When it comes to election gag laws, the National Citizens Coalition may have lost the battle, but thanks to emerging information technology we may yet win the war.
The battle we lost, of course, occurred last year when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 6-3 in favour of the Liberal government’s election gag law.
Consequently it’s now a crime for citizens to freely and effectively express political opinions during federal elections through paid advertising.
However, the NCC did succeed in delaying gag laws for more than 20 years.
Pierre Trudeau actually enacted a gag law way back in 1983 – but the NCC had the courts strike it down.
In 1993 Brian Mulroney also proposed a gag law, but the NCC succeeded in striking that one down too.
In other words we put off gag laws until 2005, when technology might make these kinds of laws unenforceable.
The emergence of Internet, emails and blogs offer citizens with a way to make their voices heard gag law or no gag law.
Indeed, nothing in the gag law prohibits the use of the Internet for political communication because there is no expense involved – the law is designed to stop election spending.
Can the Internet be an effective tool?
Yes. Political blogs in the United States have played a key role in raising funds for election campaigns, in getting out the vote and in raising the profile of certain candidates.
Meanwhile here in Canada, bloggers are beginning to debate what role they can play. See here and here for some interesting commentaries from Paul Tuns and Stephen Taylor.
Of course, if the Internet does become an effective tool, watch for politicians to quickly move to regulate and control it too.
And once they do, the NCC will be there to stop them.