I’ve been noticing that we are are privileging new positions (people) over meaningful regulatory change (policy) in Canada.
"And that's why we will introduce legislation to create a new regulator that will ensure that online platforms remove harmful content, including depictions of childhood sexual exploitation and... images that are shared without consent."
“To better protect people’s personal data and to encourage greater competition in the digital marketplace, we will also move forward with new regulations for large digital companies, overseen by a newly-created data commissioner.”
The Liberal platform also proposed a new role - the Canadian Consumer Advocate.
A Liberal government would also create a new Canadian Consumer Advocate, whose job will be to “serve as an independent, single point of contact for people who need help with banking, telecom, or transportation-related complaints, and will be empowered to review complaints and, if founded, impose appropriate penalties.”
The new position is being described as "a first step" toward addressing the Canadian military's racism and sexual misconduct crisis. DND appears to be deliberately leaving the door open to further changes "once the appropriate consultations have occurred."
It’s intriguing to note these proposals for a new regulator, and whether they are accompanied by new regulation and investments in capacity. It’s like we want to demonstrate that something is a priority by putting a person “on it.” But we also need to accompany those new jobs with meaningful regulatory capacity - chops, “teeth.” If we ignore the structures that said new person is parachuting into, and the toes they may be stepping on, we set them up to fail - big time. It all feels very “put a bird on it.”
I suppose it can be comforting to know a person is accountable or ~thinking about [it]~. But the worst part of these proposed interventions is their superficiality.
Reminiscent of C-Suite additions that may be similarly challenged to quickly realize meaningful change, like Chief Diversity and Chief Equity officers. While these new roles can create new accountabilities and focus that didn’t previously exist, they also imply that previous deficit occurred because it wasn’t any one person’s core responsibility.
*Anyways, just something I’ve been noticing and have my eye on.
Vass Bednar is the Executive Director of McMaster University’s new Master of Public Policy in Digital Society Program.
Insightful. I worry that a dysfunctional system wearing a czar like a hat is not likely to become a much more functional system.
I take your point about regulatory capacity - it's a good one. But I'll point out that when governments hand new mandates to existing regulators, that's typically a recipe for them being asked to do more with less. Treasury Board assumes magical levels of efficiencies. So while the creation of a new regulator is by no means a silver bullet for meaningful change, it at least has this going for it: they have a much stronger chance of walking into TB and getting adequately resourced. Whether they are also given the regulations, mandate and political space they need to succeed is an entirely different matter.