By Frank Moher
So, all you digerati who are celebrating this morning because the Conservatives have told the CRTC to rescind its decision on user based internet billing, or else: do you really want the federal government calling the shots on this? The Tories especially?
One can’t help but admire the campaign run by openmedia.ca that has gathered some 358,000 signatures (and counting) on a petition against running the meter on broadband usage, and turned the issue into a political lodestone I haven’t managed to become as exercised about it as many of you because, as a Shaw Cable customer, I’ve been living with a broadband cap for, well, ever. Not that they’ve ever enforced it, and not that I usually get very close to exceeding it. But then, it’s a fairly cushy 100 gb/month plan, and I get a deal on it because it’s bundled with my cable TV. I realize that if you’re getting gouged on a 50 gb/month plan, and now facing the prospect of getting further gouged, you have every reason to be pissed-off.
But do you really want Industry Minister Tony Clement as your knight-in-shining-armour? It was Clement’s tweeted confirmation on Wednesday night that the government would force the CRTC to reconsider its ruling, or see it reversed in cabinet, that set off general jubilation across the Canadian Internetz. But that’s a very slippery slope he’s leading you down on his white charger. Give the Tories the idea that it’s okay to meddle in the decisions of its putatively independent regulator, that that whole “arms-length” approach to broadcasting is so 20th-century, and things could get really ugly really fast. Especially with a government that’s once again nosing around the idea of selling-off the CBC.
Clement’s meddling comes on the heels of Heritage Minister James Moore’s decision to override Library and Archives Canada and force them to show the documentary Iranium. As sage arts journalist Jamie Portman wrote in the Ottawa Citizen, that set a bad, bad precedent.
“For all his grandstanding about safeguarding democracy and the Canadian government from the bullying tactics of the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa, the bottom line is that a minister of the Crown has violated the arm’s-length relationship that exists between independent federal cultural agencies and the politicians.
In brief, Moore should not be telling his agencies what or what not to do.”
Who knew Clement and — why look! Who’s that over his shoulder? Looks like PM Steve! — would follow up on Moore’s precedent so quickly? But that’s what’s happening here. You may like what they’re doing in this instance. But when the time comes that they stick their fingers in someplace else they don’t belong, and you don’t like what they’re up to, those of you huzzahing today about the Cons’ intervention are going to be in a very poor position to complain.