Write Letters to Stop UBB
Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 18, 2010
Living in a democracy means that citizens are free to communicate with our government.
Opinion expressed in one letter from one constituent has long been weighted with a great deal of importance. The presumption is that if one person invests time and effort in writing a letter and posting it, there are very likely a whole bunch of people out there grumbling about the issue who simply haven’t invested the time and effort in writing. After all, not everyone is comfortable writing a letter.
I don’t know what the actual formula is, nor even where to look for it. (If anyone knows, I’d love a link.) But people who have studied this stuff have worked it out that:
X number of petition signers = Y number of letter writers = Z number of email writers
So even though 100 people might sign a petition, and another 100 people might send a letter and a third hundred people may send email, the concerns of these three different groups of people will be treated differently. Doesn’t sound very democratic, does it?
The thinking goes something like this: it takes only a few seconds to sign your name to a petition.
Therefore the idea presented by the petition may mean little or nothing to those signing it.
Maybe it is something you agree with passionately.
But maybe you just signed it as the easiest way to get the person with the petition off your back.
A petition signed by 100 people would therefore have less authority– much less– than individual letters from those same 100 people.
A form letter is going to be given less weight than an original letter, probably because the sender did not craft the letter themselves. The thinking seems to be that the sender put less work into it personally, so therefore it wasn’t important to them.
I think that is a serious error of logic. Just because some people simply aren’t letter writers, or comfortable putting their ideas down does not make their opinion less valid, it simply means that they have a different skill set than someone like me who writes endlessly.
If someone provides the words in a form letter that expresses what you think, it should be perfectly valid. As an expression of your views it should have just as much weight as an original letter. After all, FINDING the right form letter might even take even more work than writing your own. Not everyone is a writer. Your ability to participate in Canada’s democratic process should not be jeopardized by whether or not you are a confident letter writer.
In actual fact, it does not directly cost a citizen anything to mail a letter to our elected representatives. That’s a right that Canadians have based on the fact that our government is supposed to be a democracy. We are allowed to post our thoughts and ideas to our government without having to pay postage.
But if I send a physical letter, known to many in today’s world as “snail mail” because it is not as nearly instantaneous as email, the physical letter has to be collected from the pick-up point, transported to the sorting station, sorted, transported to the destination post office, sorted, and then delivered. When constituent mail arrives at the Parliament Buildings, it has to be sorted for delivery within to the office of our MP, or the Minister of Industry, or the Prime Minister, wherever it is supposed to go. The reality is of course that all of this physical handling is in fact paid for out of government coffers which come from– you guessed it– our tax dollars. So although we are not paying directly out of our pockets, we are paying indirectly out of our tax dollars for sending physical mail to our government.
Politicians also seem to put a lot less value on email letters, giving them substantially less importance than a physical letter delivered by Canada Post.
Yet writing an effective email letter is just as difficult as writing a physical letter. It takes the same amount of effort as writing a physical letter.
So why do politicians routinely devalue our email and count it as less than a physical letter? I think this differentiation is purely financial. It probably came from market research that says if a customer invests in a stamp in order to mail a letter, although small it is a financial commitment. And in today’s world we also have to figure out where we can even mail a physical letter since there are fewer post offices and mailboxes available.
When we send email to our representatives, the routing is all done electronically, but in this scenario no Canada Post physical presence is required. In fact there is no physical human labour until the last lap when presumably the email arrives at the office of the recipient. Depending on their computer skills, the letter might in fact be printed or possibly read off a screen by the person we have addressed.
But in reality, if I send an email to my elected representatives, no letter carrier has to carry it. Canada Post does not have to expend any energy in delivering my letter.
email is free (for now)
At the moment, email is pretty well free in Canada. Any Canadian who is hooked up to the Internet gets at least one free email address. But you don’t even need that anymore. Even if you don’t have an internet account, you can log onto the internet for free at a public library, or perhaps on a friend’s connection and get a free email account of your very own from hotmail or Yahoo or any one of dozens of free email providers.
The fact that email is free is is a big part of why spam is so prevalent; spam can be automatically sent to hundreds of thousands of recipients at virtually no cost. So long as one person falls for the scam or purchases the product spam will never ever go away.
Except Usage Based Billing means that everything we do online will cost money. Including email. In many cases we won’t be paying the email provider but we will be paying Bell Canada. So those of us who chose to use email will in fact be paying for the privilege of emailing our elected representatives.
Right now though, until UBB is implemented, email is still free. So it does not cost us directly OR indirectly.
My email is set up to request a delivery confirmation when I send email. That way, I get a notification that the email I have sent has been received. This is very handy in a lot of situations. Last year when I emailed politicians about an issue, some of them weren’t tech savvy enough to turn off the email confirmations. Of those, about half confirmed that my email was deleted without being read.
That’s unsettling on more than one level. The whole point of a democracy is that constituents are supposed to have access to their government. Government officials who delete constituent email without reading it are hardly behaving in a democratic manner. Although I do not reside in the electoral ridings of these MPs, in their capacity as members of the Canadians Government, they were serving on a committee deliberating about issues that will affect me. So it wasn’t simply impolite, it was a clear case of deliberately not even giving a hearing to a citizen.
What is even worse was that these same politicians who don’t understand a simple email function like automatic confirmations are making laws about Canadian access to technology. That doesn’t bode well for Canadian access to technology in the 21st century.
fiscally responsible government
Since physical mail costs the Canadian Government far more than email, they ought to be encouraging citizen email use, regardless of marketing formulas.
what goes around comes around
When we send our elected representatives email, they respond with email. When we send them physical letters they respond with physical letters.
In my experience, there is always an awfully long time before I get a response. I wonder if the intent is to wait a really long time to answer because by then I will have forgotten what I have written? Like most Canadians I keep copies of my correspondence so it doesn’t matter how long the reply takes, I can always refer back to my original letter. And the response doesn’t ever seem to actually answer my letter.
But even if we are not going to get a prompt or good response from our elected representatives, and in fact all members of our government, we still have the right to be heard. Which is why I think we should write letters to our government to tell them why Usage Based Billing is not a good thing for us. And if we send paper letter s through the mail, someone in the office has to at least open it before throwing it out. If it is email, apparently it can be deleted without being read.
Because right or wrong, politicians attach far more weight to paper letters than email.
Are you struggling to pay for the Internet now? Tell them that.
Are you making a blog or do you have a web page that you are trying out as a way to promote a home business?
Are you a creator, do you have books, music or movies that you want to distribute online?
Do you have school kids who need to access the Internet to be able to participate fully in their own education?
Are you a shut-in who can access the world through the Internet?
Are you a researcher who needs to be able to access information?
Are you one of the many Canadians who is getting their news exclusively online? Do you use Internet banking? Are you looking for work? Are you selling or are you buying? Do you download public domain ebooks from Project Gutenberg? Or FLOSS? Are you a Facebook denizen or a Twitterer?
what to write?
If you need help with wording, I have written thousands of words in this blog I have been writing since I first heard about UBB. And I’ve put every word I’ve written in this blog directly into the public domain. That gives you the right to pick and choose anything I have said to create your own letter to tell them why you think UBB should be stopped. Because I’ve been trying to make this a work of reference, I’ve listed all the blog articles in the left hand sidebar, so I hope that should help you find any appropriate bits.
Since the Minister of Industry, Tony Clement was able to overturn the bad CRTC Windmobile decision, he should also be able to overturn this bad UBB decision.
And for the same reason: it will be bad for Canada’s technological future.
write to your mp
Even if our MPs might not be very tech savvy, the Canadian Government has in fact invested oodles of money in setting up excellent internet access to all aspects of our government. Of course, when Usage Based Billing starts, it will make Canadians hesitate before using these excellent online governmental resources because we may not be able to afford them come UBB.
This excellent link will allow you to find your MP even if you don’t know who it is. This will find the MP for your riding based on your home postal code.
Find your MP
write to our government
This is an issue that will affect all of Canada, so all of our government should be aware of it. Because there is so much on the go, however, it is reasonable to assume that many of them are just as much in the dark about UBB as the rest of Canada. So it certainly wouldn’t hurt to write to all of the leaders. Should a Federal Election come to pass in the near future this could be an important issue.
The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
House of Commons
Minister of Industry
The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
House of Commons
Minister of Heritage
The Hon. James Moore, P.C., B.A.
House of Commons
Michael Ignatieff, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
House of Commons
Bloc Quebecois Leader
House of Commons
[*M. Duceppe would prefer communication in French, but I’ve heard that he’s classy enough to respond to mono-lingual English speakers in English
(in other words, English would be better than a bad Google translation]
The Hon. Jack Layton, P.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
House of Commons
NDP Technology Critic
House of Commons
Even though the Green Party got nearly a million votes across Canada in the last election, the green party still has not elected a single member, due to our unfair and antiquated “first past the post” electoral system. If you’re interested in working to change that issue, you might want to contact your local chapter of Fairvote Canada and participate in effecting change so that all Canadians will have a voice in our government.
In the meantime, although unelected, the Green Party Leader Elizabeth May does in fact have a larger constituency than many who hold office, so it certainly would not hurt to contact her about your UBB concerns.
The Pirate Party of Canada is brand new, but since they have come to exist in defense of copyright law and the Internet, it makes sense that they would be interested in fighting Usage Based Billing because it too will impede citizen access. Because they have not yet stood in an election and have no elected representatives, I’m pretty sure that postal mail to the Pirate Party of Canada is not free. However, you can mail them your concerns if you spring for a stamp, or head to their website and leave comments there.
The Unelected Leader of the Pirate Party of Canada
Pirate Party of Canada
43 Samson Blvd #165
Laval QC H7X 3R8
It certainly wouldn’t hurt to ferret out any smaller political parties that may exist in your riding. According to Wikipedia, there are a great many, so check it out to see a list of canadian political parties which would be an excellent starting point. The more people we have talking about Usage Based Billing the greater the possibility to stop it.
It is also possible to mail a letter to every single Member of Parliament. I would caution you about doing this by email. One person I spoke with in a Facebook CAPP forum told me that she had sent email to all of the Members of parliament during the Premature Prorogation, and had her Yahoo email account frozen because of it– because she was sending the same letter to hundreds of people, her her account flagged it as a spammer.
I suggest if you want to do something like that by email, do it in smaller increments. I’m contemplating sending them all postal mail letters. Wonder how many replies I’d get…
Canadians need to know about Usage Based Billing.