Digital Issues Largely Missing From Ontario Election Campaign

The Ontario election campaign kicked off last week with the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, and NDP promoting their policy platforms and quickly jumping into debates on the economy, health care and education. While the dominance of those three issues is unsurprising, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes those Ontarians hoping for some discussion of digital policy were bound to be a bit disappointed.

The Liberal platform references the importance of jobs in the technology and media sectors, but offers little else on the digital economy. The Progressive Conservatives are the only party to make a commitment to open government – their platform follows developments in many other jurisdictions that pledge to make government data more readily available for public use – but other digital issues are ignored. The NDP makes no reference to digital policies at all.

The federal government tends to lead on digital policies, though its much-anticipated digital economy strategy is months overdue. Yet for constitutional reasons that grant the provinces jurisdiction over property and civil rights, many important issues fall to the provinces.

For example, the federal government addresses most telecom issues including carrier regulation and spectrum allocation but many consumer protection concerns associated with wireless carriers falls to the provinces.  In recent months, both Quebec and Manitoba have moved forward with legislation to create consumer protections on cellphone contracts and locked devices.

Similar concerns have been raised in Ontario. Last year, Ontario MPP David Orazietti introduced a private members bill that would have established a requirement to unlock devices if the consumer pays full price or once the contract expires.  Moreover, the bill identified a long list of disclosure requirements including the costs associated with service plans, advertisements, roaming charges, or when consumers are nearing their monthly cap. The bill also established the right to cancel a service contract with 30 days notice with a maximum liability of one-month service fee.  Despite clear public interest in the issue, the platforms of all three provincial parties are silent on the issue.

Copyright is also a federal matter, but if the government moves forward with the digital lock rules discussed in the recently uncovered Wikileaks cables, the provincial governments should consider the significant consumer protection issues that are likely to follow.

Most consumers know little if anything about digital locks and the limitations that may be placed on consumer entertainment products such as CDs, DVDs, video games, or ebooks. For many consumers, these digitally locked products are simply not fit for purpose – they may not play on their DVD player or permit usage that most would expect is permissible. Moreover, consumers frequently can’t obtain a refund for their purchases as many retailers won’t accept returns on opened CDs and DVDs and digital download services do not offer refunds to disgruntled downloaders.  Other countries have established specific consumer protections on digital lock use and it falls to the Canadian provinces to do the same.

With privacy reform stalled at the federal level, there is an important role to play for provincial governments, yet the issue is not discussed by any of the three provincial parties. Several Canadian provinces including Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec have enacted broad-based privacy legislation. Ontario has not, raising the question of where the parties stand on developing provincial privacy protections that raise the bar by establishing tough penalties for violations and mandatory disclosures of privacy breaches.

Internet access is yet another issue where a provincial voice is needed. As the federal government dithers, it may fall to the provinces to establish universal broadband initiatives.  Where do the three parties stand on broadband access, community wifi networks, or support for computer ownership for those who find it unaffordable?  

Like most other digital policy issues in this campaign, seemingly none of the parties have much to say.


  1. Monkeys at the helm.
    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

    Ook ook!

  2. Media Companies bought everyone
    There is nothing to discuss, all parties get money not to ask questions.

  3. None of the Above
    With political parties seemingly ‘ignoring’ issues that most of the people want to deal with, I think an extra voting option needs to be added to the ballot: None of the above.

    How many of non-voters (and even regular voters) would then go to the polls to check that option? Though I vote regularly, in some situations I wish I had that option, to show the political parties that they have not struck a chord with me with their policies.

    Most parties really don’t care for reasons people don’t vote, they only care about the actual votes. Maybe they would pay closer attention if they saw say 30% of the population voted ‘none of the above’. Though it may have no final impact on the elected party result, it may give the ‘losing parties’ something to think about: “Hmmm… how can we get those 30% voters to vote for us next time?”

  4. I agree with the none of the above option.

    it needs to be integrated into all developed nations’ constitutions, and if none of the above wins an election, the election is recalled EXCLUDING all candidates which were present in the first. The current acting government will remain in power but without legislative authority until such time as an actual candidate wins.

  5. Money rules
    Politics is a game where the most powerful are the richest.I also think that the current government will remain in power.
    Moving Service

  6. @jason
    I like the idea, but fear it would lead to no party having legislative authority 90% of the time. I realize I may be cynical.

  7. None of the Above already exists
    It’s called a spoiled ballot. When voter turnout increases and so does the percentage of spoiled ballots, the message becomes obvious.

  8. @Dave
    Spoiled ballots are ignored as far as selection of the winning candidate. This is not even close to what is being proposed with “None of the above”.

    You could have 90% of ballots spoiled, and the “winner” of the remaining 10% would be elected. On the other hand, if 51% of the ballots chose “None of the above”, then it means exactly that. None of the previous candidates are acceptable to a majority of the people. New candidates, new vote.

  9. @Dave
    I agree with oldguy here.

    However, in fact in Ontario the “none of the above” option already sort of exists.. The law in Ontario allows you to decline the ballot. See, section 53.

    The problem is that neither Elections Ontario, nor the political parties, advertise the fact that you can decline your ballot.

  10. D Clined Ballot says:

    Just got back from the polling station where I exercised the ‘none of the above’ option. Pretty simple process they handed me the ballot and I gave it back stating that I decline the ballot. They marked it as such on the ballot and off I went.

    To me, this speaks louder than not showing up, which just shows apathy, or spoiling the ballot, in which case your ballot is treated the same as having not cast a ballot. I actually took the time to go to the polling station and exercised my right to vote, or in this case protest the vote as I feel none of the candidates are competent enough to run the province.

    Why this option is not promoted more is beyond me. Maybe if more people exercised this right/option, it would make the candidates question why so many voters are disillusioned.

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    Hey guys,

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    I just came across this site –

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