Fed Watch!

News Across The Nation THE VOICE September 4, 2002

Got a Virus? Go to Jail.

The Federal Government is looking at making some changes in what it calls the Lawful Access Laws (SEE: http://www.ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/cdd9dc973c4bf6bc852564ca006418a0). A lot of these involve the new means of communicating through the Internet and what kinds of powers that police should have regarding search and seizure of this type of information.

One of the parts that they are looking at changing is dealing with computer viruses. Currently it is illegal to knowingly spread a computer virus, or indeed, any program with the intent of damaging data on someone else’s computer, but the legislation being considered could make it illegal to create or even have a computer virus.

For most people, having a computer virus is punishment enough; do they really need to be under the threat of prosecution for it? However, the restriction on creating computer viruses is also a dangerous one. Since those who create the virus for malicious use are already breaking the law, why is there a need to restrict those who would create (or re-create) a virus for study purposes? In fact, this is often the means that virus protection companies such as Norton and McAfee have to use in order to provide us with up to date protection. Do we really want the government to ban this, or at the very least install another legal hurdle for some company to try and get over before they can provide us with better security?

Learning not as Important as Working to Manitoba

Three new programs and $200,000 dollars have been announced in Manitoba for programs to help post-secondary students get part-time work (SEE: http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/press/top/2002/08/2002-08-29-04.html). The first program is called the Business Mentorship program, and basically it is a wage subsidy provided to employers who hired students. The second, and perhaps most laudable program, is one that will pay students who have done a significant amount of community service work a small bursary of $500 or $1000 which can be applied to tuition or student loans. The third program is a Student Temporary Employment Program where students can be hired in provincial departments and related organizations.

The Manitoba government is touting this as a triple-win situation, great for the businesses, great for the students, and great for the communities. Unfortunately, it seems they are getting the students confused with the schools. After all, with these increases in funding and encouragements to businesses to hire students, it becomes less acceptable for a serious student to decide they are going to concentrate on their schoolwork and not take a part-time job to support themselves. If this is less acceptable, then it becomes easier for tuitions to go up and student loan limits to go down on the assumption that the students will be working anyway.

Whatever happened to the idea that getting an education is a job in its own right? When we make the effort to educate ourselves, it not only benefits us, it benefits the rest of society in things such as reduced health care costs, more innovation, more entrepreneurship, and generally a more efficient society. Yet it seems this is simply not seen as a valuable contribution. Instead, why not take that $200,000 and use it to create more and larger grant and bursary programs for those students in financial need?

Public School Fees covered by Government

Nova Scotia is proud to announce that for the third year, they are helping families on Social Assistance by giving extra money to help cover mandatory school fees (SEE: http://www.gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=20020828004).

This is an excellent course of action, as too often the onset of school and all the various fees becomes an extra burden on families that are already trying to live on social assistance. Of course, an even better solution would be to eliminate these extra school fees altogether, as really, they have no place in what is supposedly a publicly supported school system.

Some, of course, suggest that there is no money for this type of thing, which I say is complete hogwash. All a person has to do is look at the size of pension that our politicians receive in a world where any sort of pension plan is becoming increasingly rare. If, as the saying goes, we have to run our governments like a business, then lets start doing that, and trimming away these long term costs that the taxpayers have to bear once a politician is no longer wanted by the people.

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.