The News Rundown
- Last Friday, Canadians were shocked when Rogers, one of Canada's three biggest telecoms companies, experienced widespread internet and services outages. The Canadian economy, and everyday life, is tethered to our communications networks, and when they go down, like Rogers did for much of the day Friday, there is no universal Plan B to keep widely-used – and vital — services online. The repercussions were serious.
- Even if you aren't a Rogers customer, pain was felt. 9-1-1 services went down, causing untold harm. Debit transactions were unavailable, as Interac and the banks use Rogers infrastructure to operate. Government services, including the ArriveCan app, were impacted as well, forcing travelers to rely on paper copies of their information.
- Economist Dan Ciuriak, described the outage as a 'wake-up call for Canada': "We have become remarkably fragile because of the rapid pace of innovation and the rapid pace of implementation of new techniques and new forms of technology."
- Part of the problem is that, whether it's in our business or personal lives, we often rely on one company for all of our telecommunications services, which is something companies like Rogers, Bell and Telus offer as an incentive for slightly lower prices.
- People may wish to reconsider bundling all of their services with one company, because if you are all-in-one and that one goes down, you really are isolated, especially for those working from home full time. That's not necessarily an option in rural parts of the country.
- Businesses relying on wireless networks may want to consider the same thing, added David Soberman, a marketing professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He said: "If cashless payment systems are based on one network, you may find that some companies basically contract with two different [wireless or internet] suppliers so that they have one option if the other fails. But not all companies can afford all those backups."
- Federal government critics are demanding an investigation into the Rogers service disruption. Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner said: "Given the critical infrastructure that's affected, and that the CRTC itself is affected, the cause of the Rogers outage should be immediately explained," and she was calling for an emergency parliamentary committee meeting to "make sure it doesn't happen again."
- Although the CRTC has declared broadband internet a basic telecommunications service, it's not a utility like water or power, which are mostly run by Crown corporations or quasi-Crown corporations.
- But Soberman said the government may want to consider treating the wireless and internet services in a similar fashion to ensure there is limited disruption to business and vital services like 911. There could be a means of other wireless or internet companies stepping in to mitigate a disruption like this, he suggested.
- "[The] internet is providing an infrastructure that is as important as the electrical system, is as important as the water, is certainly as important as the postal system. You might be able to make some kind of a law or regulation that would ensure that service is provided all the time to people, even if one of the suppliers has a problem."
- The CRTC does have rules regarding the telecom networks ensuring cellphone users are still able to contact 911 even without wireless service. In a statement, the regulator said it asked Rogers to prioritize measures "to ensure that 911 calls from cellphones can be completed."
- Canadians of all political stripes can agree that the concentrated power of our very few telecoms companies, otherwise known as an oligarchy, has not been good for consumers, and political parties of all stripes have let Canadians down in letting the problem continue to get worse. We already pay among the highest rates in the world for phone and internet plans, and now we can't even rely on the infrastructure of basic services to work if we're not even a customer of one of the companies involved. This is a problem that has just gotten worse. It's time for a federal government that takes these issues seriously.
- We are now less than two months away from when the Conservative Party of Canada will have a new leader.
- Since we last dipped into the race and before that doing our leadership showcase, the party has lost one of its top candidates: Patrick Brown has been disqualified from the race.
- It appears as though the Brown campaign set up an arrangement for a third party company to pay the wages of campaign staffers.
- This is a rule violation for the party and if proven true, a violation of Elections Canada law.
- The Brown campaign issued a statement that in their view, if Patrick is unable to compete in the race, his supporters should vote for Jean Charest.
- You may have noticed that I called this an Alberta story and that’s because Jean Charest spoke directly to Albertans last week.
- Charest said that if elected Prime Minister he would develop a new equalization system for the province, in particular, "Alberta generates a lot of wealth for all of the provinces, so it deserves to have an equalization formula that's fair to Alberta,” said Charest.
- Also in his interview exclusive to the Western Standard which most media did not pick up on, said that there will also be an Alberta Accord focused on equalization as well allowing the province to implement many of the Fair Deal Panel recommendations including a provincial police force, as well as offering what Quebec has in more control over immigration and a close look at trade deals.
- He also directly addressed polling that showed up to a third of Albertans would support seceding from Canada and categorically put the blame at Justin Trudeau’s feet saying, "Alberta went through a tough time from 2014 onward, and there was no acknowledgement or recognition of that. It's the federal government's job to keep the country together and make sure every province is part of what we are planning and developing. And that's not happening with the Trudeau government."
- What perhaps was most interesting about Charest’s approach despite him not being able to set media cycles is that he proposed a coalition between Quebec and Alberta saying that the two provinces could set the direction of the country.
- What Charest is referring to is the long gone Mulroney coalition of the west, Quebec nationalists, and rural parts of Ontario.
- This happened in the past and is a real method of building support which should not be discounted but the media conveniently ignores any notion of bringing back such a coalition.
- Similar of course happened in the US when many thought the blue wall of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania would never budge, but it did. Maybe a Quebec and Alberta alliance in terms of policy isn’t too far off?
- Premier Jason Kenney and Francois Legault of Quebec have worked on bringing the provinces closer together but no federal party has sought to capitalize on that to bring Alberta to the national table - yet.
- It’s important to note for those listening and those who may be Conservative party members that the leadership race is now in the phase where candidates will try to move votes or secure second slot choices in the ranked balloting system.
- The story underlined here is two fold:
- First, Alberta and Quebec are similar and the media conveniently ignores that, most of the time, and the federal parties don’t presently take this into account.
- Secondly, for Conservative party members and people who have become disillusioned with the party due to the persistent wedging and divisions of Justin Trudeau, they need to know that any federal party leader seeking to not divide Canadians would be better than our current administration in terms of alleviating those feelings.
- As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. If Jean Charest wins he could very well be on the path to reviving a coalition from the past featuring Alberta and Quebec and that could surprise everyone because of the media’s lack of coverage on this file.
- As mentioned on our last show, all of the Premiers had a 2 day summit in Victoria earlier this week, and the big topic on everyone's minds was healthcare: specifically, our crumbling and broken public healthcare system that is barely staying functional after 3 years of pain.
- BC Premier John Horgan, who chaired the meeting, summed up the provincial government's position, by saying that it was up to the federal government to provide more money in health care transfers. He said in his usual casual speech: "Twenty-four months ago, we were collaborating in an unprecedented way. There was unprecedented collaboration and the federal government was right there and we applauded that engagement … and now, eight months later, we're exchanging notes through the media. Where'd the love go? Everything was so fine and then it wasn't."
- Everything was so fine and then it wasn't, could be the tagline for the past 3 years, but yes, the provinces have jurisdiction over healthcare responsibilities, but the federal government has allocated resources to the provinces known as the Canada Health Transfer, that makes up about 22% of the cost. About 13% comes from income and corporate taxes to fund health services directly, that the federal government has allowed provincial governments to collect for that purpose.
- The federal government says that when the CHT and those tax points are combined with the money Ottawa spends on bilateral deals for long-term care, home care, mental health and some other services, the portion of health care spending covered by the federal government in 2021-22 came closer to 38.5 per cent.
- At the end of the day, while the provinces and feds quibble over math and tax numbers, Canadians just want a system that works. Every week there are new stories about seriously ill people who are ignored by the hospitals or left in hallways or emergency waiting rooms without receiving care, and some have died as a result.
- In the meantime, the B.C. Court of Appeal released its judgement in an appeal to a landmark decision upholding the public healthcare system. A constitutional challenge was being appealed by private health-care advocate Dr. Brian Day, the owner of Vancouver's Cambie Surgery Centre. Day was appealing a 2020 B.C. Supreme Court decision dismissing his claims that patients have the charter right to pay for private care when wait times in the public system are too long.
- Friday morning this week, a panel of three justices at the B.C. Court of Appeal rejected Dr. Day's argument that a lower court judge had made critical errors of fact in denying his constitutional challenge.
- In their majority reasons for judgment, Chief Justice Robert Bauman and Justice David Harris wrote that while long waits for treatment have denied some patients their charter rights to life and security of the person, those violations are permitted under the principles of fundamental justice.
- The justices said the laws that Day objects to are meant to ensure equitable provision of health care, and prevent the creation of a two-tier system where access to potentially life-saving treatment depends on wealth.
- The judgement says: "We accept the personal interest British Columbians have in avoiding a lengthy wait when they have resources to avail themselves of private care to avoid an increased risk of death. We do not minimize the seriousness of that issue. But, we also recognize that the objective of the MPA [Medicare Protection Act] includes ensuring that individuals without the ability to pay are not thereby deprived of medically necessary care."
- The third appeal court judge, Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon, concurred with the decision to dismiss Day's appeal, but found that long wait times in the public system are "grossly disproportionate" to the objectives of B.C.'s law.
- She wrote: "A system that provides care three years after it is needed could not, except by the most strained definition, be described as a system that provides access to medical care."
- However, she said this violation of the principles of fundamental justice is justified under Section 1 of the charter, which allows for "reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." Fenlon wrote that while the current system prolongs suffering and causes harm for those who would be able to pay for private treatment, she had to consider the common good.
- She wrote: "The negative consequences of striking the impugned provisions and allowing private care would cause those who could not avail themselves of private care — the most vulnerable in society — to wait even longer for care, thereby potentially increasing their risk of harm — beyond that we have found to exist under the current regime."
- The appeal court judgment closes another chapter in a legal saga that began in 2009, but the story is likely far from over. Day has long said he expects to fight his case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
- Advocates of private health care or a two tier system in Canada will no doubt be disappointed in the ruling, along with the premier's summit, as neither decision will really lead to much change for our broken system. No one has any real solution at the moment, and as the boomer generation continues to age, more and more strain will be put on our system. It's up to our governments - both provincial and federal - to fix these issues, but none have really stepped up to the plate.
- The previous Parliament saw Bill C-11 die when Parliament was dissolved which regulated internet content streaming and it was resurrected and passed this session.
- Bill C-11 faced criticism from many including online content creators, online streaming services, and most notably the US government.
- Our discussion on the successor is what this story is about but first it’s worth noting that C-11 has actually become a trade issue with the Biden administration.
- The issue that the Biden administration takes issue with of course is C-11’s ability to regulate user generated content which no country has done.
- The new NAFTA replacement called CUSMA in Canada or USMCA in the US features a clause requiring non-discriminatory treatment of digital products.
- Canada can violate these clauses for cultural reasons but the US would be within their right to levy “measures of equivalent commercial effect.” Which is complex trade language for tariffs which could be levied on dairy, timber, the automobile industry, or any industry in Canada that trades heavily with the US.
- This hasn’t stopped the Government of Canada from charging forward and plotting the next step after C-11.
- Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez struck an Expert Advisory Group on Online Safety and the group held meetings between April 9 and June 3.
- According to Blacklocks Reporter, the minutes from these meetings show that the next step was devising methods of censoring internet content deemed hurtful.
- Now when expanding on what hurtful could mean, it could include anything from fraud, to cyberbullying, mass sharing of traumatic incidents, defamatory content, propaganda, false advertising, and misleading political communications.
- The first half of these make sense and an argument can be made but drilling down further, the panel says that disinformation was like pollution.
- We need to be clear that the internet of today requires a subjective lens on what is harmless fun and what is state sponsored disinformation.
- A meme which has been used as our word of the week before can be seen as disinformation by some but for others, it’s a bit of harmless fun.
- And that’s where the real discussion begins because last July, the heritage department proposed creating a Digital Safety Commissioner which would be responsible for hearing anonymous complaints.
- Censorship by the committee could potentially include Facebook posts, video games, listings on Amazon, Airbnb, and other private and direct messages.
- Factoring this in, this means that any company would be on the hook for providing this data and would need to store it unencrypted.
- [the encryption battle: encryption is open source, everyone can have it, if things are able to be snooped on, bad actors go deeper]
- It’s important to note that hate speech has been illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada since 1970.
- If there’s to be one light of hope in this story, the panel does distinguish that grey zone content “awful but lawful” is a unique challenge.
- But there were also those who questioned what the limit on freedom of expression should be.
- When asked about all the information gathered, Rodriguez said the government “will take that information, work on a bill and table it as soon as possible.”
- Governments have a historically bad record of working with the internet and even more so when it comes to matters of encryption and anything remotely technical.
- There is a huge possibility that in the effort of not triggering an election, such a bill could pass easily with NDP support.
- Parliament resumes in September and should such a Bill be introduced we’ll have coverage when it does and what its contents actually look like and whether or not it has the potential to cause an international trade dispute as the already passed C-11 may just do.
Quote of the Week
"Alberta went through a tough time from 2014 onward, and there was no acknowledgement or recognition of that. It's the federal government's job to keep the country together and make sure every province is part of what we are planning and developing. And that's not happening with the Trudeau government." - Federal Conservative Leadership Candidate Jean Charest on Justin Trudeau’s division.
Word of the Week
Outage - a period of time when a service is not available.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: A Leadership Outage
Teaser: A Rogers outage shows the need for telecom stability, Jean Charest promises a fair deal for Alberta, and the Premier’s summit provides no fix for healthcare. Also, Trudeau’s internet censorship Bill C-11 gets opposed by the US.
Recorded Date: July 15, 2022
Release Date: July 17, 2022
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes