Friday, March 14, 2014

Bill C-23 - Stealing Democracy Part IX: The Shackles On Elections Canada Advertising

Ever since Bill C-23 was tabled, I have been baffled by the fact that the bill so viciously curtails the ability of Elections Canada to advertise and communicate with voters in S18:

18(1) The Chief Electoral Officer may provide the public, both inside and outside Canada, with information on the following topics only: 
(a) how to become a candidate;
(b) how an elector may have their name added to a list of electors and may have corrections made to information respecting 35  the elector on the list;
(c) how an elector may vote under section 127 and the times, dates and locations for voting;
(d) how an elector may establish their identity and residence in order to vote, including the pieces of identification that they may use to that end; and
(e) the measures for assisting electors with a 5  disability to access a polling station or advance polling station or to mark a ballot.(2) The Chief Electoral Officer shall ensure that any information provided under subsection (1) is is accessible to electors with disabilities.
(3)  The Chief Electoral Officer shall not provide information under this section by the use of calls as defined in section 348.01, that are unsolicited.
The obvious intent is to hamstring Elections Canada, especially in terms of tackling broad based issues like trying to get the voter turnout improved on election day.  But why?  What on earth is bad about encouraging people to vote?

Well, we know that in part, the Conservatives have no love for anyone who doesn't vote their way - as evidenced by the Robocalls scandal, where a bunch of calls were made to divert voters who weren't likely to vote Conservative away from the correct polling stations.  So voter suppression is part of the discussion.  But it doesn't fully explain things for me.

In today's Hill Times, we get a little more insight into what the government's motives are:

The 2008 video that did not run begins with a sketched portrayal of a ballot being cast, then a moving sketch portrayal of a lively rock concert crowd and electronic music, as the images change to include a recycle symbol, with a backdrop of freeways, industry chimney emitters, and then a quiet forest. The brief clip ends with the printed words 'Vote. Shape your world.' 
The ad and two other Elections Canada videos uploaded to YouTube in October 2008, also were cancelled and not aired, said John Enright, communications director at Elections Canada. 
“This advertising campaign was developed for the 2008 federal general election,” Mr. Enright said in an email. “However, the campaign was cancelled by Mr. Mayrand when he became Chief Electoral Officer. The ads were never aired by  Elections Canada.”
This tells us a lot - it basically boils down to the fact that Elections Canada started to create an advertising campaign to encourage younger voters to participate, and did so by playing on issues that the Conservatives don't like - the environment and climate change at the top of the list.

In short, the CPC doesn't like the fact that the Elections Canada ad would have encouraged voters who are more likely to vote against the party dogma.

Just as the Conservative government has been strangling Environment Canada gradually since 2006, and science in general in this country, they will be mightily offended by any department of the government who doesn't toe the party line on a particular subject - regardless of the evidence.

Like the rest of the very dubious provisions in this legislation, it comes down to the Conservatives working very hard to dismantle the very apparatus that ensures that elections in Canada are in fact free, open and fair.  It makes voting against the CPC not merely a vote against them, but rather makes it an act of subversion.

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