How Limiting Attack Ads Will Limit Legitimate Online Debate

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(Above: Liberal Party debate demand letter to Consortium)

Attack ads suck!  I will be the first to admit that.  I despise the discourse around politics these days, as many Canadians do.  However if we become complacent on an unpopular situation, than we actually risk on making the discourse in politics much worse as a result.

The Liberals have asked the Consortium to “Establish clear rules around the ownership and uses of debate footage.”  To most following politics this looks like the Liberal party being upset about debate footage being used in attack ads.  However those who are of that frame of mind need to ask how this is going to be enforced online considering the wide reach this debate will have over social media?  How will the consortium know if the ad online is from the Conservative party, from a blogger, or from another organization?  Are we to expect that anyone online who criticizes the Liberal platform using debate footage will be labeled as Conservatives?  Will the consortium start launching copyright lawsuits and take down notices on those that use debate footage online on blogs, youtube accounts because they “might” be posted by a “conservative”?  Those are scary questions to be asking, however these are all questions that pop into my mind when reading the Liberal demands on debate footage, as an educated voter and political blogger.

Outside of the ownership and enforcement of debate footage; politically do Canadians think it’s okay for a political party to demand that current law around ownership in copyright be ignored to protect that party from political opposition?  This sounds like something Putin would do, not the party of the charter.  It’s not right and in my opinion, other parties should be pulling out of the consortium debates, not just due to the Liberal demands, but because these are the same demands the consortium tried to pull last fall on newscasts which fell foul to the law.  The consortium later dropped it’s threats, and according to some of the top independent legal minds in Canada, the consortium has breached competition law in the process of uttering these political threats, and mislead Canadians on matters of clear law surrounding content ownership and how it’s to be used to seemingly protect the Liberal party from attacks (which is also illegal for them to do).

The Liberals are using public discourse around attack ads to try and play dirty tricks so that its leader will not be subjected to public accountability.  That should sound familiar, because it’s the exact tactic used by the Conservatives over the past 10 years on wedge issues, and in my opinion these types of tactics are detrimental to democracy, and our rights as citizens to hold our political leaders to account.

We find ourselves as Canadians in a tricky position about how to hold our national political debates, thinking about whom and how they should be conducted.  Sure the Conservatives are using this as an opportunity to get the debates on their own terms.  This opportunity was handed to them by the consortium last fall as a result of them intentionally misleading Canadians.  Sure the Liberals have a right to be concerned about that (although they are essentially trying to do the same thing with the consortium debates all while trying to frame the debates around the debates on the Conservatives and shield the consortium from criticism.)  Why wouldn’t the Liberals protect the consortium?

If you don’t know what the problem is you can’t solve it.  Problem:  We are in this position with the debates because of 3 parties.  The consortium (who should be acting as guardians of free speech and democracy, and not acting politically to shield publicly accountable leaders from criticism), the Conservatives (who should have filed a legal investigation on the consortium months ago rather than playing politics on it now to their benefit), and the Liberals who are essentially blaming the Conservatives for what the Liberals have right now with the consortium which is protection from politically friendly media.

Enough already!

What should be happening and isn’t, is all political parties should be coming together outside of the criminally insane consortium, to come up with solutions that will provide for the best indepednant coverage for these debates and slam the consortium on acting illegally last fall by intentionally misleading Canadians in news reports.  With all these dirty tricks being played by the 3 main actors in this, Canadians deserve an accountable media, along with accountable leaders especially after the last election shannonigans.  We’re not getting that.

In order to have a free and fair election, this consortium needs to be dealt with legally.  We need journalists in this country who are not intentionally misleading Canadians for political purposes, and can provide facts and accountability to our leadership contenders.  Otherwise, Canadians will be going to the polls uninformed, with an unaccountable government no matter which party wins.  Think about it, and get educated on the facts not the spin!

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