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New honesty rules needed as court and elections commissioner refuse to enforce false claims rules in federal election law

Trudeau Liberals ignored experts, House Committee, Chief Electoral Officer, Commissioner, and tens of thousands of Canadians, who all called in 2018 for effective measures to stop false claims

Will Liberals continue to protect their social media company friends, or will they work with other parties to require honesty in politics and online?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, March 17, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, in the wake of a recent court ruling that deleted the rule prohibiting false claims about candidates from the Canada Elections Act (CEA), and in response to the refusal by the Commissioner of Canada Elections to enforce the CEAt’s rule requiring candidates to be honest with voters, Democracy Watch called for new rules to be added to the CEA to require honesty in politics, finally.

The court’s decision striking down the one false claims rule, and the Commissioner’s refusal to enforce the other false claims rule, mean that unless the CEA is changed it will be legal in the next election for anyone to lie about candidates (including in false online social media posts), and it will be legal for party leaders and candidates to lie to voters.

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 changes to stop secret, false online election ads.

“As tens of thousands of Canadians are calling for, new honesty in politics rules are needed before the next election because a court ruling has removed the rule in Canada’s election law that prohibited false claims about candidates, and the Commissioner of Canada Elections has refused to enforce the rule that prohibits anyone, including a party leader or candidate, from using a false claim to bait a voter to vote for them,” said Conacher.

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 gutted the rule in the CEA prohibiting on false claims about candidates, even though the CEO and Commissioner warned that the Bill would have that bad effect. Bill C-76 also increased the advertising spending limit for wealthy, big money third party interest groups by 250% — a really bad move in the wrong direction given social media advertising costs are 50-90% lower than traditional TV, radio and print media ad costs.

Meanwhile, 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 refused to enforce the rule in the CEA (subsection 282.8(b)) – formerly 482(b)) that prohibits using a false claim to bait a voter to vote for a candidate.

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.

“The Trudeau Liberals severely weakened the rule that prohibits false claims about election candidates, more than doubled the spending limit for wealthy interest groups, and didn’t do enough to stop false, online election ads, false election promises or big money donations,” said Conacher. “As a result, the fall 2019 federal election was much like the 2016 U.S. presidential election – dishonest, unfair and driven by false claims of wealthy interest groups, party leaders and parties.”

“If the Trudeau Liberals actually want to ensure that the next election is fair and democratic, they should introduce a short, simple bill as soon as possible to reverse the bad, weak changes made by Bill C-76 and to strengthen other key rules,” said Conacher. “The bill should prohibit all false claims and false promises, lower donation limits, reverse the increase in interest group ad spending, require all media and social media companies to disclose to the Commissioner of Canada Elections all election-related ads, empower the Commissioner to delete any false post or ad from social media, and extend the privacy law to political parties, with penalties high enough to actually discourage violations by social media companies that have tens of billions in annual profits.”

“All parties should support the introduction and quick passage of this bill as soon as possible to ensure the next election is honest, fair and democratic, and to ensure the privacy of Canadians is protected,” said Conacher.

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.

See Backgrounder for details about the key changes needed to:

  1. Stop secret, false, online election ads;
  2. Require honesty during pre-election and election periods;
  3. Stop wealthy interests from dominating pre-election and election periods, and;
  4. Protect the privacy of voters’ and all Canadians.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Honesty in Politics Campaign, Money in Politics Campaign, Stop Fake Online Election Ads Campaign, and Democratic Voting Systems Campaign