Archive for category Election 2015
The Conservatives seem to be tying to make the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement one of Harper’s legacy items. After the election call the Conservatives moved to change “caretaker” rules in order to continue negotiating this trade agreement. It appears now that the Conservatives are so much in a rush to get the TPP signed that they’ll pretty much agree to almost anything, even though it may mean tromping on civil liberties as a result. Michael Geist an Internet Law professor stated in his most recent blog:
For Canada, the deal on ISPs means that government has agreed to induce providers to “remove or disable” access to content upon becoming aware of a decision of a court of a copyright infringement. The broadly worded provision could force Canadian ISPs to block content on websites after being notified of a foreign court order – without first having to assess whether the site is even legal under Canadian law.
So will China now be the worlds authority on what content is viewed on the web thanks to Harper’s legacy?
Yesterday Prime Minister Harper dropped the election writ, and Canada is now in it’s 42nd election since confederation. There has been much speculation around the timing of the writ dropping. This election will be one of the longest and most costliest elections in modern times, which could cost Canadian tax payers close to $1 billion+ when all is said and done at a time of economic instability, and recession.
The majority of those costs (an est. $500 million) will be dished out to Elections Canada to handle the longer election cycle for staff, offices, and supplies. The rest will be the tax payers shouldering costs to political parties. 50% – 75% of the expenses political parties incur during this election will be reimbursed by the tax payer. With the longer campaign parties can spend a lot more money on advertising. When Harper was questioned on the expenses to Canadian tax payers, he replied that there will be no cost to tax payers as a result of the length of the election period. What?
The political influence in media is becoming a very interesting side story to the debates. I’ve posted extensively on this here, here and here. Over this past week the NDP dropped out of the consortium debates, and issued a list of demands for future debates. The NDP demands (emphasis added) are:
- The host organization is credible and non partisan
- The proposed topics to be discussed are varied and relevant to a large number of Canadians; and
- The Prime Minister and other political party leaders are invited and have agreed to participate
- The NDP will participate in an equal number of French and English language debates
This is an interesting update. While many in the media focused on the NDP decision not to attend the consortium debates was explicitly due to Harper’s refusal to attend; from the above demands it looks like NDP want to debate ALL parties leaders including Steven Harper. It also looks as though the NDP are having issues with the Consortium being bias towards the Liberal party, to which I’ve discussed in great detail in other blogs.
That bias was very visible especially with the CBC coverage of the election call which pointed to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau being the most “ready” for the election, while Trudeau seemed extremely uptight, reading from cue cards, and late to his speech. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair looked a bit rattled as well during his speech reading from a teleprompter and not answering any questions. The leader that looked more ready out of the bunch to me was Green Party leader Elizabeth May. May seemed rather relaxed, ready to go, and the only leader out of the opposition parties not reading from cue cards, or teleprompters. I’m very curious as to why CBC pointed towards Trudeau as being the most ready out of the bunch, when that’s not clearly the case.
While the NDP hasn’t come out fully accusing the consortium of bias, the political messaging around their demands looks to be quite clear. The Consortium debates are essentially dead now and other debates may fall by-the-way-side as well. From the looks of the last line of the NDP demands that might actually happen. So far there has been only one French language debate confirmed. That means right now the NDP will only commit to one English language debate, to which the first of those debates is scheduled for Thursday August 6th, and all political parties will be attending that debate.
On top of the media consortium having a crisis of ethics, we now have confirmation that the Organization for Security and Economic Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will be monitoring our federal election. The OSCE is an international body that specializes in monitoring elections, and their presence in this election is to ensure that the election laws recently passed by the Conservatives allow for a free and fair election, and to ensure that these laws are consistent in ensuring democracy can take place. The OSCE will release it’s final report to the Canadian public eight weeks after the election.
The Fair Elections Act which was passed by the Conservatives will not allow Canadians living abroad to vote in the next election. Actor Donald Sutherland recently posted an op-ed in the Globe and Mail in which he blasted the Conservatives in taking away his right to vote. Sutherland stated:
It’s very sad. And this new “Canada,” this Canadian government that has taken the true Canada’s place, has furiously promoted a law that denies its citizens around the world the right to vote. Why? Is it because they’re afraid we’ll vote to return to a government that will once again represent the values that the rest of the world looked up to us for? Maybe.
There was also a court challenge on the fair elections act. The courts decided not to strike down the law so close to an election, stating that it might appear the courts would be influencing the vote if they did. The courts determined that the issues with the fair elections act were extremely serious, and likely to be dealt with after the election. This means that if there are any court challenges on the election (look to that also coming from Canadians living abroad), this will be one of the most costliest elections in Canadian history to Canadian tax payers.
While the Conservatives shoulder a lot of the blame for this, the media shoulders the other half. If in fact we have media being influenced by any political party and not fully educating Canadians on the facts due to political influences and favors, than we’ve already lost our democracy, and I think that will play out with the OSCE report and substantive court challenges that are sure to follow as a result.
Last week, I wrote that the Munk School of Global Affairs received $9 million in federal research grants, and hinted about a possible conflict of interest this funding may have on the federal leaders debate, and with the leader selection processes for these debates. The Munk School of Global Affairs responded to that blog. Munk School Director Steven Toope released this statement (emphasis added):
To be clear, we at the Munk School are neither hosting nor running the foreign policy election debate. The semi-annual Munk Debates are a project of the Aurea Foundation; a federally registered charity dedicated to public policy research and discussion. Our only potential role is to give advice on questions that might be posed, but as part of an independent national advisory committee. We have nothing to do with the decision about who can participate.
Essentially what this says is that the Munk School of Global Affairs is a separate organization from the Munk Debates. A fact that the school seems to be rather intent in correcting since numerous news agencies recently have been tying the Munk School to the Munk debates. Sick of Munks yet? Wait there’s more.
It is important to note that Janice Stein who is the founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs sits on the advisory board of the Munk Debates. I raised concerns regarding Ms. Steins role on the advisory committee at the Munk Debates being a potential conflict of interest, along with the fact that the Munk School of Global Affairs is advising a committee on questions that might be posed to the leaders. Questions posed could be tailored in a way that could very well lean towards the Conservatives to give them the upper hand in answering them.
Questions I posed to Toope on his statement were the following:
1) Is it ethical or even considered independent that the Munk School would have any potential role in asking leaders questions while in receipt of $9 million in public funds?
2) Your founding director sits on the advisory committee for the Munk Debates. Is that not a conflict of interest?
Munk School of Global Affairs spokesperson Kelley Teahen e-mailed the following on the conflict of interest questions on Stein and the Munk School’s position on the advisory committee regarding leader questions:
You brought up the fact the school recently was awarded a research grant from a federal ministry to support the Digital Public Square project.
Professor Toope explains that the Munk School, like all Canadian post-secondary institutions involved in conducting research, receives many grants from the federal government, and other governments, related to supporting research. These are awarded through competitive processes, or agreed to after processes in and due diligence with the departments involved. They are not awarded politically.
Why is the Munk School of Global Affairs advising a committee on potential leadership debate questions, when those questions should be coming from the voters to begin with? Why are the Munk Debates still refusing to let all leaders participate in these debates?
In a recent article Munk Debates Chairman Rudyard Griffiths was recently questioned on Green Leader Elizabeth May`s exclusion from the Munk Debates:
The chairman of Munk Debates, Rudyard Griffiths, said back in May that inviting all six parties with MPs “would unduly limit our ability to hold a substantive debate.” Now he says he “really struggled” with this decision.
The academic community doesn’t seem to quite fully understand the public’s perception of conflict of interest, nor do they seem they care that these debates belong to the Canadian public, so do the funds they are receiving from the federal government.
As the debates over the debates has raged on over the past several months, one thing is becoming increasingly clear. Journalists in Canada seem to be throwing out their duty of independence and holding our political parties to account for political favors; thus Canadians can’t rely on the media to do their traditional role of independently reporting on the election and providing the public with proper facts on policy to make an informed choice at the voter booth. Due to this, our democratic system looks more like a 3rd world two bit operation than a thriving democracy which depends on a free independent press as a major pillar to the democratic system of government.
I’ve reported extensively on this blog about how the consortium colluded together against the Conservatives, and how that collusion is highly illegal and has yet to be dealt with in law. On the flip side, last week award winning Toronto Star journalist Paul Watson quit his job in protest after being silenced by the Star while trying to report misinformation on the Franklin expeditions and how the expeditions were being purposely influenced by ties to the Prime Ministers Office. Facts during the expedition according to Watson were left out of this feel good story to purposely mislead the public in favor of the PMO’s preferred version of events. According to Watson he was punished by the Star executives in trying to confront his superiors with misinformation on this story with a 6 week reporting ban.
It’s not just the Toronto Star or the broadcast consortium looking for political favors. This week, the Globe and Mail responded to stark criticism of it’s readers not allowing Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in the Munk Debates. The Globe replied to angry readers with this following statement:
The Globe & Mail is hosting a federal election debate in September in partnership with Google Canada. The debate, to be hosted in Calgary, will be streamed live on The Globe’s website and distributed on YouTube, and will focus on the Canadian economy.
We have invited the major party leaders to this debate – those who have official status in The House of Commons. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have been asked to take part, because we believe a more streamlined, effective conversation about the Canadian economy will take place in that format.
David Walmsley, The Globe’s editor-in-chief says, “We’ve set up the debate this way because we believe that by limiting the format to Canada’s three main party leaders, we will create a truly focused, successful discussion about the state of the Canadian economy.”
There are now at least three independently organized leaders’ debates in the works. Politics reporter Steven Chase writes:
“Mr. Harper’s Conservatives kicked off a spat with major broadcasters including the CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV and Global when they announced they would refuse an invitation to participate in debates organized by the broadcasting consortium, instead opting for a variety of independent debates. Kory Teneycke, a spokesman for the Conservative Party campaign, said in a statement that he hopes major broadcasters will cover the independent debates.”
Industry Minister James Moore yesterday announced the federal government will be forwarding $9 million in tax payers money to support the Munk School of Global Affairs.
The “Munks” are disallowing Green Party Elizabeth May to debate in their debates as well. Most Canadians believed that the last time May got her time in the federal elections debate during the 2008 economic crisis, that she won that debate hands down regarding the economy and other election issues. While I’m not a Green Party supporter, I remember those debates very well, and May brought forth an independent non-partisan view towards the facts, including the fact that we were in a recession in 2008, which all parties at that time were denying we were in. Enter 2015, and all indications are pointing to the fact we are in a recession with the Conservatives dodging the bad economy at every step. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
The story that’s emerging here is one where media executives who are in charge of overseeing our election debates seem to be acting without independence. Watson in a recent interview had this to say regarding political interference over our “independent” media:
This is a symptom of a broader disease that is eating away at the core of our democracy. Experts on climate, on medicine, on things that are central to our society are being silenced by a government that does favours for the politically connected. And that is just very dangerous for our future.
Due to the current partisan nature of the politics in this country facts are being left out. Media independence is not a left vs right or right vs left issue, it’s both. The broadcast consortium back in October threw journalism ethics out the window with solid evidence that the CBC was colluding with the other broadcasters against government regarding political advertising which is a highly illegal offense under the competition act.
At heart was the attack ad scandal, and the broadcasters threatened to not air political advertising using broadcast consortium materials. The broadcasters claimed journalism ethics and independence was being threatened by misleading advertisements. Today the CBC is still threatening to illegally take down any content that anyone uses without their permission. The law allows the use for such material under certain circumstances. This is called the “fair use” copyright exemption. In some of my comments on my recent blog posts, I compared internationally accepted journalism ethics to that of the broadcasters used to justify not airing or interfering with political advertisements:
Last week former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro was sentenced to one month in jail for his part in over spending in the 2008 election. The judge thought that jail time was necessary to send a message to politicians ahead of an election that cheating election rules will have severe consequences. After last week, most Canadians are expecting a “clean” election campaign, that is until the CBC published a blog post on Friday, warning that it was going to start taking down content posted online that uses any CBC material.
Jennifer McGuire CBC News Editor-and-Chief stated:
“No one – no individual candidate or political party, and no government, corporation or NGO – may re-use our creative and copyrighted property without our permission. This includes our brands, our talent and our content.”
It’s quite clear from this statement that it’s not just political parties the CBC has issues with, it’s Canadian copyright law. Copyright law permits the use of clips from CBC and other broadcasters for political criticism and news. The CBC’s decision to take down content regardless of current law that allows this, will have a profound impact on the online coverage of the consortium debates, since blogs like mine, political YouTube commentators even tweets will be subjected to false and illegal copyright take down notices. This will impact freedom of speech and political commentary in the most profound way during the election, if mass take downs of copyright occur online. These illegal take downs can be challenged, however it will take far beyond the election to resolve.
A lot of this started back in 2013. Back then The Liberal “Democratic Reform” Critic Stephane Dion raised the possibility of shielding the Liberal party from political attacks using copyright. Dion went as far as writing the Commissioner of Elections Canada on the issue which was seemingly rejected by Elections Canada.
Back last year, the consortium broadcasters again raised this concern, with starkly similar issues Dion raised to shield the Liberal party. CBC, CTV, Global took to the airwaves in October 2014 after the Conservative government tried to “clarify” copyright law, by amending current copyright law to avoid the situation we find ourselves in now. The amendment was later dropped by government.
Internet Law Expert Micheal Geist stated in his most recent blog:
“The CBC is simply wrong. Its guiding principle is wrong and its attempt to use copyright to take down an offensive advertisement is wrong. The claim brings to mind the story from last fall involving a government proposal (that was shelved) to create a specific copyright exception for the use of news content in political advertising.
I argued then that no exception was needed because copyright already provides latitude for political parties to use works without permission. That is because copyright does not provide the absolute rights suggested by the CBC. The CBC obviously has rights as the copyright owner in its broadcast, but those rights are constrained by limitations and exceptions under the law that allow for use of its work without the need for further permission. The CBC itself (like all broadcasters) regularly relies upon those exceptions to use the work of others without permission. Similarly, I just used the exceptions to quote the CBC policy in this blog post without their permission.”
The CBC needs to be reminded of the law, and that while the broadcaster owns the copyright it’s Canadian tax payers that pay for it!
A few weeks ago I blogged about exactly this, and how content ownership rules of the consortium debates could potentially have a very negative impact on free speech, and online coverage of the consortium debates. It profoundly looks like those concerns have been well justified. Both the NDP and Green’s have been stark supporters of these copyright exemptions in law. The Greens in particular have been stark supporters of the consortium lead debates. I’ve reached out to Green Party leader Elizabeth May on this issues, and she wasn’t available for comment.
We have exemptions in copyright law for a reason, and that is too ensure that free speech isn’t controlled by anyone. Last week, Ontario Court of Justice Judge Lisa Cameron made it very clear in Del Mastro’s case that the courts would not accept deceitful behavior from politicians calling it “an affront to the principles of our democratic system”. Similarly the CBC’s attack on free speech under the guise of “journalistic” principles months before an election, should be treated also as an affront to the principles of our democratic system by Canadians as well. I highly doubt that with the message Justice Cameron sent last week, that media companies will be treated any differently by the courts if the consortium is legally challenged on this issue.