Joseph F. Turcotte, PhD

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Liberal leadership ‘going digital’?



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Source: CBC News

Earlier today Mark Goldberg posed an interesting question on his blog and Twitter: “Will Liberal leadership race advance digital economy issues?”

Mark’s comments fall on the day that George Takach, a prominent Toronto lawyer and Osgoode Hall professor who specializes in technology issues, has entered the Liberal leadership race; and comes a day after Dr Marc Garneau, Canada’s first man in space, announced his long-anticipated campaign to lead the party. Judging by the backgrounds of both men, technology-related issues will likely become front-and-centre issues going forward.

That these two men will (likely) be pushing ideas to allow Canada to capitalize upon the burgeoning ‘informational’ and/or ‘knowledge-based’ economy is most welcomed in these quarters. With the current Harper Government having failed to release a much-needed ‘Digital Economy Strategy’ (although the latest word has this plan being released before year’s end), Canada is failing to build upon its historic success in information and knowledge-based industries.

Takach and Dr Garneau should give some limelight to these issues and help move public debate, and government policy, forward. For his part, Takach is proposing ambitious proposals including a ‘Digital Bill of Rights’. Discussions over the digital future of Canada, including the rights of Canadian citizens as well as the social and economic benefits to Canadian industry, are integral for developing a comprehensive roadmap for the future of this country.

Recent debates over usage based billing and other matters have demonstrated that digital issues are popular and important for younger Canadians. With neither the Conservative nor the NDP leading on this front, the Liberal Party has an opportunity to engage a group of citizens that are prone to shun established political mechanisms. At a time when the Party is reaching out to a new group of Canadian ‘supporters’, tapping into digital issues can be a bridge to attract a new and younger generation of Canadians into the Liberal’s ‘Big Red Tent’.

Justin Trudeau, the presumed frontrunner in the Liberal leadership race, is making a point of reaching out to younger Canadians. With Takach, and to a lesser-extent Garneau, leading the way on digital issues it will be important for Trudeau to speak to these issues in order to galvanize the new coalition of previously unengaged voters whose support he needs and seeks.

If the Liberal leadership debate does, at least to a certain extent, ‘go digital’ it will benefit the Party as well as the country.


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