Why no formal submission to Digital Economy consultation?

In an earlier article describing my limited participation in the Digital Economy consultation I indicated that I wouldn't have the time to make a formal submission. This fact was hilighted in a flattering article by Laurel L. Russwurm, who did make a formal submission, so I thought I would write about why I didn't allocate the time.

I'm writing this today as it won't impact anyone making formal submissions. While I didn't submit, I am glad other people like Laurel did spend the time. I like what Laurel wrote, and am glad this formal submission from an independent modern-thinking creator is part of the consultation.

Like Laurel, I'm doing this as a volunteer and need to allocate time accordingly. I've made formal submission to a number of consultations, even in cases such as in 2003 on competition policy where my submission fell outside of what the government was narrowly asking. My being a volunteer wasn't the largest factor.

Bill C-32 was tabled in June, not too long after this consultation started in May. I needed to be focused on Copyright leading up to the tabling of the bill, and after. Bad copyright will do more harm to Canada's future digital economy than any specific projects that might come out of the consultation could do good. Copyright and related technology laws are foundation policies upon which many other digital economy policies will be built. If you get Copyright wrong, as I believe the current government has, then it is hard to fix it elsewhere.

It seemed obvious to me that much of the Copyright consultation from last year was ignored in the drafting of C-32. While far-beyond-WIPO digital locks were opposed by all but a tiny percentage of submissions, these provisions remained largely unchanged from C-61 in C-32.

Given how little weight the current government gave other recent consultations, it discouraged many citizens from spending much time on this consultation. I'm not alone in looking at C-32 as a reason to not do any massive amount of work towards a formal submission.

In the final days of the consultation, my frustration increased. When I looked at submissions like the one on High Performance Computing (HPC), I had to admit that I didn't see what this had to do with the digital economy, or a program that the federal government should be involved in. It seemed like a commodity service that would be best provided by the private sector. If anything, it pointed towards an additional funding need for provincially funded educational institutions to use these services.

On the other hand, I saw very directly what the long form on the Census had to do with the digital economy, as this data is critical for making many decisions including (but not limited to) digital economy issues.

The government decided to subjectively remove from the voting system (which showed which submissions were voted to the top) submissions they claimed were "off topic". They left the HPC submission as the top submission, and moved the census data collection idea out. Given how they did this filtering, I can only imagine how the government will treat other submissions made. The reason why the voting system change was made was because the votes were embarrassing the Industry Minister, not for legitimate policy reasons.

See: David Eaves: We want to consult, until you say something we don’t like

I hope that this specific consultation doesn't lead to policy that will be blindly followed in the future. I doubt the government received the level of input that would be needed to be looking forward rather than looking backwards as the current government did on Copyright policy.