In which we take a break from our regularly-scheduled “catching up on things we missed during our dark period” (ok, ok, our most recent dark period) and talk about something timely. From this week! The budget! Zzzzzzzz….. Wait, what? No really hang with me here this may be important!
Yes, we’re talking about the budget. Canada’s 2023 budget is entitled “A Made-in-Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future.” Well that sounds great! Will it work? What do I look like, an economist? Don’t ask me.
BUT. The “budget”, in case you did not know, is not really some financial document. Well sure, I guess there are some numbers in there. What do I look like, an economist? The budget also includes let’s call them “statement of principles” which identify priorities for the government. Sometimes, those priorities are related to the internet. That’s what I am here to talk about. Or there may be actual dollars related to the internet. Like in 2021, the government announced it would spend a shitload of money to improve internet connectivity in rural areas. Maybe we’ll have that this year!
So each year, when the budget comes out, I like to open up the full PDF and do a Ctrl-F (yes I am a PC guy not a cool Command-F Mac guy) for “internet”. Then mobile, and cellular, and digital, and computer and any other word or phrase I think I can find that may be up my alley. Let’s see what I found this year! Spoiler alert – not much.
1. Cracking Down on Junk Fees
So the Crtl-F for “internet” gave only one result, BOOOOOO. What is this, 1970? So here is the internet mention:
Unexpected, hidden, and additional fees add up quickly. From internet overage charges, to roaming fees, to additional airline charges, Canadians deal with junk fees every day.
Well sure that sounds fine I guess. But boy was I disappointed. That is the only thing internet-related in this entire TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY page PDF? Meh. Internet overages? Most internet packages, at least in urban areas, and for cable or DSL, are unlimited anyway! Here’s Bell’s current Fibe packages. All unlimited data. Here’s Videotron’s cable internet packages. All unlimited. And pretty reasonably-priced! I fucking hate both Bell and Videotron with the passion of a thousand suns. Do I feel bad defending them? Ugh.
Maybe for mobile data this makes some sense. I have Rogers, and boy I really hate them! My data overages there are pretty expensive. So let’s wee what the budget says it might do about that:
Budget 2023 announces the government’s intention to work with regulatory agencies, provinces, and territories to reduce junk fees for Canadians. This could include higher telecom roaming charges, event and concert fees, excessive baggage fees, and unjustified shipping and freight fees.
Roaming charges??? I call from all across Canada with no roaming charges. And I repeat, I hate Rogers, I do not want to be defending them. Also there is no real plan here! “Working with regulatory agencies” is something the government is supposed to do every day. “Work with the provinces?” My provincial government fucking hates you. Good luck with that.
In the government’s defense, reducing concert fees sounds great! Fuck Ticketmaster. But for the internet? This is really useless. Unless of course they really go after the mobile data packages. But don’t count on it, this government does not give a shit about competition in telecom in this country. Let’s move on.
2. Protecting Federally Regulated Gig Workers
My Ctrl-F for “digital” came up with this:
When workers are engaged in a typical employer-employee relationship, but
are misclassified as something other than employees, they miss out on the
same labour rights, protections, and entitlements as traditional employees.
For those in the gig economy, such as those who rely on an app or digital
platform for their source of work, this can have a real impact on the stability
and security of their livelihoods
You got that right! Uber drivers get fucked over by labour law. What will the government do about this?
Budget 2023 proposes to amend the Canada Labour Code to improve
job protections for federally regulated gig workers by strengthening
prohibitions against employee misclassification. This will help ensure
all federally regulated workers receive the protections and employer
contributions to which they are entitled, including Employment Insurance
and the Canada Pension Plan
Hey that’s pretty good! Or at least it sounds pretty good until you learn about labour law in this country. So the government will “amend the Canada Labour Code”. What is the Canada Labour Code you may be asking yourself. You may then answer yourself “it covers all labour in Canada!” Oooh boy, you need to go to law school. Good news for you; I teach at law school.
“Siri, what workers does the Canada Labour Code cover”? (My portable devices are all Apple unlike my laptop) Siri: “Here are some websites I found.” Siri sent me to the text of the CLC. The text specifies that it applies to:
employees who are employed on or in connection with the operation of any federal work, undertaking or business, in respect of the employers of all such employees in their relations with those employees
So what are those federal works, undertakings and businesses? The Canada government website provides a handy list. Go read it, I’ll wait. See what’s there? Banks, Canada Post, and uranium mining. Planes, trains, but no automobiles. The CLC covers very few workers (maybe 10% of Canadian workers according to this site). Certainly not Uber drivers. Any person who really needs protections of labour laws in the gig economy is covered by provincial labour laws. Yes, this is one of those legal areas where both the feds and provinces have legislative power. Your average Uber driver is covered by the labour laws of the province where they are working. Point is, this budget measure is a pretty useless gesture. There aren’t any gig economy workers in banks and airports. Let’s move on.
3. Common Chargers for Your Devices
My Ctrl-F for “phones” came up with this:
Over the past decade, multiple chargers have been developed by manufacturers for phones, tablets, cameras, laptops, and other devices. Every time Canadians purchase new devices, they need to buy new chargers to go along with them, which drives up costs and increases electronic waste.
Well, I would not say every time. I’ve gone from an iPhone 4 to an iPhone 6 to an 8 to an SE to an SE (2nd generation) to an SE (3rd generation) (you’ll pry that Home button out of my cold dead hands) and I had to change the charger once. Let’s see what the government will do:
Budget 2023 announces that the federal government will work with international partners and other stakeholders to explore implementing a standard charging port in Canada, with the aim of lowering costs for Canadians and reducing electronic waste.
Okay that’s fine. Great, good for you Canada. [/pats Canada on the head in a patronizing manner] You are just following in the footsteps of the European Union, who last year decided that USB-C chargers should be the standard for all devices, Apple Lightning port be damned. The EU has the power to do these things, Canada does not. Another useless gesture. Anything else?
4. Supporting Your Right to Repair
Ctrl-F for “devices” came up with this gem:
When it comes to broken appliances or devices, high repair fees and a lack of access to specific parts often mean Canadians are pushed to buy new products rather than repairing the ones they have. This is expensive for people and creates harmful waste.
Fuck yeah this is a problem. Right to repair is a damn good idea, and I praise the government for doing something about it. What will they do about it?
Budget 2023 announces that the government will work to implement a right to repair, with the aim of introducing a targeted framework for home appliances and electronics in 2024.
So they will introduce the framework only next year. By the time the right to repair actually goes into effect, we’ll have a Conservative (NDP?) government and the whole thing is in the toilet.
Superterrific Happy Hour Analysis
There is nothing else. I am underwhelmed.