And the two usually go together.
For those not familiar with the term "gag law", that's what I call federal election legislation which imposes severe restrictions how much money citizens or groups can spend on "political advertising" during elections.
During my time at the National Citizens Coalition, I battled these laws in both the court of law and in the court of public opinion.
I believed then, and still believe now, that gag laws infringe on every Canadian's right to free expression.
Yet one of the pro-gag law arguments I kept coming up against was the following: "It's only fair to deny Canadian citizens the right to free political speech. After all, political parties face expenditure limits. Gag laws level the playing field."
In other words, gag law defenders -- usually politicians -- see spending money as an evil influence on our democratic process. That's why both citizens and politicians need limits as to how much they can spend to express opinions.
The fact is politicians routinely spend money without any limit to buy votes. What's worse is they don't even spend their own money. They spend our money.
Case in point, is the flagrant way in which the Conservative Party is making political hay out of all that stimulus spending from their recent budget.
As a story in the Toronto Star notes, the Tories are handing out "huge blue cheques emblazoned with the maple leaf logo of the Canadian government, the signature of a benevolent MP and, in some cases, Conservative sloganeering."
If that's not buying votes, I don't know what is. And believe me, the amount of money the Tories will spend this summer on this stuff will dwarf anything citizens or groups would ever spend on election advertising.
So maybe our politicians should either repeal the gag law or refrain from using our taxes for their political propaganda ploys.
It would be the fair thing to do.