2015 election needs to focus on our digital future

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This election, Canadians can't afford to be caught up in the soundbites, quibbles and petty pandering that our politicians are increasingly levelling at each other. Trudeau's hair? Mulcair's smile? Harper's suit?

There's a much bigger issue up for debate: What do we want our country to look like five or 10 years from now?

This election, Canadians need to focus on what really matters -- what the next leader of this country is going to do to build a Canada that represents all Canadians, and helps us return to our place as a leader in communications and technological innovation.

We live in the digital information age -- but our policies, practices and infrastructure are not keeping up. Yes, many of us are more connected than ever, but at the expense of both our finances and our privacy rights.

Our digital economy is under threat. Over 150 businesses have said that the undermining of digital security and privacy will negatively impact their ability to do business in Canada. Many others have called for action to fix our broken telecom market. Do we really want to drive our local businesses out of town, by failing to provide the digital infrastructure, security and privacy safeguards that they need to operate in a global market?

Sadly, that will be the reality if we carry on with the current government's failed policies. To take one example, the government has been promising for years to lower cell phone prices. They even launched a flashy website on the taxpayer's dime to trumpet this policy.

But the end result was failure: the government's official Wall Report recently concluded that we're still moving in the wrong direction. With cell phone costs increasing at over three times the rate of inflation, Canadians are still paying among the highest prices in the industrialized world.

Elections can be petty, tedious and exhausting. But they can also be exciting. This is our chance to discuss the big issues -- the change that we want to see in Canada. We don't have to be caught up in the petty minutiae of partisan politics. Instead, we can take a step back and dream about what we really want our future to look like -- and see which politicians are really listening.

Put simply: this election represents our best chance to shape Canada's digital future. It's our chance to lower cell phone prices, repeal Bill C-51, reject Internet censorship, and deliver affordable, world-class Internet service for all Canadians.

This election, take some time to think about what you want your Canada to look like.

OpenMedia is currently hosting a pledge drive to encourage Canadians to vote for Canada's Digital Future this election. We have listened to hundreds of thousands of Canadians, and turned your crowdsourced recommendations into positive action plans to safeguard our privacy, encourage affordable access to Internet services, and protect our free expression.

But beyond these policies and detailed recommendations, I'd like to encourage you to take some time to step aside from the partisan politics, the Canada that we live in now, and imagine: What is the digital future that you envision for Canada? And how can we make this happen?

This election, I'm going to be voting for Canada's Digital Future. Will you join me?

You can learn more and add your voice at OurDigitalFuture.ca

Laura Tribe is Digital Rights Specialist for OpenMedia. A version of this column originally appeared in the CCPA Monitor.

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