Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let's face it, voters are clever

I have a column in the Sun Media chain today examining the election laws which are in the news so much thanks to the Stephen Harper -- Elections Canada vendetta.

My point is that these laws which essentially stifle free speech are bad for democracy and should be scrapped.

10 comments:

Robert McClelland said...

It's absurd to think that advertising has no effect on people. Companies wouldn't spend hundreds of billions of dollars on advertising if it didn't. And linking this to free speech is preposterous. No has the right to have their free speech amplified via the media. If that were a right then I could write an article, send it to the National Post and scream that my free speech was being violated it they didn't publish it.

Anonymous said...

Oh get off bull roar - laws are laws are laws are laws - don't like them, change them.

This has absolutely nothing to do with free speech and you can't use the free speech excuse for every issue.

Enough already!

Anonymous said...

'No has the right to have their free speech amplified via the media. If that were a right then I could write an article, send it to the National Post and scream that my free speech was being violated it they didn't publish it.'

I am sure that Macleans magazine and Mark Steyn would agree, the OHRC and the 4 law students however, do think that it is a right.

Karcha said...

That other organizations, like the NCC, can't run election advertising is a violation of free speech. That entities other than political parties can't run advertisement is a sign that the electorate is indeed viewed as stupid.

Regarding political parties and their spending, the issue is less cut and dry.

Anonymous said...

Obama outspent Clinton in Pa by truckloads and yet she won the day. Go figure.

Jim McIntosh said...

Not only does the law assume that voters are stupid, it also assumes politicians can be bought for a small amount. Election Laws require that the names and addresses of individual, union, or corporation that donates more than $200 to a federal partiy, candidate or riding association be made public. (It's $100 in Ontario.) Surely a politician would expect at least $1,000 before he or she would do a favour for a donor.

By including such small amounts on the list of 'big' donors, it makes it harder to locate the truly significant donations. Maybe that's why they made the amount so small.

This practice also tends to nullify the secret ballot. I can be pretty certain that all of the individuals on a party's list voted for that party.

There might be some value in listing significant donations from corporations and unions, since they can't vote, and since they could be beneficiaries of government favours.

Of course all of this would be moot if politicians were not in the position of dispensing favours such as grants, or laws and regulations to limit competition. If the use of force by government were limited to protecting our life, liberty and property, we would have no incentive to attempt to buy politicians.

Jim McIntosh said...

Re: robert mcclelland's comments -

Of course advertising has an effect on people. It provides information about products and services (and politicians and parties). But just because some organization runs a saturation campaign (e.g. their commercials run twice in every commercial break) doesn't mean everyone is going to buy their message.

I do agree with you that the right to free speech does not imply any right to use someone else's facilities (e.g. the media) to get your message out. That is one reason we should not have gag laws limiting third parties to something like $500 in spending if they want to speak their mind during an election. Why shouldn't I and my friends be able to buy as much advertising time or space as we want?

Robert McClelland said...

That is one reason we should not have gag laws limiting third parties to something like $500 in spending if they want to speak their mind during an election.

Freedom of speech doesn't require money. What you are talking about is amplification of your speech; which you don't have a right to.

Why shouldn't I and my friends be able to buy as much advertising time or space as we want?

Because Joe Billionaire can outspend us all and by doing so drown us out. Because the corporations that are the gatekeepers of the advertising world aren't known for their fairness. These limits level the playing field for rich and poor alike. That's how it should be. Democracy shouldn't be for the rich or well connected only.

Anonymous said...

"Freedom of speech doesn't require money. What you are talking about is amplification of your speech; which you don't have a right to."

By that logic, I guess I won't be hearing much from robert mcclelland on my internet once the writ is dropped. Methinks you amplify too much.

Miles Lunn said...

I think the gag laws are ineffective since only Quebec and Manitoba have them provincially and it hasn't seemed to have hurt elections in the remaining provinces. That being said, I can see why they were enacted. In the United States were big money plays a role in their elections, many wanted to prevent the same thing from happening in Canada. The difference is our special interest groups tend to be predominately left of centre, while theirs are predominately right of centre. In addition Canadians have a strong degree of skepticism of special interest groups so a group like the NCC would have a much tougher time making its case in Canada than it would in the US.

Besides you still do have freedom of speech. I don't believe you have to shut down your blog during elections. In addition third party advertising on issues if no reference is made to any party is permitted. Only third party advertising that explicitly or implicitly endorses a party or candidate is restricted.