Letter to Honourable Stéphane Dion, Leader of the Official Opposition: Ideas for Canada

Date: December 19, 2006
Dear Honourable Stéphane Dion,
Official Leader of the Opposition

Copy to David McGuinty, my MP for Ottawa-South,

Your bulk letter from the party suggested people should send you their comments and ideas for Canada. I live in the riding of Ottawa-South, and have been an activist for ideas that directly or indirectly relate to what you call your three-pillared approach.

Most recently my time has been dedicated to cultural and innovation policy, including patents, copyrights and trademarks. I'm part of the international movement that supports what people at the UN call "open collaborative methods to produce public goods".

(I provide some definitions of terms and links to more information at: http://flora.ca/floss )

One of the critical ways improve on all 3 pillars of economic sustainability, social justice and environmental sustainability is to transition away from industrial-era thinking in our economy. There were problems and inefficiencies in that system that we now have the capacity to correct, if we have the political will.

As an example, with knowledge which have a fixed cost to develop, but a marginal cost of zero to the developer. We should fund these one-time fixed costs, and allow the marginal cost to users of this knowledge to also be zero. This will allow us to embrace worldwide collaboration through "peer production" and "peer distribution" techniques, which are techniques made possible through modern communications technologies.

We should not prop up an outdated economic system that encourages majority-world countries to pollute and/or deforest, or otherwise build up massive economic, social or environmental debt, in order to pay royalties fees for life saving drugs, access to educational material, or sometimes to regain access to their own culture "repackaged" by rich countries.

The areas where peer production and peer distribution are growing the most is in areas of computer software, health and education. These are areas where governments should be promoting, not hindering, this transition as these are areas that the government is either a direct funder or a mass user of knowledge in these areas.

We need the Canadian government to take a route different than the US government, which has even gone so far as to oppose World Health Organization work towards alternative incentive models to patents. They suggest we should be more concerned that this would "harm the patent system" than be thankful that proposals will save lives. The US government have for years been attacking Thailand for their perfectly legal use of compulsory licenses on AIDS drugs.

While my current MP, David McGuinty, has been very helpful in bringing some of these ideas forward, my past MP and Heritage Critic Mauril Bélanger has thus far ignored my requests for a meeting. The Liberal party as a whole has thus far been the party least interested in protecting new methods of production, distribution and funding of creativity. The party has thus far focused on protecting the financial interests of incumbent old-economy industry associations.

I hope the new ideas you bring as leader of the Liberal party will help modernize the thinking in this area. I remain available to you or any other member of the party to discuss these issues.

Thank you.

Russell McOrmond
[Other address information removed]

Self-employed Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) developer and consultant http://flora.ca/

Policy coordinator for CLUE: Canada's Association for Open Source http://cluecan.ca

Host for Digital Copyright Canada: http://digital-copyright.ca

Co-coordinator for the Getting Open Source Logic INto Government (GOSLING) Community: http://goslingcommunity.org