"I would rather vote for a pirate," proclaimed one proud Haligonian on Q104, "than a crook!" That was Tyler Jacquard's favourite answer to the station's question: "Would you vote for the Pirate Party?"
"That was some wonderful feedback." More importantly for Jacquard, it was "wonderful" exposure for the east coast Pirate Party, a sparse community of party members that Jacquard organizes and maintains---mostly through online chat channels and discussion forums, of which he claims no one is older than 29. For Jacquard, a high school junior and too young to vote, the youth of the members is the party's greatest strength.
"With the issues that we're focusing on," explains Jacquard, "it definitely interests the 18- to 25-year-olds." He and others in the party believe that young voters have been turned off by politicians who either ignore their issues or patronize them, attending to worries about rising tuition fees as the key to the youth block. "That's awesome, but not everyone's in university."
Instead, the party turns to media rights and privacy advocacy, a campaign platform familiar to anyone with a life online, regardless of age. Keeping a short leash on social network sites like Facebook and guaranteeing federal protection of net neutrality are two hot issues already facing the departments and ruling parties of the government that the Pirates intend to champion. But the meat of their agenda firmly remains pro open-source innovation and peer-to-peer media sharing, arguments that led their Betamax and mix-tape-making ideological forefathers to be branded "pirates" during the 1970s and 1980s.
One pilot program already underway is targeted directed at the country's independent artists. The Canadian Pirate Tracker, or CaPT (Captain), as explained by party leader Jake Daynes at pirateparty.ca, "is a creative commons torrent tracker," dually promoting Canadian artistic talent while providing a safe place for members to share files without the threat of copyright infringement. Although still relatively small with 11 bands and artists signed up, the torrent tracker is another political first for Canada.
Jacquard and other Pirates hope that such hands-on innovation between the party and the people will turn heads come the next election. He will be hard at work whether he's of voting age or not, generating support for the cause on a local level, as they struggle to survive their first foray through a federal election---hoping to achieve the two percent of the popular vote necessary to qualify for funding status. Jacquard is aware that none of those votes are likely to come from the Maritimes, which so far lacks a candidate. "In other parts of the country, it's a bit more organized, it's more official, and there are people stepping up to the plate to say, 'I want to be a candidate.'" But he's hopeful that an upcoming public meeting on May 26 will help stir up local support for the party, and possibly enough interest to someday soon attract a candidate. "If we don't get a seat, at least we'll get attention to the issues."
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