Posts Tagged Conservative

Supreme Court Says Get Out of Our Data to Trudeau Government

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The Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Court Martial Appeal Court and Tax Court are preparing to take the Canadian government to task on ensuring independence from the federal government regarding its data.  Under the past conservative government, all these levels of the courts were to submit to a super-IT department as of September 1st of last year that would see all government services including Canadian courts using the same IT department.  The move by the last government to amalgamate IT services was seemingly to save money and streamline IT security.

According to the Supreme Court of Canada, one super IT department could threaten its independence from Government.  Briefing notes obtained by the Canadian Press last week, and provided to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau days after taking office, shows the courts are gearing up for a constitutional challenge on data independence.  The briefing stated:

“[The courts] must maintain control of their data, not only because of concerns about confidentiality, but also because an independent judiciary cannot tolerate having its sensitive information controlled by a separate branch of government.”

The briefing notes also warned that if the Government doesn’t backtrack on this soon, it could face legal action and likely a constitutional challenge by the top judges in Canada.  Advice given to Trudeau on how to handle this situation by his advisers was redacted in the briefing notes.

Prior to September 1st last year when these new IT rules came into play, top court officials wrote a letter to senior bureaucrats in the Conservative government demanding that agents of Parliament such as the Auditor General, Privacy Commissioner and Information Commissioner should be exempt from amalgamated IT services.  Yesterday, the new Liberal government went before the Supreme Court asking for a six month extension on right to die legislation.  Should the court deny that extension, this spat over IT services and data independence could end up being an interesting back story.

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Did Big Media Play A Big Role In The Liberals Big Win?

I’ve been fairly critical of the media’s role in this election.  From the consortium threatening to pull Conservative Ads on false copyright pretenses, to political favoritism in the Munk Debates, and now the situation with the former National Post editorial editor Andrew Coyne when the post refused to post his endorsement of a political candidate.

I called last nights big win for the Liberals hours prior to the election taking place.  From the looks of things, the Conservative progressive vote (which is based around civil liberties) and the anti-conservative vote went to the NDP at the very beginning of the campaign as a result of the Liberal support for Bill C-51.  I think the tipping point for the Conservative progressives was the Liberal policy on TPP and trade in which the Greens and NDP wanted to kill.  All of the poll numbers suggested to me that’s when the NDP and Conservative vote started to go down, and Liberals went up at the time of the signing of the TPP.  Last night the anti-conservative vote, voted strategically and rallied behind the Conservative progressive move to the Liberals and oust Harper.

Besides getting screamed at for hours after my call for a Liberal win from my conservative friends on Facebook (too which now owe me a bottle of rum), this was a big shocker to some.  Did big media have any pull in the election? It’s quite clear throughout this election that the consortium has been acting inappropriately.  The Globe debates were some of the most horrible debates I’ve ever seen with Conservative leaning questions, and statements from the editor of the Globe (who’s editorial board ended up supporting the Conservatives days before the election).  Not to mention the lack of coverage Elizabeth May’s responses to debate questions on social media as a result of her being left out of several debates.  I think it may be too soon to tell to see if traditional media had the impact they were hoping for.

I think traditional media’s role here really depends on the break down of voter engagement.  If the youth voted in big numbers, than traditional media and poll results had very little pull with voter intentions.  Most in this age group get their media online and through social media.  The Liberals had a strong social media presence in this campaign.  I ran into it a few times, especially with MP Wayne Easter (which I congratulated last night on his re-election) debating C-51, not to mention many other potential Liberal MPs on the bill.  The Liberals weren’t shy on social media, and came out fighting (and most without per-scripted talking points), unlike most of the NDP and Conservative hopefuls.

If the voter engagement was more balanced, than I think there needs to be questions put by Canadians on exactly how the media and/or lobby groups played a role in trying to intentionally sway voter intentions to the benefit of one or more parties.  Do you think traditional media played a big role in the Liberal election win?  Post your comments/observations below.

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Conservative Party Hacking Into Facebook Accounts For Likes

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Has the Conservative Party of Canada hacked into your profile and “liked” their Facebook page on your behalf without your knowledge or consent?  Reports are popping up including  one from a reporter at the CBC that they are being “like hijacked” by the Conservative party.  According to a CBC report, the hijacked likes could be a result of embedded computer script in Facebook videos and links launching malware bought and paid for by the Conservatives.  The computer script could have the potential to reach deep into your personal profile.  When questioned on this, all the other parties denied that they are engaged in the activity of hijacking Facebook users accounts, however a Conservative spokesperson wouldn’t confirm or deny the party was behind the malicious hijacks.

In an e-mail to the CBC the Conservatives stated it was “an internal party issue.”  The Conservatives may be acting against their own anti-spam laws with respect to this, and if the Conservatives are hijacking Facebook users accounts, one has to question what other information has been collected by the Conservatives (if they have access to your account to like their page) that was transmitted to the party which could be very personal information the Conservatives might use to profile you as a potential voter, which also could be against Canadian privacy laws.

Whatever the case maybe, hacking into users Facebook accounts is not just extremely creepy and potentially illegal; it’s also a form of stalking and desperation by a party who is not very popular on social media and having trouble getting their message out. Liking any Facebook page will automatically show updates to that page in your news feed. Facebook users are encouraged to look at their “activity logs” to ensure there are no unwanted Conservative Party Facebook page “likes”.

More to come on the legal aspect of all of this soon.

 

 

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Arab Countries Need To Be Doing More On Syrian Refugees

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(Arab League Flag)

Like many Canadians I had a very heart felt response to the picture of the three year old who laid face down dead after trying to cross the Mediterranean for the EU escaping the Syrian civil war. What I found more disturbing was Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s cold response to the story on CBC, and subsequent inaction of the Conservative government for days on the issue.

The cold response coming from the Conservatives is something that also is very prevalent in some of the richest Arab nations in the world. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates’, Qatar, and Egypt have all received absolutely zero of the Syrian refugees. The only Arab nation to accept these refugees is Syria’s neighbor Lebanon.

Opposition parties here in Canada have been quick to blame the Conservative government for their cold response (and rightfully so), however no one from the Liberals, NDP or Greens are speaking about the inaction of the Arab nations we call allies on this crisis. There needs to be immense diplomatic pressure on the Arab nations to do their part if Canada gets involved in accepting refugees.

Why are the Arab nations not accepting refugees? Short answer is that they think it’s a problem with Western influence in the region, and we caused it.  ISIS was born out of the US lead Iraq war and subsequent election of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who was a Shia Muslim. Shias were oppressed by Saddam Hussein. Once al-Maliki came into power, he started to target Hussein’s supporters. Rather than including them in the democratic process, many were thrown in jail and even executed out of vengeance. Historically what happens when a political group is excluded from the democratic process and oppressed? Often times it’s a revolution and/or civil war.

The Arab spring is a prime example of the 20 somethings in the Arab world rising against oppressive power. The Arab spring started in Yemen, spread to Egypt and then to Syria. ISIS and many terror related groups took the opportunity the Arab spring provided to recruit to their extreme ideologies, and has now become a threat to our Arab allies.

Every time we seem to get involved in Middle-Eastern politics, we seem to make a mess of it in large part because the politics in the Middle-East works much differently than here in Canada or the US. It’s based on different interpretations of religion. We should be playing a more supportive role in the region with our Arab allies in regards to these refugees than accepting large amounts of them here in Canada.

Almost all security experts that have been interviewed by media agree that security concerns regarding these refugee’s is a minimal concern, due to screening processes that are in place. Why can’t we work with other Arab nations on the security screening issues for these refugees so that they can be accepted by Arab nations?

Offloading tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of refugees in Canada may be the desired emotional response to the crisis, however where are all these families going to live? Social housing in Canada is falling apart. Federal funding for social housing has been completely cut off by the Conservatives. It’ll take years to repair, let alone create the amount of spaces needed to house these individuals.  Jobs? Many coming over here from Syria I would suspect would be in the youth range and young families. Right now we have a youth unemployment crisis in Canada, which again will take years to solve. Then there’s also the culture shock especially for children who would be attending our public school system. We’re going to need social programs here to integrate these refugee’s into our society.

I’m in no way suggesting that Canada shouldn’t do anything, just that we stop and think past the emotional response we all have. We’re in an election right now, and serious questions need to be posed to our leaders regarding the logistics of all of this, when our Arab allies in the region are refusing to help, and turning their backs on their own people. Western nations shouldn’t be shouldering this responsibility alone. Why are we, and is accepting tens of thousands of refugees helpful to the spread of democracy in the Middle East?

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Conservatives Agree to Censor Internet In Latest Trade Negotiations

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?

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Big Media Influencing Canadian Election For Political Favoritism

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.

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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:

From the society of professional journalism’s code of ethics (ethics listed is here are the ones the consortium has been in breach of):

http://www.spj.org/ethicscode….

“- Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.”

Original reports in October 2014 on the copyright issue neglected to take into account on the record comments (provided links to internal CBC e-mails and cited those comments in a previous blog here’s the link http://www.scribd.com/doc/242543668/CBC-Political-Ads-ATIP Pg. 112) from legal experts disputing that fair use for political ads was stealing. Instead they went to air knowing the facts were wrong.

“– Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story”

As a result of not reporting on the legal experts in original news reports, context was not provided and facts were misrepresented.

” Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.”

This was done the day after, however CTV decided only to correct this information on CTV news channel, and went to air on their nationally syndicated newscast again without the context of legal sources throughout the life of this story back in October.

“– Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.”

No explanation needed regarding the content of political ads.

“– Provide access to source material when it is relevant and appropriate.”

CBC misplaced their original lead story on this to avoid being punished by the CRTC

“– Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.”

Fair dealing is stealing is a stereotype often used by copyright extremists and copyright trolls.

“– Label advocacy and commentary.”

Original consortium newscasts were not labelled as such further misrepresenting the facts when reporting on the political advocacy and commentary of the stations own views.

“– Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information.”

Again legal sources left out of original stories in October 2014, and CBC is again deliberately distorting the facts and context of copyright law in it’s most recent release.

This is a big one: “Act Independently

The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.

Journalists should:

– Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.”

Never happened. Conflicts of interest is the fact they are rights holders.

” – Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment,
and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise
integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”

Peter Mansbridge and Amanda Lang the biggest CBC personalities to throw this out the window, yet they fired Evan Solomon for this.

And my favorite:

” – Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.”

Most recently: http://canadalandshow.com/arti…

Role for broadcasters is to allow all parties equal air time in advertisements regardless of how distorted or distasteful the ads might be. CBC cites journalism ethics regarding the fair use of those materials, but the entire consortium has breached a fair amount of accepted ethics by the journalism community, to stop political attack ads that are pretty much backfiring anyway. Question is why? That needs to be answered.

Jessie and I were pretty much the only bloggers calling the CBC to account on political interference. Add Paul Watson to the mix, and a story is starting to emerge that Canadian newsrooms are no longer politically independent and are being sold to the public as such. That’s the story, and these news directors and editors would just love for the public to focus on the partisanship rather than what’s before us, and that is news is changing in Canada and becoming way too politicized and as a result, unreliable, and unpredictable.

Question is; if the traditional role of the media is to independently over see our election, and media executives are acting in a way that is bias to any political ideology and or party, who is going to fulfill the role of independently overseeing our election and ensure that Canadians get independent facts on matters of public policy to ensure that they make an informed choice on election day?  I think this media problem needs to be dealt with by all party leaders, or I think Canadians are within their rights to call for UN observers over our federal election.

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Senate Passes Anti-Terror Bill With Applause From Conservative Senators

Well folks the order of accountability seems to be the theme today, so I have to start by saying I was wrong.  I was wrong to believe in an institution that clearly can’t see past their own crackers, and gourmet meals. I was wrong to have hope that for once the red chamber would rise above the house of commons and display sober second thought.  I was wrong to believe that the Senate is looking to redeem itself from scandal, and I was wrong to believe accountability and civil liberties remain a core principle of the Conservative caucus.

The Senate passed the anti-terror bill with NO amendments with thunderous applause from the Conservative senators.  Final vote count: Yay, 44. Nay, 28. Abstentions, 0  It now receives royal assent, and is now the law of the land.  Passing the anti-terror bill with no amendments means the Senate beleives (counter to experts that testified) this law is constitutional.  More on the political fall out of the vote to come soon..

 

 

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Will Tomorrow’s Anti-Terror Vote Determine Election Timing?

JUNE 9TH, 2015 UPDATE:  SENATE JUST PASSED ANTI-TERROR BILL.  MORE HERE

Green party leader Elizabeth May is calling on the Senate to delay the final vote on C51, stating:

“Tomorrow, Canadians will learn the details of the Auditor General’s report on Senate expenses. We will find that 30 Senators have filed inappropriate expense claims and nine have had their files referred to the RCMP. On the very same day, the Senate is also scheduled to vote on C-51 at third reading. The seconder of the bill in the Senate is under investigation by the RCMP and has resigned from the Conservative caucus. The eyes of Canadians will be on the Senate tomorrow. If, on the same day that we learn the details of the Senate’s culture of misusing public funds, the Senate votes for a bill as massive and controversial as C-51, the harm to the Senate’s reputation could be irreparable.”

On political talk shows, both the NDP and Conservatives have been in sync regarding their messaging on the Senate.  Those lines consist of the Senate has to be dealt with in large part because it’s “an unelected body that keeps vetoing the will of parliament”.  It’s possible that if the Senate votes down C51 tomorrow, that the Conservatives will start making noise about the Senate vetoing a national security bill in favor of the popular approach to scraping the bill,  and that parliament (as a result of this important legislation not going through) is not currently operating on full cylinders. Steven Harper therefore could prorogue Parliament within a few days.

It could very well be that the Conservative caucus has given a directive to the Conservative senators to vote down the anti-terror bill.  Politically this would try and take the wind out of the sails of the surging NDP.  A summer election would be possible if the Conservatives are playing politics, banking low voter turn out to stop an NDP surge.  This would go against Harper’s law on early election calls, but with the Conservatives trailing in the polls, anything is possible. This could all explain why the NDP and Conservative messaging has changed over the past weekend on the Senate, and May’s unwillingness to see the Senate vote on the anti-terror bill.  The NDP seem ready and willing to bring an election on.

Regardless of all the politics of this, whatever the Senate decides to do at this point, will be extremely self-serving.  The Senate has already been irreparably damaged by passing bills with known constitutional flaws, and rather than being the House of Common’s sober second thought, they have continually demonstrated contempt for their jobs by voting along party lines, and abusing the public purse.  They should be fixing flaws in these bills, and respecting tax payers money.  A delay on the new anti-terror bill, would only delay the election, not the public perception of the chamber.  A delay would only serve to solidify the public’s perception of it.

Canadians don’t care about the politics of the new anti-terror bill.  They want it stopped!  If that means an early election as a result of the senate voting it down, than so be it.  I’m ready to vote on the best party that protects my civil rights.  Are you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Media Consortium Facing Potential Legal Action

Don’t be fooled by political discourse. The debates over the media consortium debates should be of utmost concern to Canadians of all political stripes, since the end game (if it plays out as expected) has the potential to shape how broadcast media covers political news, and what we as Canadians can use that content for. All political parties are playing politics (to no one’s surprise) over the consortium debates. So let’s cut through the spin, and get to the meat of what this is really about.

The Conservative’s decision to pull Prime Minister Harper from the consortium debates has created a lot of buzz and talk from us political junkies. The move has been widely criticized as undemocratic by the consortium, Liberals and Greens.

The NDP have been very careful around their messaging towards the debates on the debates opting to use words about debating Harper specifically (which seem to indicate the NDP is passing the ball to the Conservative court regarding the debates) and the more debates the better (making sure they don’t end up looking undemocratic). The NDP seem to be sitting on the fence with the consortium debates (for very good reason) and haven’t 100% committed to them yet. They have only agreed in principle to participate, not that they will show up for these debates. This seems like more of a stalling tactic to me.

Meanwhile the Liberals and Greens have gone full court press on how anti-democratic Harper’s move to pull out of the debates was. The consortium itself seems to be shielding the Liberals intentionally from the backlash Trudeau has received on social media from supporting Bill C51 by refusing outright to report on it even when current polls are strongly suggesting the Conservatives and Liberals have lost seats to an NDP surge as a result of the NDP position on the new anti-terror bill.

In order to really get some context around the politics of the debates around the debates, and how serious this has actually become, we need to re-visit when and how this all started. In October last year Global, CTV, and CBC the members of the media consortium took exception to the Conservatives planned use of news footage in attack ads. The consortium took advantage of political discourse around attack ads, and has since taken advantage of the Conservatives politically crying wolf quite a bit on media bias against the party to try to get away with breaking the law on a number of fronts. I’m not at all defending the use of attack ads. I hate them as well, however we need to shift away from attack ads and look very seriously on how this has played out in respects to the law, to fully understand how serious this situation has become for consortium members.

CBC internal e-mails were obtained through access to information back in October showing all three competitors knew the facts on law regarding the use of news coverage in political ads and went to air on news coverage that was used to intentionally mislead Canadians and drum up more public discourse on attack ads to gain support for the consortium position on copyright law. The three broadcasters were also trying to box all political parties in legally on this issue prior to an election by threatening to not air ads that contained any consortium news coverage (attack ads or not).   A court challenge towards the broadcasters position not to air ads with news coverage would have lasted well past the next election. The conservative knew this and moved to try and amend the copyright act and to clarify the law around the use of news material which was a mistake the consortium picked up on. That amendment was later rescinded by the Government as it was later deemed not needed. Current law clearly covers the use of news material for political criticism.

Internal CBC e-mails outlined that the CBC consulted its legal team which referenced to copyright expert Michael Geist in March 2014 and concluded that legally the use of news coverage in political ads was not stealing months prior to CTV, Global, CBC’s leading news coverage that it was stealing (pg. 112 of CBC’s e-mail thread).

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To put it bluntly, the consortium members CTV, Global and CBC intentionally mislead Canadians on a point of law, clearly manipulated news casts to that effect all while using discourse on an the unpopular subject of attack ads to make their point to the public.

Geist later strongly criticized the consortium’s policy around not airing political ads with news coverage owned by the consortium:

Documents obtained by others under the Access to Information Act reveal that the CBC was the instigator behind the April 2014 warning letter to all political parties that the broadcasters wold [sic] not accept political advertisements using their content without express authorization. The email trail reveals that the CBC recognized that it could not reject the advertisements on copyright grounds. Instead, the broadcasters conspired to adopt a policy to reject the ads anyway, an approach that smacks of copyright misuse and a potential Competition Act violation

 

Supreme Court Copyright Lawyer Howard Knopf also weighed in on how the consortium was covering the attack ad scandal stating:

 

“I’ve been involved with copyright law for longer than I care to admit – indeed, more than three decades. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much confusion and just plain WRONG commentary about a copyright issue as I’ve seen in the last week of Coverage of the issue of copyright and negative political ads.”

 

Knopf also said:

 

“My friend and colleague Prof. Ariel Katz of the U of T Faculty of Law, with whom I have worked closely on a factum that was quite influential in a landmark Supreme Court of Canada fair dealing case and other issues, is an internationally recognized leading copyright scholar and Canada’s foremost expert in the interplay of IP and competition law. Here’s his blog from October 14, 2014 entitled Attack Ads, Copyright, and Collusion: Have Canada’s Major Broadcasters Violated the Competition Act?

 

Prof. Katz discusses s. 45 of the Competition Act, which comes under the heading “Conspiracies, agreements or arrangements between competitors” and is perhaps the most feared and potent provision of the legislation. It is used in serious cases. It can put people in jail for up to 14 years and result in a fine of up to $25 million per count, or both, which is a very big time penalty by Canadian standards. Changes made by Parliament to the s. 45 provisions in 2009 that came into effect in 2010 may now make it easier in some circumstances to obtain a conviction. The new section provides for “per se” offences, which do not require proof that competition was lessened “unduly” and there is no need to prove any adverse market effects. There is no need to prove that the conspiracy in question was actually carried out – only that it was entered into. There’s also a less harsh new “civil” enforcement provision to be found in s. 90.1 that involves the Competition Tribunal, which may or may not be of interest in the current situation. To be crystal clear, nothing I am saying or have said accuses anyone of any offence or violation under this or any other provision of the Competition Act. I am merely pointing out that there are provisions in the Competition Act that may be relevant, depending on the facts, and that folks, including the Commissioner of Competition, may be interested in looking at this situation.”

 

Knopf, Geist and Katz are all leading heavyweight independent legal experts on copyright law. Katz as listed above is also one of Canada’s leading experts on Canadian competition law.

 

A few days after the attack ad scandal broke; Rick Mercer took to the airwaves repeating the consortium line that using news coverage for political advertising was stealing, in which CBC’s internal e-mails state their own legal team didn’t even support that claim. A day after Mercer’s rant aired, York University saw it fit to provide Mercer with an honorary law degree which could explain why currently the NDP are taking up issues with hosting any debates at universities. From the Huffington Post:

 

“The NDP had the same concern as the Conservatives, in that the venues being proposed are universities,” one source said, requesting anonymity. “The NDP’s argument was that universities are not really neutral.”

 

Fast forward to May 2015. The consortium is very publicly and noticeably trying to shield the Liberals from any backlash on bill C51 by not reporting on the social media backlash. The day after the Liberals supported bill C51 and at the height of the Liberal backlash on twitter, the consortium lead with a Liberal platform announcement. Even after almost a full week of social media protest, and Liberal members posting pictures of them burning their membership cards in protest to the parties support of it, the consortium instead attacked Elizabeth May on her failed attempt at comedy.

If you read in between the lines of the consortium moves, it seems as though they are pretty much daring the conservatives to move forth legally on consortium members. The consortium seems to think that it has the political upper hand here considering the conservatives have cried wolf on media bias several times, and that no one will believe the conservative position.

The consortium seems to also think that they have a much wider reach towards Canadians. Consortium journalists have used that line consistently when questioning the Conservatives after Harper pulled out of the debates. If the C-51 backlash and the current polls shows us anything, it’s that traditional media has very little influence on voter intention. You know what they say about playing with fire.

The Liberals, in their demand letter to the consortium on the debates, want “clarification” on how debate footage can be used from the consortium. That issue was settled in October with Geist, Knopf and Katz weighing in on the subject and with the CBC’s legal team back in March, 2014. So why are the Liberals asking for clarification on ownership of debate coverage?

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It seems like the Liberals are asking the consortium if they will continue to push the copyright issue to shield Trudeau from attacks (which could be a stark misuse of copyright law as Geist noted, and have a major impact on online commentary and coverage of the consortium lead debates as a result).

We have yet to know publicly what the real agreement was with the consortium between the Liberals, NDP, Greens, and the Bloc. That agreement needs to be made public by all parties now!

What completely surprises me about all of this is the political position the Greens have taken on the consortium debates. The Greens have been stark and solid supporters of allowing anyone to use copyright protected material to criticize politicians in the past, and are trying to frame an eventual pull out of the consortium debates by the NDP after the legal hammer drops on the consortium as a result of all of this, as a coordinated political attack by the Conservatives and NDP against the Liberals and Greens:

“In my view, there is an attempt to get the Liberals off the opposition map… and the NDP doesn’t want the Greens there,” one person involved with the negotiations said. “Two parties who are diametrically opposed are working together.”

There seems to be a lot of framing of the debate around the debates by all parties. What comes next will be probably one of the biggest stories about media and journalism we have seen in a long time, and has the potential to shape how political news is covered in this country. How this will play out is anyone’s guess, but it really doesn’t look good for the consortium. Those listed in the CBC internal e-mails which include lead CBC correspondent and anchor Peter Mansbridge could very well face the possibility of jail time if the competition bureau decides to investigate and warrants the situation serious enough to lay charges with a $25 million dollar fine for each count of infringement under the competition act.

Bill C51 will have an impact on our civil liberties, however media control over criticism of political leaders is a far worse infraction of our civil liberties.  How are we supposed to know what government is doing, if media is shielding these political leaders from that criticism and controlling the conversation.  How would we know our rights could be violated by future governments of any political stripe, if we have media intentionally misleading Canadians for political gain.

As someone with education broadcast journalism, a free press is a pillar of democracy.  We have laws in place to ensure those pillars remain standing.  Laws that need now to be enacted on this media consortium to ensure that after October, Canadians can fully trust the information they are getting from major media companies are accurate and without prejudice.  Otherwise the next time, we may never know about another type of bill that could be worse off from bill C51.  Once that free press pillar falls, we can not accept ourselves as a democracy.  This monster that CTV, Global, and CBC needs to be seriously dealt with.

UPDATE: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s political adviser Gerald Butts has responded to this article, claiming it a “conspiracy theory”.  If all of this is a conspiracy theory, than why is Trudeau’s chief political adviser responding to it?

 

 

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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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