological background. But together with those 17 mayors and they MP and MLA we’re able to come up with a plan and a product that worked on time for connecting it to come out. And we ended up with the single best project in Quebec. The biggest project and the only one that stayed completely public sector, which is fascinating to me, but based on technological knowledge, because when when companies and providers that come and say, here’s what I’m offering, I can call them out. That’s not true or you’re not going to get through. That’s how technology works. This is a cheap way of doing it. This can work. Don’t use the lingo because they get the lingo and other lingo. I speak it so that knowledge is very, very helpful.

Michael Geist:
And it’s interesting. Now, thinking back to some of these committees, you mentioned the International Grand Committee and the work on the Ethics Committee. So privacy, of course, captured a lot of attention during the last mandate. And it seems likely to yet again. You have some thoughts on where we are right now in the state of Canadian privacy law. And you mentioned the committees are a place where you could have had you can have some impact. The ETHI Committee had some, I think, really detailed significant reports around Canadian privacy. So so where do you think we are? And you have thoughts on where we might be going with respect to these issues of privacy.

David Graham:
Privacy is a much tougher one than people give it credit for, I think because the great majority of people click. I agree that whatever the argument is, we can complain up and down about Facebook and Google. All these companies and their well-named surveillance capitalism approach to the economy. But they’re telling us that only in the end user licence agreements it’s just nobody’s reading it. Nobody is understanding what it means. So the issue we have to solve is explaining what’s really going on and requiring that. I don’t know that we’re tackling that in a really productive way. We’re saying, no, we have to have these privacy laws. Government shouldn’t have our data. But Facebook and Google have every piece of data they want. But the government they’re big and evil if they can have our data. I don’t know how to fix that. All right. It’s a perception issue more than anything else. Government has less data on people than most companies do. Governments, the big bad wolf, when it comes to data. Why? They’re providing a service to you and they’re dealing with their selling something to you. How do we fix it? I’m not sure. I honestly don’t know. But we have to think about it in terms of education, not just and we do need agreements to make some agreements, but in explaining. That when a corporation has your data, there is a reason for it. The government has a good reason for it. And what are the different reasons why, one is to provide you a service? One is to get your money. And so I think we have to go down that road to explain that and understand it.

Michael Geist:
One of the things that was was striking about the ETHI committee and you mentioned holding the International Grand Committee. I did a podcast with Nate Erskine-Smith soon after the Ottawa meeting and most recently there was a follow up meeting in Dublin. What was it like bringing together parliamentarians from around the world clearly focused on similar kinds of issues, bring them together and in a pretty unusual setting from a hearing perspective.

David Graham:
I think those few days were probably my favourite food in my four years in office. And it was some of the most interesting witnesses I’ve ever had. These are leaders in this field in in 20 odd countries who have come they around a table to ask smart people hard questions. And if I could done that for a month, boy, I would be a happy guy. I guess we really got to get into the weeds and stuff, but not nearly as much I’d like to know. I had my fine asking for an explanation of do you accept the definition about U.S. surveillance capitalism. I had five minutes to do it with the entirety of industry. Right? There is so much deeper to go on these issues, but all these threads, the quality people over there, the quality question that are being asked on and from in every country and the importance of what we’re doing cannot be overstated. It was that was a. Committee is the real power m.p.’s, and that really proved that committee especially.

Michael Geist:
That’s interesting. I mean, closely related to the privacy issues and it came up as part of the International Grand Committee, of course, as well. Are some of the security related issues you also spent time on the Public Safety Committee. What do you feel or what’s your thoughts on our preparedness when it comes to cybersecurity issues? And I guess it’s link both to what the government’s doing, but as well the attention or lack thereof that m.p.’s may be playing paying to such a critical issue.

David Graham:
It’s a really critical issue. And I think that we are often in a position to bring pea shooters to gunfights on cyber security. There’s there’s a real lack of understanding of the risks, like we all carry smartphones on us. In my role as an MP, what are the chances that other smartphones hacked just about zero? The reality is those are highly targeted devices. They’re relatively easy to hack in spite of what people think. And we don’t have a security by design mentality in everything we do and we need to everything we do has to be security first. And you can design the best system in the world if the hardware is hacked at source, there is nothing you do to get around that. Where’s all of our hardware manufacturing now? It isn’t in Toronto. All right, so what systems do you have protected? We already know the NSA and the CIA, for example, one of their favourite strategies is to intercept hardware en route to its customer and modify the hardware level on its way there. So any protection you do is still compromised. If the West is doing that, five eyes been that for sure. Others are doing that as well. So. I think there is a lot of naivete on cyber security. There’s a profound lack of understanding. You’re familiar with Stuxnet and how that was installed by just simply putting USB sticks in stores until the right people got the right ones, right? Cyber hygiene is a wonderful term. It’s so widely understood across government, across politics. I can’t overstate how important that is.

Michael Geist:
We’re recording this on a day when The Globe earlier today was reporting on a divide within governments about what to do with Huawei and our networks. So that’s an issue. Not surprisingly, that our security’s intelligence agencies will take a look at, is it an issue that attracts attention from members of parliament or in an environment where many struggle with even just their own basic personal security ut’s tough to get their heads around some of these. The bigger network, almost political type issues.

David Graham:
I think so. Tt’s easy to go after Huawei because other big bad Chinese company that must by Chinese law, help the company, the country, its national interest, therefore, a spy. That’s the assumption. The failure in the assumption is that only China does that. The West does that, too. So what’s special about Huawei? When a back door is open, it’s open. We have to going after the whole premise of backdoors and having a much stronger system. And if when you’re writing software for an aircraft, for example, 737 Max notwithstanding, the testing involved in the in the quality control involved, you don’t have room for error. We don’t apply those standards to anything else we do. And we need to. Everything has to be tested and evaluated from one end to the other. I’m a firm believer that open source is the way to go. Having the code readable to the public. Security by obscurity is a wonderful standard. It doesn’t work. It’s like trickle down economics. It it’s it’s a myth. So we need systems where everyone can stick their fingers into it, and by everyone, I mean everyone. We’re not doing that as a government. We still have this approach that you always need a throat to choke, right? You I have a contract with somebody to fight you something and how they get there. It’s up to them. Just give us up for the works. Good approach. Become part of the ecosystem. We’ll have much reduced security from our other at much lower cost across our entire network. The hardware has to be open hardware designs. The software has to be open software. We have to get to that point.

Michael Geist:
For the purposes of this podcast, one of the issues spent a lot of time focusing on his copyright and you played a pretty big role on the copyright review. Why don’t we start with some of your thoughts on what was a pretty lengthy process. I recognize that you came in after it begun, but it went on for a very long period of time. And the final report that INDU released just before the House, the election of the House rose.

David Graham:
The copyright report was really important to me. As a journalist, an open source like I mean, whether we uncover it before I came here as any writer would. But our Web site, Linux.com at the time used fair use as the basis for everything we did because we take the opening paragraph of an article and say, here, you wanna read the rest, the article, click here. But here’s the aggregation before Google News is the thing. We were doing that with hand editing. So I’ve been around copyright my whole life. I joined Access Copyright as a contributor years ago because hey, is that we make money as a copyright producer, right? I didn’t know more than that about it at the time, so I would not be involved in that case. And I fought for Geoff Regan during the last copyright review in 2011, C-11, C-32. And I remember how deeply offended I was by the whole idea that TPMs to commit copyright. You know, the technological protection measures digital locking Americans call it CRMs can get content rights management. There is no logic to me in having a technical and technological implementation allow you to circumvent the law. Just the fact that you can afford better software shouldn’t exempt from copyright exemptions. And so my primary goal was breaking that. That’s what I wanted to kill.

David Graham:
Why not try the copyright study for me? TPM exemption. You can have TPMs if you want. They shouldn’t give you an exemption. If the TPMs are effective, you don’t need exemption. They had to go. In my mind, that was number one. Which would lead to things like Right to Repair, which is the famous John Deere suit, is such an affront to my rights as a as a human being that they have to be address.

Michael Geist:
So, yeah, speaking specifically to the ability for farmers to repair their own equipment from John Deere.

David Graham:
That’s right. So when when a company that creates a hardware platform or truck or tractor in this case said you can’t fix it because we have copyright on the software in the machine, something has come become very, very broken. The fact that copyright is 50 years in Canada seventy years other places to me is offensive. It doesn’t make sense to have copyright by definition survive longer than use than the usefulness of the material. Right? Patents are only 20 years. Why would copyright be 50 to 70? So I wanted to make sure that we didn’t go to 70 years.

Michael Geist:
It’s life plus 50 or 70. So it’s far far longer.

David Graham:
That’s right. But being able to do the deep dive into the broader issues was really interesting. We came out, I forget how many recommendations, a lot of them. And a lot of those recommendations took hours of debate in camera just to come to that recommendation, because, you know, the analyst would come to you with here’s the material we received, here are the alternatives, the recommendation that goes this way, recommendation goes the opposite direction. You guys have to decide as a committee where you want to go with that. And you’d have these profound debates on where we wanted to go as a committee and we didn’t do on party lines, it didn’t happen. It was how do we work together to come up with the best possible policy? And of course, people disagree on different things. But it was a really worthwhile experience to come out with a really solid report was a perfect. Probably not, but it was damn good report. I think I’m proud of it.

Michael Geist:
Yeah. I am inclined to agree with. As anyone who knows stuff that I’ve written on, I thought I thought both that this was clearly, I think, the most comprehensive review of copyright in Canada that we had many years. And I thought the report was the same. One of things it was striking about the report was the effort to cite all witnesses and cite virtually every brief as well. And for a yearlong study that means you got a lot of people, you know. I’m assuming that was not by accident.

David Graham:
It was not by accident, but it was also not by the design of the MP so much as by just terrific analysts like the analysts that were assigned to that study where some of the best in business in the library of parliament. And these are people, who live and breathe copyright. And you can see, you know, the one I’m needed a haircut for quite a long time because he’s so focused on his job and they’re terrific at it if you brought up an issue with them. There’s a word on page 200 report that we’re questioning and we’d have a thirty minute discussion at the background of that word and how we got there and what witness said what and how. And to have that level of expertise that a committee is terrific. And that’s why my digital caucus didn’t work, that we didn’t have the analysts just a bunch of MPs and staff sat around a table. This is a great idea, what do you want to do about it? We need to those analysts, those people who can turn vast amounts of data and something usable.

Michael Geist:
The committee hearings, which included travel early on, and three phases, you know, heard clearly from a wide range of witnesses. What stands out to you with the kind of witnesses that came forward where? Well, and I guess more directly, you know, without naming necessarily specific witnesses, what made for you an effective witness in raising some of these issues?

David Graham:
Honesty. When when witnesses come and they have a bent that is to protect their organization instead of the public that always worries me. There isn’t enough public interest advocacy. Not enough people were there specifically protect the public’s interest. There is no consumer organization that is legitimately a consumer organization and I can see in copyright that their only job is to protect the rights, the public. And so it’s always everyone trying to pull the covers to their side of the bed instead of what’s the best way to keep the bed warm. So the witnesses that come, you’re a very good witness, very experienced, you come and say here is the facts of the matter here is and you have your opinions, we all do. And so that the lawyers and the experts coming were very useful. The people coming who are lobbying for their specific organizations, I don’t need to name them. They’re they’re frustrating because they they come and say, no, you have to do this for the good of the country. Actually, it’s good for about 12 people, but they going to pay. So you have to the the country. And that drove me up the wall. Because it wasn’t. Yeah. They had to say, that’s your job, to say it. But if people were buying that and saying we’re gonna make our policy based only on that, you know, doing public policy, that’s not what you’re doing anymore. You’re accepting lobbyists as as facts, as very dangerous.

Michael Geist:
That lobbying effort clearly took place from groups from across the spectrum, people emailing their MPs or obviously seeking seeking meetings and the like. Did you find any of that particularly effective? For you and then even more broadly. You talked about the debates that took place in camera. Did you have the sense that that was having an impact or for most m.p.’s yourself, I guess, included, the it was the briefs, it was the the appearances, and though Q&A that was taking place. It wasn’t that kind of noise that surrounds.

David Graham:
It wasn’t the noise. If I was getting a lot of emails, I wasn’t really aware of it. And it was really. We’re doing deep in policy and we’re elected to do that. That’s our job. That’s what we’re there for. The great majority people don’t follow it. And would have a great deal of difficulty with the kind of work we’re doing. E-mail campaigns as an MP, as a staffer before, they’re never impressed me. And if if you get your your network to send 200 emails to the MP and they all say the same thing. We only got one e-mail. All right. You did’t get 200 emails. You got one e-mail. When you write back to them, often times people are surprised that you’ve got the e-mail. So they thought they were filling in something on a Web site. Right. So you don’t tend taken very seriously. It’s not a very good way of effecting your MP. It just it isn’t. If you want to have an impact, write a letter yourself to your MP and your riding with your well-thought out reasoning. One off, not a hundred times, because as soon as it’s 100 times, it’s a form letter. And if you send me a form letter, I’ll send you a form letter. Right. Send me your thoughts and explain why. And that will convince me a lot faster than it than an e-mail campaign or a Twitter campaign, which to me are utterly meaningless.

Michael Geist:
So you’d you’d put the tweet campaigns where people are tweeting at members of a committee in the same basket as the e-mails.

David Graham:
They’re simply annoying. They don’t. They don’t offer anything. They dont’ contribute to the debate. And there have been e-mail campaigns at it and Twitter campaigns, as you mentioned, on cigarette labeling and this kind of thing like. I don’t. You’re not going to impact me by sending me 200 tweets. And if the same person tweeting me over and over again, saying the same thing over and over again, it’s one person. Send me one message, one time.

Michael Geist:
And so those and those letters, because it’s certainly one of the questions that I wanted to get to was for those that are interested in ensuring their voices heard and having some influence in policy, what’s the most effective way of doing it? And it sounds like you’re saying the direct letters to your elected representative.

David Graham:
That’s right. A well-thought out, well crafted, properly written e-mail is just like a CV and a job application if it’s full of mistakes. I’m going to see it properly thought out email with your thoughts and why. Explain them. This the background. This is why this is important. Not so many e-mails coming to m.p.’s are you’re an idiot. But here’s the reasons that I think you have made a mistake on this policy issue or why I think you need to go in this direction. I will read that and and I will respond in time. If you send me a detailed letter and you’re from my riding, I will write back to you. If you’re from Vancouver and writing to me, I fully won’t get on to reading that letter because I have enough to do my riding. So focus on your MP and write a a detailed thing. And if it’s a committee they’re not sitting on, they’ll take it to their colleagues who are on those committee. That’s why we have representatives from all the parties, right?

Michael Geist:
I mean, it sounds like an environment that can be quite collegial among the m.p.’s. But one of the things that was striking about the copyright review process is that the review was conducted by the industry committee. There was a role crafted out for the Heritage Committee that was supposed to support your committee, but it didn’t seem to turn out that way. They issued their own report, ultimately leading to a press release from the INDU committee, making it clear which was the copyright review and which was not. Can you provide any insight really, it’s all into into that process because in a collegial environment, that sounds like a process gone wrong.

David Graham:
Well it’s a process that demonstrates to a great extent that who is on a committee impact its work. So you have to you don’t just take 10 random people, and expect good policy to come out of it. You have to have people have expertise in area and heritage did the job that they wanted to do, which was to figure out how to improve revenue for artists that was their mandate to themselves. And ours was a holistic view of copyright and how to fix it. And so in our own sectors, we did it properly. I think heritage, from our point of view was an atrocious report from their point of view is a good report because it helped. It gave guidance on how to make artists more money. That was objective. So I don’t fault them for that. They did what they wanted to do, what they what they felt they had to do. But our job was to see everything, not just that one section of it.

Michael Geist:
And then I suppose looking ahead new government now, I don’t know, the copyright is necessarily going to be the top priority in minority government situation. But but how do you foresee the government moving forward on the copyright issue per se? There’s a whole range of issues. We had a earlier podcast a few weeks back on crown copyright, which was a big issue. You’ve mentioned right of repair. There’s lots of talk about fair use. Expanding some of the fair dealing issues and, of course, the education related concerns. And then there is this heritage report which at times conflicts with the with that broader view that that industry took. Your thoughts on on what the path forward may be, or is this the sort of issue that in the current environment may be put to the side for a bit?

David Graham:
To take our report and make it into an updated copyright law will take two solid years of environments to properly. And we’re a minority. And so in two years, we’re probably going to have an election again. And I’m very concerned that if they undertake the work, it won’t get completed. It’s a really difficult position to be in. It’s really unfortunate. And the five year review has this consequence that it pretty much always ends up at an election and the government currently doesn’t have any obligation to respond to past parliament’s reports. So in order for anything to happen at all, the new industry committee, we lost that chair and lost me and lost other members. Several members not there anymore. Has to look at that and say, OK. Let’s adopt the report and retable it the first week with a mandatory government response. To get the ball rolling again. Because right now the ball rolled and hit a wall and someone has to pick it up and roll it again. So it’s really up to the committee to make something happen. No one else and nothing else can can move that other than the committee.

Michael Geist:
That’s interesting. I mean, that actually did happen back in the earlier liberal days, I think 2004, 2005, there was a report, the government there was on it. That was the cycle when we had several minority governments. There was election call. I believe the committee re tabled the report effectively for exactly the reasons that you’re suggesting was to try to get the government on the record on some of these issues. That’s interesting. Is there a digital issue as you look at I mean, all these kinds of issues that you were focused on really continue to accelerate and made their way into a number of party platforms as well. If you if you were to take a look at where you think things are going to go in the next 12 to 18 months, let’s say in a minority government situation, what might be the digital issues that you think are most likely to capture someone’s attention?

David Graham:
Well, privacy and security are the two big ones, and they’re going to continue to be the two big ones. I’m just hoping that the minority parliament isn’t so distracted they don’t study them. Right. Gets to be a lot more studies for political gain, a lot less for the policy gain over the next couple of years. I suspect just because it’s opposition controlled agenda as a committee now. And how do you stick it to the man? Instead of how we move progress forward? And majorities are essential to keep minorities honest minorities and keep majorities on both in the system and in the minority side, the cycle. I’m getting anything to happen the next couple years be really, really challenging. I’m sorry that I’m not there to make it go forward.

Michael Geist:
Yeah, I know it’s unfortunate you’re not there, but why don’t we conclude by asking what where will you be or even have you given thought to what comes next? I realize that you get so engaged in an election campaign and there’s a suddenness, of course, to the results come and suddenly your world has changed. Have you given much thought at this stage to what comes next?

David Graham:
I have given a tremendous amount of thought and I’m not really sure. My job right now is kick open doors and see which one to walk through. Ultimately, I have the technology background. I have the political background to have an aviation background that we haven’t discussed. I have done a lot of stuff in my life, but I really don’t know what I’m going to do next. And so anybody listening, I’m available. One of the problems with our system is that m.p.’s have spent a lot of time thinking about what the next step is. And I’m really concerned that in long term that influences policy decisions. Like let’s say I take my attitude for the last four years, my copyright review might have been he which stakeholder should I help to have a better job afterwards? And I didn’t take that approach, but the system lends to that. And so then we have a lot of stuff to fix. Beyond technology, we have the whole structure has to be fixed so that our democracy is protected from itself.

Michael Geist:
I mean, that’s interesting. It’s an interesting observation about what motivations m.p.’s might have, although I think as you pointed out with the work on the committees, we clearly had many m.p.’s focused on the best policy.

David Graham:
We had really good m.p.’s on on the committees I served on. I’m really proud to serve with them.

Michael Geist:
Well, David, thank you both for taking the time to reflect a bit on your experience as an MP as well as for the work that you’ve done over the last four years. As you know, there have not been many m.p.’s with the kind of interest and experience that you brought to the table. And I think for a lot of people was really refreshing to have someone who was able to bring your kind of experience and your willingness to engage to policies that are just so important.

David Graham:
Well, thank you. I appreciate it.

Michael Geist:
Thanks so much.

Michael Geist:
That’s the Law Bytes podcast for this week. If you have comments suggestions or other feedback, write to lawbytes.com. That’s lawbytes at pobox.com. Follow the podcast on Twitter at @lawbytespod or Michael Geist at @mgeist. You can download the latest episodes from my Web site at Michaelgeist.ca or subscribe via RSS, at Apple podcast, Google, or Spotify. The LawBytes Podcast is produced by Gerardo LeBron Laboy. Music by the Laboy brothers: Gerardo and Jose LeBron Laboy. Credit information for the clips featured in this podcast can be found in the show notes for this episode at Michaelgeist.ca. I’m Michael Geist. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

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  1. Pingback: News of the Week; November 20, 2019 – Communications Law at Allard Hall

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