Rule should be broader, and in separate bill – should also prohibit false promises/claims by candidates and leaders that bait voters to vote for them
Will Liberals continue to protect their social media company friends, or will they also work with other parties to stop false online election posts?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
OTTAWA – Today, in response to the Trudeau Liberal budget’s weak proposal to amend the rule in the Canada Elections Act (CEA) that was struck down in a recent court ruling to ensure it again prohibits some false claims during elections about candidates, party leaders and party associates, Democracy Watch called for a broader false claims rule, and also for a rule prohibiting false claims by candidates, leaders and parties that bait voters to vote for them, and also for a new enforcement commission.
A broader rule, in a separate bill so it can be fully debated by the House and Senate, is needed in section 91 of the CEA to prohibit all false claims about candidates and parties during not only the election period, but also the pre-election period.
A rule is also needed to prohibit false claims by candidates because, in a March 2018 ruling on Democracy Watch’s complaint about Trudeau’s false promise during the 2015 election that he would change the electoral system, the Commissioner of Canada Elections refused to enforce the rule in the CEA that prohibits using a false claim to bait a voter to vote for a candidate (subsection 282.8(b)) – formerly 482(b)).
Democracy Watch is also calling for the Commissioner:
- to be appointed through a fully independent process;
- ideally changed into a three-person commission;
- to be given the resources needed to investigate and rule on false claims before election day;
- to be given powers to require social media companies to remove posts that make false claims during the pre-election and election period, and;
- to be required to issue a public ruling on every complaint received and situation reviewed (whether or not the situation is investigated).
The Commissioner and Elections Canada have shelved thousands of complaints in the past without a full investigation or public ruling.
See Backgrounder for the text of the new honesty rules that Democracy Watch proposes be added to the CEA, and the proposed new enforcement system, including mandatory minimum fines on a sliding scale based on ability to pay (as they need to be high enough to discourage election dishonesty by wealthy interests).
More than 25,000 Canadians have supported Democracy Watch’s campaign for an honesty in politics law, and more than 25,000 Canadians have also either signed Democracy Watch’s online petition on Change.org or its letter-writing campaign calling for key changes to stop secret, false online election ads.
“As tens of thousands of Canadians are calling for, strict and strong honest election rules, enforced by a fully independent commission with a high fine as the penalty for misleaders, must be enacted before the next election to stop all false claims about candidates, party leaders and officials, including in false online ads, and to stop them from making a false claim or promise to bait a voter to vote for them,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.
In the table of “Legislative Measures” in the Budget, under the heading “Amendments to the Canada Elections Act” it says:
“Budget 2021 proposes to introduce amendments to the Canada Elections Act to specify that making or publishing a false statement in relation to a candidate, prospective candidate, or party leader would be an offence only if the person or entity knows that the statement is false.”
Section 362 of Budget Bill C-30 only proposes to add the word “knowingly” to the offence provisions in the CEA that relate to section 91.
The changes the Trudeau Liberals made to the CEA with Bill C-76 in 2019, and the federal government’s initiatives announced in January 2019 and May 2019, ignored the call by all experts, a House Committee, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), the Commissioner of Canada Elections and tens of thousands of Canadians for more effective changes and measures to actually stop fake online election posts and ads, false claims about party leaders and candidates, false claims by party leaders and candidates, as well as measures to stop big money interest group ad campaigns, and to protect voters’ privacy.
Incredibly, Bill C-76 actually weakened the rule in the CEA prohibiting false claims about candidates, even though the CEO and Commissioner warned that the Bill would have that bad effect.
Instead of protecting the integrity of Canada’s elections, the Trudeau Liberals’ past actions protected their friends at social media companies, which benefit from all the ad spending and from lack of accountability for false claims made on their platform, and their own data mining of voters’ private information.
As CTV detailed in March 2017, the Liberal Party uses Data Sciences Inc., run by Prime Minister Trudeau’s friend Tom Pitfield, for its data management of the private, personal information it has gathered on Canadian voters. And as CTV also detailed in that article, and also Maclean’s magazine detailed in October 2017, Mr. Pitfield also heads up the think tank Canada 2020, which had Google as a partner until recently, and an executive from Google Canada as an adviser, and still has Facebook as a partner (see logo at bottom of page) and still has an executive from Facebook Canada as an adviser.
As the Ottawa Citizen detailed in May 2018, Liberal Party-connected lobbyists and executives work for Facebook, Google, Microsoft, while their friends and/or former colleagues worked for Trudeau Cabinet ministers.
Connected to these calls for honesty in politics measures are Democracy Watch’s calls to stop big money interest group ad campaigns that amplify false claims, and to stop data mining by parties to target false claim ads at specific voters. More than 100,000 Canadians have supported Democracy Watch’s campaign to stop big money in Canadian politics, and more than 12,000 have signed its online petition calling for political parties to be covered by the federal privacy law, and other key privacy protection changes.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179