Canadian Head of State

So one of the interesting questions that came out of my discussion last week about the binary nature of the political spectrum was whether we should consider having an elected head of state in Canada.

So let’s firs restrict this to the federal government rather than the provinces.

Second, I’m going to say right out that I like our parliamentary system and the current structure we have for our head of state (The Queen and her representative the Governor-General) and the head of government (The Prime Minister).  I do not want to see a change.

I’m also going to come out with admitting that at least part of my motivation is to not adopt a similar system to the Americans.  (Even if we were to someday adopt an elected head of state, I hope we could do it with a shorter campaign period and a more transparent election than the electoral college system.  I dislike both those elements of the presidential elections.)


So the main objection to our current system is that our Prime Minster has a significant amount of power. Especially when the Prime Minister’s party holds a majority with the House of Commons.  In such a situation, we may not have a sufficient separation of powers to prevent abuses of that power.

Another valid objection is that people want more diplomatic representation in the legislative and executive branches of the government.  The assumption being that this will allow for a greater presentation of the will of the people within the government.

I would counter both objections.  First lets look at what separation of powers we do have an how that compares with an alternative – the American Federal system.

So the Canadian government has the head of state and the head of government divided into two different folks.  The Americans have that in a single person – the President.  However, the leader of the house of representative is still separate from the president, while out head of government is the same as the leader of our lower house.

The legislative branch in both countries has three levels which must approve a law.  The lower house (commons), the upper house (senate) and the head of state (Queen with Governor-General/President).  But after that there are many differences.  In the States, all three are elected bodies.  In Canada only the lower house is elected.  The senate is provided by appointment.  The Queen is a reigning monarch and the Governor-General is her representative and decided by appointment as well.

In both custom and practice, the house of commons is the most powerful body in passing legislation.  When a law is passed by that house of commons, it is never overruled by the senate and royal assent is a formality.

So, now I wave my magic wand and say our method has significant benefits.  Rather than three bodies all populated through election, we use three different methods: election, appointment and a reigning monarch.  We do allow the diplomatically election body drive legislation in accordance with diplomatic principles.  However, if that body is ever out of control, we do have controls on legislation in the other two bodies.

So we have appropriate legislative controls and perhaps a benefit in having different selection mechanisms on each of the bodies.  (Although, I would hazard that our senate appointment system could stand for some reform.)

So let’s look at some of the other duties in the executive branch:

1) Government Appointments – States – the president or his office.  Canada – The Governor-General does many of the key appointments (Prime Minister and Senate, Supreme Court Justices, Privy Council and Chief-of-Defence Staff and Cabinet).  The Governor-General does all appointments under advisement of Prime Minster normally (Premiers in the case of Lieutenant-Governors).

2) Foreign Appointments – These are sorta similar.  The President and the Governor-General both recognize foreign ambassadors.  The Governor-General accredits our own ambassadors. The President both appoints and accredits the American ambassadors.  The President and Governor-General are both receive foreign heads of state.

3) Preparing the budget – The President does this.  In Canada it is the Prime Minister.

4) Commander-in-Chief – The Head of State holds this position in both countries.  In Canada, the Governor-General is mostly a ceremonial position.  Declarations of war do require ratification by the monarch.  Neither country can really do this without support of the lower house.

5) State-of-the-Union/Speech from the Throne – In both countries these are delivered by the Head of State.  But the President prepares the State of the Union and thus sets Government direction.  In Canada, the direction is set by the government and the Prime Minister’s office.  The Speech is subject to debate and votes within the house.

6) Launch/Prorogue/Dissolve Parliament – These ideas are purely Canadian.  The Governor-General is responsible for determining the head of Government, proroguing parliament and calling a new election.  Normally, this follows fairly simply per the leader of the party with the most elected representatives.  But in complicated situations it requires judgments – during minority governments, approving coalitions and what to do after a no-confidence vote in the house.  And as we recently saw the decision to prorogue parliament can have fairly sweeping impacts/

7) Executive Branch – In Canada, the various ministries are headed by members of Cabinet, drawn from the privy council which is drawn from members of parliament normally in the party of the Prime Minister.  In the States, the departments are determined through appointments.  Pretty big difference.

8) Other Ceremonial Duties – Of which there are many.  In recent years, the Governor-General has duties to promote the morale with Canada, serve as a representative of the country outside Canada, assign honours within the military and the order of Canada, promote the arts, etc.

Anyway – the list demonstrates that many of the various executive duties held by the president in the States are held by the Queen/Governor-General in Canada.  However, there are also many significant differences and the head of government in Canada, the Prime Minister holds a significant amount of power.

Based on the list though, I submit that a sufficient separation of powers does exist in Canada.  The argument towards the strength of the Prime Minister is not sufficient to move towards an elected head of state.

Additionally, my final argument is based on tradition.  Tradition is always a two-edged blade.  On one hand, traditions are rarely established without reason.  On the other, the sometimes persist after those reasons have dissipated or proven inaccurate.  As such – sigh there is a whole post on tradition buried in this declaration – traditions should be maintained, but reviewed with skepticism.  If they are to be overturned, the base reasons for their establishment shout be proven invalid.

[Another Paragraph then to justify…] So that being the case, there isn’t sufficient grounds to overturn tradition in this case.  (Excessive hand waving excused as no one has read this far into this screed. 🙂 )

In short, while an elected head of state is an interesting idea and attractive on the basic grounds of the tenets of democracy our existing system is a working setup and provides the necessary controls to prevent abuses.

(On Thursday the bill for new copyright legislation should drop in Parliament – Yay.  That will provide another political element to discuss.)


Gaming Recap – The Sunday Finale

So poor Pauly’s best laid plans feel apart a little as two cancellations reduced the players to just he, Rob and I.

But fun was had regardless.  First off, it was an incredible visit.  The grub was fantastic.  I was entertained after dinner by fine fiddling and dancing.  I was served an excellent Islay malt (to contrast with the other excellent Islay malt from the night before – I’m a luck scotch fan!)  And Pauly’s youngest said I was cute.  Just adorable.

The first game played was Castle Panic – a family cooperative game.  It was Pauly, I and the two eldest kids.  Like all coop games it was the normal turn of something good followed by something bad.  We won quite easily, but I can see how it could have gone differently and how some simple alternatives will make it much more difficult.  For anyone frustrated by never winning at Pandemic or Ghost stories this is a fine alternative.  And it played well with the kids – they were both deciding their own strategies and cooperating with the other players.

Then Rob arrived and we pulled out El Grande.  I’ve had it loaded into my vehicle for months trying to get a game in.  Yay!  El Grande is a classic Euro – a resource optimization game with a single resource – calbelleros.  But it is also an area control game with pseudo elements of direct conflict.  During the first game Pauly, as usual, played a decent strategy even before he figured out what the strategy should be.  He kicked our butts!  I thought I did OK, but Rob beat me by a single point as well.

So we played again – adding an expansion in the process.  The expansion nearly doubled the complexity of the base game.  I was able to adapt to  lessons learned from the first game and I was the first to really leverage the expansion scoring.  So at the end of the 2nd scoring I was a valid threat for the lead.  Sigh.

But Pauly still had his innate ability for strategy and he adapted to my own strategies, adopted them and then discarded them for better ones in the last half of the game.  I hate that guy.  🙂  The 3rd scoring resulted in an ass whooping again.

For myself, I really liked the game.  I want to play again.  Soon, I hope.  And changing the number of players will also impact strategies.

All in all, good gaming.  What a nifty weekend!

The Girl who Played with Fire

So, I’ve been looking for the first book in the trilogy for awhile.  Looking on my kindle that is.  But the Stieg Larsson trilogy isn’t available on Canadian Kindles for some reason.

So I was in Safeway on Friday and saw the 2nd book on the store shelves and couldn’t resist.

The titular girl is Lisbeth Saladar and she is also the protagonist.  The plot is fairly convoluted and resists summary without significant spoilers.  The events on the cover blurb don’t occur until over a third of the way through the book.

Mikael Blomkvist has partnered his news magazine with an independent writer and researcher.  The article will be about sex trafficking in Sweden.  Lisbeth is trying to make a new life for herself: a new house, new car, new job and new boobs.  But she can’t escape her past including her failed relationship with Blomkvist and more sinister elements that might connect her with the magazine’s research.

That summary sounds like a psychological drama, but The Girl who Played with Fire is first and foremost a crime thriller.  The plot takes a while to start tensing up, but once it does the book captivates the attention.  But the suspense likely isn’t the greatest strength – that would be the well drawn characters.  Saladar and Blomkvist get the most attention, but the bad guys, the police and most minor characters are quickly and interestingly sketched out.

I haven’t read the first book, so the second did a good job of introducing its characters.  I still think I can go and read the first and that the plot hasn’t been spoiled.  That is neat.  And while the novel resolves its central plot thread, it also ends on a cliff hanger.  The third book will follow directly and deal with unties plot threads from this book.

There are some aspects some folks might not like, but that didn’t bother me.  It is a healthy tome – 700 pages for the edition I have.  Still shorter than some of the fantasy doorstops I read.  It has graphic descriptions of violence.  There is a fair amount of cursing.  The protagonist cannot be fairly described as sympathetic.  Although she is certainly interesting and captivating.  Finally there are some interesting lifestyle choices from the main characters that could be described as alternative.

That would likely be one of my only two complaints with the story.  Any character that questions the odd choices made by the characters is then pilloried by the author as a bigot, misogynist and villain.  That isn’t clear.  The minor characters that question the main characters turn out to be horrendous people with no redeeming qualities.    It may not be the author’s intention, but it seems to be a way of protecting the choices the main characters make.

The other drawback is that the plot is held together by some giant coincidences.  The plot is revealed very skillfully so the coincidences don’t seem so obvious.  In fact, the plot points them out and then explains them through research into the characters past and their particular quirks.  But they are still GIANT coincidences.  Big ones. 🙂

The plot moves quickly.  The characters are very interesting.  The mystery is pursued in three separate investigations that uncover information in different stages and cleverly feed into one another.   And there is a tenuous tie to mathematical theories which I find neat.

I would highly recommend the book to anyone that like crime thrillers.

Now I wish I could just get the other two on my kindle!

Crucial Question 9

Excluding Pizza

Because then we know Pete’s a Pie Pizzeria would sweep.

Crucial Question 10

Multiple Votes are allowed!

Week 6

Good news – my visitor stats recovered somewhat this week.    They are taking a hit this weekend, but that is my own fault for not having any updates up.  I’ve got what I had planned for Friday and Saturday up now, but I don’t think much of Sunday’s normal content is going to make it.

In the job hunt news, this weekend was incredibly slow.  Very slow.  2 resumes submitted, no contact from any new vendors, no interviews or prospective interview and no word from any of the outstanding interviews.  But that is OK – it was a short week.  I’m sure it will all turn around tomorrow.

But it was a busy week.  Not sure why.  I’m behind on everything I had planned on doing. I did finally manage to get my Fujitsu contract signed.  Two weeks after finishing the work, but what the heck!

I was a social butterfly though.  Lunch with Fujitsu, Birthday dinner with Tim (twice!), Drinks with Netops, Lunch with the old team and gaming on three consecutive nights – counting tonight!  Very odd.  I seem to be more popular now that I am unemployed. 🙂

The big news is that Tim is in England.  Hopefully he keeps us updated on Facebook.  That is way cool.  But his apartment isn’t empty (you shady folks – shame on you).  Mom is fixing his toilet and relatives will be staying there throughout.

Next week will be about getting everything back on track.  Most importantly, I need to actually schedule some certification exams.

Evenings for getting the blog caught up.  I’ll try not to post during the day.  It will be for studying.  No plans for the content next week, I’ll be playing it by ear.  I’ve promised some stuff that hasn’t come out yet.  So maybe that.

Oh, and I’ll also get a job.  🙂

20 minutes until I need to leave for Pauly’s.  Enough blogging for now.  The polls will likely be late.

IAM – Privacy Law

When we are talking about Identity Management we are talking about information an organization collects that falls under privacy legislation.  Names, addresses, e-mail address, gender, height/weight, etc.

There are four main laws an Albertan should be aware of:

  1. PIPEDA – The Federal statute concerning how private companies must deal with your personal information.  It also has a section providing the law on electronic signatures.
  2. The Privacy Act – The federal statute on how federal organizations must deal with your personal information.
  3. PIPA – The Albertan equivalent to PIPEDA
  4. FOIP – The Albertan equivalent to the Privacy Act.

PIPEDA and PIPA are fairly new laws.  Introduced within the last 10 years.  There is other privacy legislation too.  In general, the more specific legislation overrides the acts above.  However, these acts also provide the minimum privacy controls that can be enacted.

So let’s look at the private personal information an organization may collect from you are store in the identity management solution.

  1. Information used for identity proofing – names, witness statements, criminal record checks, other credentials and scans and numbers from other ID.  Highly personal!  The amount and detail of this information may depend on the level of identity proofing required.
  2. Information used for registration and enrollment – often similar to the above.  The nature of this data will depend on what the credentials will be used for.  For a web e-mail account it will be minimal.  For a health records systems it will be substantial.
  3. Personal information created through the IAM system – most notably your credentials.
  4. Personal information created through your relationship with the organization – your account number maybe.  Or if it is a credit card company your credit card number.  Etc.  This information may in turn be used in other IAM systems for registration, enrollment or identity proofing.
  5. Other personal information that may be stored in the IAM directory – While not strictly necessary for Identity management, the directory is a good place to store this information.  Billing information, emergency contact information, etc.

Depending on the nature of the organization, a breach of your personal information in an IAM system could be sufficient to steal your identity.  So the privacy of the information you provide is of paramount importance to both you and the organization.

So your should know your rights and any designer/maintainer of an IAM system should know what their responsibilities should be.  Your rights and their responsibilities may drive several design and support decisions for an IAM solution.

This is not legal advice!  Consult with the actual acts and/or a lawyer on privacy matters.  🙂

Lets use PIPEDA as our example.  Here are your rights:

  1. An organization must ask for your consent before collecting personal information from you. There are two big exceptions.  If the personal information is obtained from a public source (like the phone book) there is no need for consent or to inform you.  Secondly if you are an employee of an organization some of your personal information belongs to the organization not you.  They can do with it as they please.   Namely your work phone number, work e-mail*, and title (and similar pieces of information).
  2. The organization must tell you why they need the information and exactly how it will be used before you give consent.  They must inform you and re-obain consent if those purposes should ever change.  This includes if the organization should ever disclose your information to another organization.**
  3. The organization should not collect information it doesn’t need.  If it no longer needs that information it should be destroyed or anonymized.
  4. You can always ask to see the personal information the organization has on you.  You can ask for corrections.  The organization must comply in a reasonable time (30 days with 30 days extension) or provide justification for not doing so.
  5. The organization must take appropriate means to secure your personal information from unauthorized disclosure.
  6. You can complain to the feds if you think an organization if not adhering to the act.

*Work e-mail is currently personal info not business personal.  But there is a proposed amendment to change that this parliamentary session.

**The big exceptions here are disclosure because you are under legal investigation, disclosure for the purposes of debt collection and if informing you of the disclosure would put you at risk of harm.

PIPA is very similar.  The biggest missing hole at the moment is that an organization does not need to inform you of an accidental or malicious disclosure of your information.  This is also in the amendments proposed for this session.

For someone designing an IAM solution meeting many of these requirements may seem like common sense.  But you should be aware of them nonetheless.  And some might be less obvious.  What will your process be to correct information on request?  Or to provide information on request?  How will you audit to determine if information is no longer needed?  Should you delete it then or anonymize it?

You also need to know how it is being used.  If a new application starts to make use of your directory, you may first need to obtain consent from all the users in the directory for the new purpose!  You are the custodian of the information so you need to make sure the consent is obtained.

And storing it securely.  Most directories are designed so that it is easy to extract information from them.  That is their purpose!  If information is of a highly confidential, personal nature than another database other than your IAM directory might be the appropriate place to store it despite how easy it would be (and cost-effective) to have it in your IAM directory.

Finally, these laws are new and under constant scrutiny.  They are also still changing (as all laws are).  There is also significant controversy as to whether they are strong enough, too strong and have the appropriate safeguards.  This note may become obsolete as soon as I hit Publish!

Take some time and learn the laws in addition to your technology.  Get expert advice on your IAM system from your organization’s legal team.