Green Party election platform to include support for open source

It may be excluded from Monday night’s national leadership debates, but the Green Party of Canada is about to release a more detailed platform that will reiterate its support for open source software adoption in the public sector.

The party will include its stance on open source software in a section called “technology and culture” that will be among several mini-platforms it will publish within the next two weeks, a spokesman said. In its platform for the 2004 election, the Green Party set itself apart by promising that, if elected, it would require federal agencies to initiate transitions to open source operating systems and productivity software. It also said it would make technology that has been developed at public expense a publicly owned resource.

“Procurement of systems that require closed licenses or use vendor-specific formats would be used only if no alternative is available,” the 2004 platform said, adding the Green Party would also work to shorten the length of software patents to seven years. “The software business cycle is so fast that longer patents only stifle innovation,” it added.

“(Open source) would still be a main policy goal. The initial platform we put out there was just a synopsis of the issues we want to focus on,” said Green Party spokesman Dermod Travis. “All the campaigns are becoming far more viral. You’ll notice issues of broad impact and some which are highly targeted.”

Though the New Democratic Party’s St. Boniface candidate, Mathieu Allard, is a self-described open source candidate, the NDP platform and those of the Liberals and Conservatives do not make specific reference to open source policies.

Tim Richardson, an e-commerce professor at Seneca College in Toronto, said any impact of the Green Party’s campaign would likely be drowned out by the negative attack ads between the Liberal and Conservative parties.

“There are five or six hot technology issues that the parties should be dealing with, but the Green Party is the only one going to be spending any time on them,” he said.

“RFID and privacy, the continental e-payment system, GPS in cell phones – all parties in general are going to develop positions on IP issues.”

Bill Traynor, president of the Canadian Linux User Exchange, said the Green Party’s statement sounds somewhat “blanket” in nature and really isn’t all that useful without qualification.

“The open source community prefers the use of open source solutions when and where the solution can best satisfy the requirements for a particular problem,” he said. “If a closed source solution best meets a problem’s requirements and does not lock the user into closed standards, then on occasion a closed source solution may be appropriate.” While that’s unlikely given the range of open source options, Traynor added, what’s really needed is a policy under which government RFPs were more inclusive of open source, which is not the case today.

Travis said the constitution of the Green Party requires that “shadow advocates” determine what’s in the platform. Some of the finer points, such as those dealing with national securities regulation, might not seem like traditional Green Party concerns, but they are linked to good government and accountability, he said.

“Some of the issues we’ve gotten very strong reaction on,” he said.

The Green Party has never managed to elect one of its candidates to the federal or provincial level of government, but in a Decima Research poll released last July, 34 per cent of Canadians said they would consider voting for it. The federal election is scheduled for Jan. 23.

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