Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What's Better Than a List?

So as the House of Commons shuts down for Christmas, I have to say that the minority government is going pretty well so far. They managed to sneak in a stocking stuffer for Canadians before they wrapped up, re-introducing into the house a proposal to create a 'Do-Not-Call' list which would allow people to tell telemarketers to leave them alone.

Apparently the only big hangup remaining (besides the usual public consultations) is the decision on whether or not to include charities and surveyors (especially political ones) on the list.

As John Ibbitson says in his globe article(for willing to be gouged subscribers only):

...there is no important obstacle, apart from figuring out the exemptions, to the swift passage of this legislation and the creation of the registry. Even with the obligatory round of public hearings, with any kind of luck, the registry should be up and running by early 2006. For every Canadian who has risen from the dinner table to answer the phone, only to slam it down in wrath, the day cannot come too soon.

Now don't get me wrong, the list is great - a no-brainer really - but I don't really see any reason why instead of a list we can't have a table (i.e. a spreadsheet for you computerized folks out there).

In the first column would be your name, just like on the list. Then in the second column you could have a check box for telemarketers (Y = telemarketers can call me, N means they can't). Then in the third column, you have a check box for surveyors, possibly a separate one for political surveyors. Finally in the last column you have a check box for charitable organizations.

Seems simple enough to me. Problems?

Now a really ambitious plan (I analyze data for a living, so I tend to be a bit of a geek about this stuff, so bear with me) would be to add a column with an hourly rate.

People would be able to call you, but they would have to pay you your going rate for your time. Because really in the end this is all about power. Should people have the power to invade your home life at any moment for their own selfish purposes - of course not. Should we have the power to define in detail the terms on which we are willing to participate? Sounds good to me.

today's moral: One column good, four columns better.

As an aside, I loved the name of the bill, "Bill C-37, an Act to Establish a Do-Not-Call List for Telemarketing" I think a general rule in politics is that when the names of the bills are such a clear straightforward description of what the new law will actually do, the government is on the right track. And vice-versa.

I remember when the Harris government in Ontario introduced the 'Tenant Protection Act'. Now, if the government wants to shift the balance of power from tenants to landlords a little bit, I am not necessarily opposed to that. (Trust me, I could tell you some horror stories about the rules here in B.C. and how they can unreasonably tie a landlord's hands to the detriment of some of their tenants, but that's another story). If the Harris and co. bill had been called the "Landlord Relief Act" I still would have opposed many of its more poorly thought out provisions, but I would have respected the government's integrity. But to introduce that bill and to call it the 'Tenant Protection Act' was a clear declaration that they knew the people of the province wanted Tenant Protection, while at the same time they were giving them something else. That I can't respect.

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  • I thought that the idea behind allowing surveyers to continue was that their work was possibly beneficial to society, and relied on random sampling to generate relevant statistical data.

    Allowing people to opt out of this would make a true random sample that much more diffcult. (Though, I suppose that people who hang up on surveyers, or do not possess landlines make an impact as well)

    By Blogger dejour, at 11:38 AM  

  • Like you say, people can refuse now. The list just gives them a chance to refuse ahead of time, thus sparing the expense and annoyance of the wasted phone call.

    By Blogger Declan, at 1:59 PM  

  • Another option I just thought of would be for people to be able to specify a time window in which people could call. i.e. you say, O.K., I'll take calls from surveyors between 7pm and 8pm on Tuesday's or something like that.

    By Blogger Declan, at 2:04 PM  

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