Honesty in Politics Campaign

Advocating for a strict, easily accessible and effective system to penalize election candidates, politicians, government and political party officials who mislead the public (including by switching parties between elections)

honest – 1. fair and just in character or behaviour, not cheating or stealing  2. free of deceit and untruthfulness, sincere  3. fairly earned (an honest living)

honesty – 1. the quality of being honest  2. truthfulness

(Source: The Canadian Oxford Dictionary: Oxford University Press)

Key Links

Honesty in Politics Campaign 1993-2011 archive (archive website)

The Opportunity

The pressure is increasing on the federal government and provincial governments (especially Ontario) to pass an honesty-in-politics law.

The federal Conservatives broke many of their 2006 federal election promises, including in the area of strengthening government accountability, and the Ontario Liberals also broke many of the election promises they made in the 2004 provincial election.

Incredibly, the federal Conservatives removed (through Bill C-2, the so-called “Federal Accountability Act”) the one rule in federal ethics rules that requires Cabinet ministers, their staff, and senior government officials to “act with honesty.”  To see details, click here.

The federal New Democratic Party (NDP) pledged in the 2006 federal election to push for the creation of a Parliamentary Commissioner who would take complaints and audit the federal government in terms of promises made and promises kept or broken.  Unfortunately, the NDP’s proposal would not cover all federal politicians and government officials, just politicians in the ruling party.

So while the pressure is increasing for an “honesty-in-politics” law, politicians need to hear from you before they will act.

Every government in Canada needs to pass an “honesty in politics” law that bans lying, gives voters an easy way to complain to an independent watchdog agency, and gives the watchdog agency full powers to investigate, rule and penalize the political “misleader” with a high fine (equal to at least 2 years’ salary).

To see more details, go to Democracy Watch’s December 2011 op-ed on the need for an honesty-in-politics law.


Election candidates, politicians, their staff, appointees and government officials across Canada have lied to the public many times, far too many times, in the past.

Whether making “bait-and-switch” promises during elections, or trying to cover-up wrongdoing or to push their agenda through misleading statements, these lies undermine good government in every way.

How are voters supposed to vote when they don’t know what they will get after the election because all the candidates are lying? How are voters supposed to hold governments accountable if it is legal for politicians and government officials to lie?

Dishonesty in politics is the #1 reason why Canadians don’t vote according to polls conducted by Elections Canada.

Incredibly, during federal election campaigns, and during elections in every province and territory except Quebec and New Brunswick, it is illegal for anyone to lie about a candidate, but it is only illegal in B.C. for a candidate to lie about what they promise to do or what they have done.

The B.C. law is a good first step, but it requires voters to file a costly court application if they believe that a candidate has lied during an election, and there is no effective penalty even if the candidate did lie.

In complete contrast, if any Canadian corporation lies in its advertising, only 6 Canadians need to sign and send a letter to the Competition Bureau and the Bureau must investigate and determine whether the corporation lied, and what corrective measures are required, and the Bureau has the power to penalize a corporation that lies in its ads.  For example, the Competition Bureau ruled that Sears Canada was guilty of lying in its advertising in 2005, and Sears was fined millions of dollars.

And if any corporation or corporate executive lies to their shareholders, the shareholders have the right to go to court and seek compensation for the damage done by the lies.  Thousands of shareholders have received compensation for losses caused by the lies of corporate executives in the past decade in North America.

Similarly, politicians have passed laws requiring taxpayers, immigrants, welfare applicants, witnesses in court cases, lawyers and other professionals to all tell the truth, with strong penalties for those who lie.

Why?  Because politicians have recognized that if these people and companies are allowed to lie, society will be undermined as many other people are abused and hurt by the lies.

However, politicians continue to protect themselves and others involved in politics by refusing to pass a law requiring them all to tell the truth.

Every poll taken in the past decade in Canada shows that voters are sick of the ongoing lying by election candidates, politicians and government officials, and that they want it stopped.