Canada Summer Jobs Controversy – Can we add some critical thinking?

It’s sad I have to do this but I feel I need to preface the text below with an outline of my (lack of) political affiliation. I have voted in every provincial and federal election since I was 18. Sometimes my vote has gone to the Progressive Conservatives, or Conservatives and sometimes to the Liberals. In past Federal elections I voted Conservative but in the last election I voted Liberal. I try to make an informed decision each election based on the circumstances and I despise the trend towards treating your vote like choosing a sports team that must be supported against all reason and at any cost no matter what because it has become some part of your identity.

I don’t write a lot about politics here, mostly because I don’t want to add another partially informed opinion to the cacophony of people who talk in certainties about things they know little about. In the case of the Canada Summer Jobs Program, I do know a bit about it because I applied for it on behalf of a local organization and I think the lack of critical thinking involved in the current controversy is amazing.

Bear with me as walk through a little thought experiment.

The Canada Summer Jobs Program application required that our organization attest that:

Both the job and my organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include X rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of A, B, C, D or E, F, G or H or I or J or K.

Obviously I have replaced the examples in the text with placeholders.

Read the above again. What there doesn’t make perfect sense? The Federal government is saying that it will not provide money to organizations that are actively trying to take away rights that are the law of the land.

Let’s try another version:

Both the job and my organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include freedom of religion rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of hair color, salary, age, disease or disorders, income or favourite sports team or shoe size or IQ or employment status.

Does that seem unreasonable?

Now, let’s look at the word-for-word version in the application:

Both the job and my organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

If this version bothers you and the other versions don’t, think about why. It can only be because you wish one or more of the items used as examples were not the law of the land.

Now, let’s imagine that there is an organization who’s core mandate is to abolish freedom of religion. Fortunately, the wording on the application means that such an organization wouldn’t get Federal funding to pursue this goal. That’s a good thing right? I suspect that the people complaining the most would be the first to complain if an organization trying to take away the right to freedom of religion got Federal funding.

More importantly, the alternative world where the Federal government funds organizations that aim to take away rights that are the law of the land is nonsensical.


In a recent National Post article, Andrew Coyne argues that abortion is not a right in Canada.

Most of that article is conspiratorial click bait but his assertion did cause me to do a little digging. I’m not a legal expert and I openly admit that my research on this was an hour of reading but it seems unlikely, based on past rulings, that the supreme court would accept a complete prohibition on abortions.

From Aborition in Canada (yes, Wikipedia):

The court noted that “[f]orcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations” and that the law “asserts that the woman’s capacity to reproduce is to be subject, not to her own control, but to that of the state” were essentially a breach of the woman’s right to security of the person, which is guaranteed under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For the purposes of my argument above, I feel it is correct to say that ‘some abortions’ are a right in Canada. For the same reason, I feel it is reasonable for the Federal government to interpret abortion as a right.

If there are any constitutional law experts reading this, I’d love to hear a more knowledgeable opinion.

Incidentally, if you are reading this thinking I’m a 100% anti-abortion zealot, you are wrong. I accept the premise that a late term abortion is a very different thing from an early term one. I can’t imagine having one of my two children terminated late in pregnancy – my stomach churns just thinking about it. That said, I think there is a big leap from not liking something to thinking that I have the right to take it away from someone else.


I highlighted core mandate a few times in the above text. The Canada Summer Jobs 2018 Applicant Guide says:

NOTE: That an organization is affiliated with a religion does not itself constitute ineligibility for this program.

Basically, being affiliated with a religious group that doesn’t believe in abortion isn’t a problem as long as the mission (core mandate) of the organization isn’t to take away rights.


I bet all of this controversy is because a well-meaning bureaucrat thought that by listing examples they could avoid trouble later when funding was denied based on these conditions and the conditions were not explicit in the application.

Small Providers and Network Neutrality

It appears that Network Neutrality will be dealt a severe blow at the FCC soon. Although some smaller ISPs are supportive of this change, I believe that it represents a major threat to the long term health of the small ISP industry.

I love small ISPs. A long time ago I owned one, I’ve worked as a network admin for one, and I spend some of my spare time on the board of directors for a small co-operative ISP. After a seven-year foray into building products for the largest ISPs in the world, I’m extremely happy to be 100% focused on building products for small ISPs. Whether this makes me biased or just passionate probably depends on your point of view.

Firstly, why do some small ISPs support the pending changes? I think this breaks down into a few high level categories:

  • It’s my network and I should be able to do what I want with it
  • Any government interference is bad
  • Why shouldn’t bandwidth hogs like Netflix pay?

It’s natural for the independent, entrepreneur types that often run small ISPs to have these views but in this instance, government is the only entity that has the power to put rules in place that can protect small ISPs from the large ISPs and from other large companies on the content side.

Before explaining, there is one fact that many ISPs don’t want to face but need to understand:

Your customers don’t pay for access to your network, there is nothing on your network they care about. Your customers pay you to connect them to the services and people they wish to communicate with.

Consider an alternate reality where the Internet did not have strong Network Neutrality norms and rules and a content service such as Netflix is born. In this world, a giant like Comcast would probably ignore the new service, cable TV is a cash cow after all, until they see strong results from Netflix or maybe see early indications that customers like this new form of content delivery better.

In this alternate reality, the rational business decision is to slow down, block or charge hefty fees to this new content upstart. Most consumers don’t have multiple real choices for Internet service, so where will they go? And better yet, if the new upstart is killed or weakened early enough, the consumer won’t even know an alternative even exists so they won’t look for another provider that doesn’t take these types of actions. The second rational business decision, after hurting this new competitor, would be to start a competing service. As an aside, 99% of the time, betting against any person or company acting in their best financial interest is stupid idea.

So how does this relate to small providers? They don’t have this kind of market power.

Your customers pay you to connect them to the services and people they wish to communicate with.

In this reality, Netflix doesn’t exist, at least not at the scale and competitiveness that it does today. Maybe even Google doesn’t.

If these services and others like them don’t exist, then why would consumers pay to connect to a small ISPs network? There is nothing on theĀ  network the consumer care about and nothing competitive they can reach through the network. They are better off with a poor connection to a network with stuff they want than a great connection to a network with nothing they care about.

ISPs have some right to complain of the pain caused by the growth in video streaming. It’s not cheap to keep up with that rate of growth. However, the alternative of having no demand to connect to your network is much, much worse.

Another way to think about this is that it is natural for ISPs to want to have content and services that no other network does. This is simply fighting the “there is nothing on your network they care about” problem. Small ISPs can’t hope to compete in this area and to whatever extent large ISPs are successful, it will come at the cost of the smaller providers.

I don’t expect the world to end the day that Network Neutrality rules are removed. However, I do believe that this change adds risk to the long term viability of small ISPs and the industry that supports them. So, if you run a small ISP, or sell to small ISPs and support the pending changes, please think hard about this. The ‘freedom’ you are asking for extends to entities with much bigger boots than you.