Remember the election of 2011?
The one where Stephen Harper’s Conservatives barely eked out a majority government?
I know it’s only been a few years. But, wow. Things sure have changed since then.
Like the cost of internet. It’s gone up. Way up.
And now we’re all afraid to go online for anything other than to send Grandma an e-card.
The “authorities” – as the now-neutered Privacy Commissioner refers to them – are monitoring everything we do online.
Remember how the Conservatives rammed that massive law-and-order bill through parliament just after they got elected?
Two bills in that omnibus are why the internet suddenly got so expensive and scary: Bill C-46, the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act, and bill C-47, the Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act.
Those bills became law with almost no review – parliamentary or otherwise.
The Tories didn’t consult a single committee. There was no debate on them.
They didn’t ask a single citizen for input.
They ignored the advice and input of every privacy commissioner in the country.
Then, after the bills were passed, the Tory government implemented an internet fee.
They called it the “Family Safety Surcharge,” or FSS.
They authorized internet providers to collect it directly.
The FSS still exists, and we’re told it pays for “ongoing internet infrastructure improvements.”
But these “improvements” don’t make the internet any faster for Canadians, or more accessible.
No, the money goes to surveillance equipment that internet providers are now legally required to have installed.
So these improvements don’t have anything to do with us, the people who use the internet.
It’s all about monitoring everything we do online, and storing it for the benefit of the “authorities.”
Now anybody even remotely involved with law enforcement or security in Canada has access to the full online history of every citizen.
In other words, they’re using our own money to spy on us.
They don’t need to check with a judge. They don’t need a warrant or a court order.
All they need is a whim.
And so, with that unrestricted access to Canadians’ private data, the “authorities” just started cataloguing everything we did online.
In a sense, I can’t blame them. If there were a tap that endlessly poured free beer, I’d drink from it, too.
They snapped up every picture we uploaded to Facebook, no matter its privacy settings.
They monitored our Skype calls.
They recorded our video chats, even the racy 3 am ones when the spouse was away on a business trip.
They archived our email and tracked our text messages.
They amassed the documents we stored in the cloud.
They logged the movies we watched on NetFlix.
They recorded our Kindle reading habits.
They harvested our passwords and bank account information.
Of course, it quickly became clear that the “authorities” couldn’t properly handle this tidal wave of information. They were overwhelmed.
So the Tory government contracted it out.
The collection, maintenance, and analysis of Canadians’ private internet habits became a booming “internet safety” industry.
Have the Conservative’s internet law-and-order bills actually kept us any safer?
I certainly don’t feel any safer.
I used to just fear criminals, now I fear the government, too.
I keep expecting a knock on the door from a cop who’s come to arrest me for sending too many emails that are critical of the State. Or maybe just for using too many bad words.
The new laws haven’t turned up any more child pornographers than before, if that’s what you mean.
Most of them have apparently resorted to sending DVDs through Canada Post.
In hindsight, it all seems so odd. There wasn’t really a reason for any of that “tough on crime” nonsense.
In the decade before the 2011 election, the crime rate was dropping. We were already a safe society.
Canadians were, and still are, good people. The Conservatives just seem to have always been in denial about that.
As a result, we’re all a bit more paranoid and afraid of one another now.
I mean, the Conservatives’ law-and-order bills, especially the internet ones, seemed to say to citizens: “we don’t trust you.”
And if your own government doesn’t trust your friends and neighbours, how can you?
We’ve all paid a high price for that legislation.
Our internet costs more than ever, for one thing.
But the far greater expense was our civil liberties and freedoms, which have been eroded.
And privacy, that cornerstone of personal identity, is a relic of the past.
It was a dark day for Canada when the Conservative government took power and branded us all criminals with their law-and-order legislation.
I wish I’d never voted for them, now.
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, April 22, 2011.