Saturday, April 19, 2008

Elections Canada - Above reproach or undermining free speech?

Steve Maher's featured again on National Newswatch - this time with a somewhat more relevant piece than a previous one...

Today's column (Tories may only have succeeded in making themselves look bad) is fairly well-balanced, with plenty of scorn for both major parties in Canada. However, I find this paragraph disturbing:

...The Harper team instinctively attacks opponents, which is good politics, since it forces political rivals to spend half their time defending themselves. When the Tories go after independent officials, however, they look dishonest and mean, since to believe them, you are asked to believe that independent officials are corrupt. The standard of proof for that is higher than anything the Tories have offered...



Contrast that with David Frum's excellent editorial in today's Post - Elections Canad's campaign against free speech:

Yesterday on this page, Gerry Nicholls accused Elections Canada of being a power-crazed bureaucracy motivated by petty vindictiveness.

That's the optimistic scenario! Power-crazed bureaucrats can be restrained or replaced.

The more frightening possibility raised by this week's RCMP "visit" to Conservative party headquarters is that the Canadian bureaucracy has once again revealed a deep, sustained and highly ideological hostility to ordinary rights of free speech...


Frum goes on to outline how some of our supposedly non-partisan Canadian institutions like Elections Canada and the CHRC are undermining political free speech, and political freedom by extension! Please read the whole thing and then save it for future reference.

Canadians need to take off their rose-coloured glasses and take a critical look at those hallowed institutions that we seem to have placed on a pedestal. They are run by human beings.

And as such, they are not above constructive criticism and monitoring.


* * * *
Update: Check out Gerry Nicholls - Elections Canada vs. Free Speech.

Also see Dr. Roy - George Jonas on abolishing HRCs.


* * * *

Sunday Update:

Dr. Roy's found another good one here - The myth of the level playing field by Lorne Gunter.

This could quite possibly win some kind of award as the most objective editorial of the year. Lessons for everyone here.

49 comments:

Ruth said...

After Steve Janke publishing the list of employees at EC, I think we need to ask why we need so many employees there.

Gabby in QC said...

"When the Tories go after independent officials, however, they look dishonest and mean, since to believe them, you are asked to believe that independent officials are corrupt."

Stephen Maher has put the emphasis on the wrong adjective. When the Conservatives "go after independent officials" they are not saying those officials are "corrupt" they are saying those officials are not as "independent" as they should be. There is a difference.

Also, Stephen Maher states at the beginning of his column that "the federal Conservative Party had lots of money to spend on advertising and effective TV ads to run."

So why would the flush-with-cash Conservatives supposedly try to overspend on election advertising?

This is a dispute over what actually constitutes a national vs. a local ad, nothing else. And I wonder whether some MPs would have been elected if they had not relied heavily on identification with the national leader.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Stephen Maher has put the emphasis on the wrong adjective. When the Conservatives "go after independent officials" they are not saying those officials are "corrupt" they are saying those officials are not as "independent" as they should be. There is a difference.

Very good point, Gabby. That use of the word 'corrupt' bothered me too. I didn't hear the CPC using that word.

jad said...

"So why would the flush-with-cash Conservatives supposedly try to overspend on election advertising?"

That actually is the whole point of this, namely that the Conservatives had lots of money and wanted to exceed the permitted spending cap. Not ever a problem the Liberals would have.

Gayle said...

Frum misses some obvious points. First, the government of Canada is free to amend the Canada Elections Act. Until they do, one should not be criticizing the people who are appointed to enforce that Act for enforcing that Act.

Second, we must never forget this is about more than free speech. This is also about the transfer of tax dollars to private entities (political parties) as campaign expense reimbursements.

Whether or not BT's are willing to admit it, I would suggest that if it were the liberals claiming hundreds of thousands of tax dollars as rebates in this manner, you would apoplectic.

It is absolutely appropriate for EC to be vigilent about the expeditures of tax dollars.

paulsstuff said...

""When the Tories go after independent officials, however, they look dishonest and mean, since to believe them, you are asked to believe that independent officials are corrupt."


Yaa, Liberal's never do that. They would never, for example, question the impartiality of a judge during an inquiry into sponsorship funds.

And they would never question the impartiality of of the RCMP when it has found reason to investigate them.

They would never question the impartiality of the head of the BDC, and then try to ruin that person both financially and emotionally because he stated correct information damaging to a former Prime Minister.

And surely, when caught stealing taxpayer money, they would never dare to lay the blame on "a few bad beaurucrats.

And on a side note, I see Boob Rae demanding Bernier be fired. Perhaps he should just suggest they make him the Ambassador to Denmark.

Anonymous said...

Do people who enter government suddenly develop halos and become perfect people or are they the same flawed and bias individuals they were before they got the government job?

Why are government run organizations above reproach when the history of these organizations have shown anything but?

west coast teddi said...

It is not what the CPC said or did, it is what the MSM would like us to think was done. Reality is not a long suit for the media, especially a media that is suspect in it's bias'.

Canadians in my opinion have never really been engaged in the political process or politics unlike many others in the world. We seem to wake up only at election time for a 30 day period then back to sleep. Let the politico’s and the bureaucrats run the farm and access our bank accounts. If they drain the account we can get them at the next election time – no big deal. With a “nanny state” mentality, what’s the problem eh?

I spend $7.95 extra on my cable bill each month so I can watch Fox News. They say it is “fair and balanced” and I find that to be mostly true. What I like is that most of the hosts will tell you what their point of view is and I can take that into account as I listen. We need similar reporting here. Is Mike Duffy a news commentator, a news analyst, a news “personality” or a political rock star? Who knows (don’t watch so who cares!!)? Does MDL report the news, interpret the news or make the news?

By the way - WE HAVE SNOW TODAY and the Navy is at sea - HELP

Alberta Girl said...

"Until they do, one should not be criticizing the people who are appointed to enforce that Act for enforcing that Act."


Gayle, Gayle, Gayle - As one person who has an understanding of "legislation" to another, I am sure you would be the first to admit that interpretation of said legislation is open for discussion. Interpretation is what is at stake here. The Tories interpreted a certain section one way (so too apparently did Marlene Jennings amongst several other opposition MP's- no I do not have a link) while EC decided that only the Conservatives could not interpret it that way.

As you know, legislation is also open for appeal, which is what the Tories have done. The ordinary citizen has the right to appeal decisions that come from various acts based on interpretations by various levels of government.

So we have the Tories appealing the interpretation, EC saying no, the Tories suing because it was evident that they were not using the same interpretation for everyone.

That would be like you appealing your property assessment based on your interpretation of the act and the municipality getting a search warrant to go into your home and take documentation you had compiled to prove your case.

Enforcing the Act is one thing Gayle, but it needs to be the same for everyone, not just dependent on your voting preferences.

This is EC showing their muscle plain and simple. This is revenge against the Tories for daring to question EC.

Anonymous said...

The paranoia and nonsense here is so over-whelming it's crossed over to the ridiculous.

This is not about free speech - it's about election laws and if Harper doesn't like it, he can work to amend it.

Not rocket science here folks.

Roy Eappen said...

The libranos don't need to get govrnment refunds of money spent. They stole tens of millions, laundered the money and subverted election after election.Elections Canada has ignored the fact that adscam money has subverted the electoral process for election after election.

Latest Liberal arrest puts chill to election fever
Has elections canad raided the offices of the Libranos?There is clear evidence of massive fraud. Where is the missing money, it is probably still being used by the grits to subvert the elctoral process. More grits need to be arrested.
Unfortunately Elections Canada is showing that it is comprised of partisan grits. One can only wonder how the libranos used the money to subvert the process of government including political appointments of judges, boards and perhaps other organizations.

A former senior Liberal organizer fingered as the man who demanded cash payments from the ad firm Groupaction has fired back with explosive allegations that a small network of party chieftains doled out contracts, sponsorship deals and judicial appointments to Liberal stalwarts in exchange for their work on election campaigns.

The new claims, which threaten to inflame an already tense Parliament Hill, were broadcast last night on Radio-Canada even as Prime Minister Paul Martin's aides worked on a statement that is to be delivered on national television tonight.

BenoƮt Corbeil, who served as executive director of the Liberal Party of Canada's Quebec wing in the late 1990s, told Radio-Canada that of the 20 or so lawyers who volunteered for the party during the 2000 federal election, some "seven or eight" were appointed to the judicial bench.

"Anyone who wanted to be a judge or win mandates needed to have friendly relations with those people," he told the network.

Gayle said...

Of course legislation is interpreted by the Courts, and the CPC is asking that it be interpreted in their favour.

My point, however, is that there is nothing wrong with EC strictly adhering to the wording of the legislation, particularly when the difference in interpretation costs the taxpayers hudreds of thousands of dollars.

Let the courts decide, and if they decide in favour of CPC hopefully that loophole will be closed because I see no reason why my tax dollars should go to the CPC just because they exploited a loophole.

Jennings was different - the Liberals did not exceed their cap by 16 thousand dollars, and therefore clearly they were not attempting to exploit a loophole. Also, I have not heard about that money going to a television ad campaign where the ads played all over the province instead of just in her riding.

Gabby in QC said...

Jad, I made my point poorly by saying "So why would the flush-with-cash Conservatives supposedly try to overspend on election advertising?"

I should have added "and get reimbursed by Elections Canada."
The fact the Conservative Party apparently had all that money to spend leads one to conclude that they weren't looking to circumvent the law in order to suck taxpayer money out of Elections Canada.

I am still convinced that the Conservatives want the law, as written, to apply to all parties in the exact same way.

I have to dig around for some info. regarding the admissibility of third party ads as well, which was also a dispute between small-c conservatives and EC.

If I remember correctly (I have no supporting info, just my poor memory) environmental pressure groups were advising Canadians with ads of their own not to vote Conservative because of Kyoto blah blah blad.

Anonymous said...

Yes Roy....I found that story on page 26 of the TO Sun, unlike the big hoopla over the EC 'raid' on the front page for 3 days...
but hey we are just paranoid over here.
gayle ..are you that naive to believe EC beaurocrats are saints?

bluetech

Fay said...

Roy makes avery good point. Why have Elections Canada not raided the Liberal Party and investigated how they were able to steal taxpayers money to funded the liberals during elections? Many questions unanswered by Elections Canada!

Roy Eappen said...

Gayle, is it fair that elections Canada ignored the sponsorship scandal until it was too late for them to do anything? There are still millions missing and the grits won't say who got all the money in brown envelopes. I guess you think it is ok for partisan civil servants to persecute the Tories.

Gayle said...

"are you that naive to believe EC beaurocrats are saints?"

What an odd thing to say.

Have I said anything about sainthood being bestowed upon bureaucrats?

I simply believe they are doing their jobs. No one here seems to want to touch the whole issue of hudreds of thousands of tax dollars they are claiming as refunds.

I do not wonder why. I think the reason is obvious.

Gayle said...

"Gayle, is it fair that elections Canada ignored the sponsorship scandal until it was too late for them to do anything?"

Link please.

Roy Eappen said...

So Gayle denies that millions were illegally donated to the libranos and elections Canada did nothing. Paul martin admitted this by returning 1.1 million dollars. it was an admission of guilt. How many ridings were subverted by this money. I guess thats ok with grit Gayle.
I personally complained to Elections Canada and they replied the statute of limitations had run out. Since this was an ongoing conspiracy that answer seems pretty funny.

Why did Elections Canada start investigating before the statute of limitations run out? There will be more grits arrested, but Elections Canada will be investigating the Tories.

Gayle said...

There was an inquiry, and there is an ongoing investigation. I accept the outcome of both.

paulsstuff said...

"Jennings was different - the Liberals did not exceed their cap by 16 thousand dollars, and therefore clearly they were not attempting to exploit a loophole. Also, I have not heard about that money going to a television ad campaign where the ads played all over the province instead of just in her riding."

So in and out is ok in this case and not the Conservative case Gayle? The overspending is a smokescreen. If the Liberal and NDP were allowed to claim a reimbursment using the same type of financing as the Conservative's,then the rule has not been applied equally Gayle. You do realize that using the in and out scheme kept Olivia Chow from being overbudget in her riding, don't you?

Gayle, the problem with your argument is this type of in and out financing has been done for a long time.

In fact, Conserative affadvits filed in the case show the Liberal's using the same type of financing in 2000 and 2004. In the 2000 election Liberal's would have been close to or exceeded the federal campaign limit on spending, if the rule had of been applied then as it is to the Conservative Party now.

There is a thing called precedence in these matters, and Elections Canada long ago set the standard that this practice was within the rules.

Gayle said...

"The overspending is a smokescreen."

No.

The overspending forms the basis of any charges that may be laid against the CPC.

As for the rest of your comments, I have addressed those points in an earlier thread. I suggest you read it because I see no point in rehashing them (kingston and I had a fairly lengthy discussion about it).

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I think Gayle should apply for a position as a Liberal party strategist.

Roy Eappen said...

How do you know thats not what she already does?

Joanne (True Blue) said...


By the way - WE HAVE SNOW TODAY and the Navy is at sea - HELP


Poor Teddi. And I'm just about to go outside and lie in the sun...

I enjoyed your comments about the news, BTW. Right on.

Gabby in QC said...

"I think Gayle should apply for a position as a Liberal party strategist."

Yes, I agree, so she could join the ranks of the 'supercilious' which she appears to be highly qualified for.

And no, I don't have a link. ;-D

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Dr. Roy, we just never really know with the internet, do we?

I seem to recall Gayle saying something about working with young offenders.

Gabby - Ouch! I'm heading outside before the fireworks start. ;)

Anonymous said...

Joanne, I don't see reference to MDL's statement to the effect that the EC so called raid succeeded in lifting all the Tory legal files re the court challenge. Further he mentioned if the files were taken away for examination, it would contravene lawyer/client privilege. Well, that's a 'no-brainer.'

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I don't see reference to MDL's statement to the effect that the EC so called raid succeeded in lifting all the Tory legal files re the court challenge.

That was L.Ian MacDonald on MDL. Link here.

Gayle said...

"How do you know thats not what she already does?"

They can't afford me. ;)

Joanne is correct. I work with children and youth at risk, many of whom are also young offenders.

Gabby in QC said...

"Gabby - Ouch! I'm heading outside before the fireworks start. ;).

I know, I know. A moment of utter weakness on my part ... Reminds me of the line "the devil made me do it." I forget the comedian's name. He did a routine as a character named "Geraldine."

Enjoy those rays!

Roy Eappen said...

Gabby that was Flip Wilson.

maryT said...

There is no way in hades that a tv ad can only be shown in one riding. Maybe this will be the end of tv advertising as we know it.
Same goes for newspapers ads, they can't be aimed at just one riding.
So, either ban all advertizing, put a local tv outlet in every riding that has limited viewers, and would go broke, or live with what we have and apply the rules equally to all partys.
What are the rules for advertizing on a US station, that is viewed in Canada. Sorry Gayle, no link, but I have seen them.
This fiasco might mean that local candidates will have to get out and be known so we will learn who is going to be elected/not elected because the the coattails of the leader.
Any polls done in Dion's riding, is he going to win agains. Remember, he was appointed to Cabinet years ago, without being an elected MP, then he got a very safe seat in Que for the next election. Weren't others appointed at the same time by JC. Then everyone cried when PMSH did the same thing. Another example of liberal double standards.
I also recall reading that Dion had to ask where his riding was.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

There is no way in hades that a tv ad can only be shown in one riding.

That was exactly the point that Gary Goodyear made last night on CPAC.

Gayle said...

Whether this advertising is local will ultimately be decided by the courts. We can debate it all day here but no one really knows the answer.

The point is that this is a loophole. Either it is a legitimate loophole that should be closed, or it is an illegitimate one and the cons will lose their case.

Either way, refusing to allow a 600 thousand dollar refund for exploiting a loophole is hardly evidence of bias.

Alberta Girl said...

"Either way, refusing to allow a 600 thousand dollar refund for exploiting a loophole is hardly evidence of bias."

It sure is if some are allowed to exploit that loophole and others aren't.

OT - I envy all you in Eastern Canada as I sit here watching the blizzard rage outside on the 19 of April! Where is that dang global warming!!!!

Gabby in QC said...

"Gabby that was Flip Wilson."

Hey, thanks! So I'm not the only one here who goes back a bit ... ;-)

Gayle said...

But AG - the only ones exploiting it are the CPC, because they are the only ones who used this loophole to spend over the limit.

I have not heard anyone claim that the LPC spent 16 thousand dollars over the limit and used Marlene Jennings to facilitate that.

paulsstuff said...

"I have not heard anyone claim that the LPC spent 16 thousand dollars over the limit and used Marlene Jennings to facilitate that."

Gayle, if they used the in and out to have $16,000 charged against Jenning's local riding, instead of the federal campaign spending, they have in fact allowed the amount allowed for federal spending to be claimed by the local riding. EC ruled 97 Conservative ridings could not use the in and out rule and that's why they are over the federal limit for campaign spending. If they disallow 97 Liberal in and out local ridings then the Liberal's will in fact have exceeded the law as applied to the Conservative's in regards to the amount spent at the federal level.

Here's a better explanation. When you see the Conservative representative on Duffy or Newman state the rule should be applied equally, the Lib and NDP rep repeat the "Election's Canada says we did nothing wrong" line.

And that is the gist of it. Papers presented in the lawsuit show in the 2000 election Liberal's were above the spending limit if they applied the same rule then. And again in 2004. In 2006 Olivia Chow was able to overspend on her local campaign by having a reverse in and out so that money was charged on the federal campaign.

Gayle said...

And Paul -I am tired of arguing this. Why do you raise the exact same arguments that have already been discussed in previous threads?

By the way, those papers you refer to were not allowed in by the judge, so I somehow doubt they are as convincing as you think. In any event, none of us are privy to all the evidence presenting in this lawsuit so perhaps we can step back and allow the courts to do their job, OK?

Anonymous said...

gayle@12:47
"Until they do, one should not be criticizing the people who are appointed to enforce that Act for enforcing that Act."
You assume they are doing their 'job' without an agenda, and with the utmost of perfection, and in an unbiased manner,as you also imply here.


"I simply believe they are doing their jobs."

Of course you aren't declaring them saints...you just think they are perfect,infallible and unbiased.
Others here strongly disagree, based not on assumptions but on observed behaviour.

paulsstuff said...

"By the way, those papers you refer to were not allowed in by the judge, so I somehow doubt they are as convincing as you think. In any event, none of us are privy to all the evidence presenting in this lawsuit so perhaps we can step back and allow the courts to do their job, OK?"

Actually Gayle those papers were already filed in the case. Further affadavits were not allowed because the court prothonotary deemed them unneccesary, and the judge hearing the case still has the discretion to allow the additional affadavits if he feels them relevant. Go back to Cherniak's and read the entire story he linked to.

But please try addressing this:


"Papers presented in the lawsuit show in the 2000 election Liberal's were above the spending limit if they applied the same rule then as applied to the Conservative's. And again in 2004. In 2006 Olivia Chow was able to overspend on her local campaign by having a reverse in and out so that money was charged on the federal campaign."

So why is it ok for the Liberal's and NDP to do it?Here is part of the link Cherniak provided stating the Conservative's defence has already been denied. That's not the way I read it:

In the Federal Court case, the Tories have submitted hundreds of pages of expense records for NDP and Liberal MPs to back the contention that Mr. Mayrand, the respondent in the case, had unfairly singled out Tory candidates in 2006 by rejecting their claims.

Lawyers acting for the Conservatives' campaign officials also attempted to introduce an affidavit with more material to support their charge that Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand improperly rejected their candidates' claims for advertising expenses.

The affidavit included more information about Liberal regional media buys contained in Elections Canada records.

But the motion to add the affidavit was rejected in late February in a ruling from the court prothonotary, a judicial clerk with some of the same powers as Federal Court judges.

"The Court has serious doubts that the legality of the decision under review can be determined by taking into consideration the Respondent's decision in other cases," wrote Prothonotary Mireille Tabib.

Even if the other cases involving opposition candidates could "assist" the court in reviewing Mr. Mayrand's decision, they had already filed extensive records of similar decisions he made, she noted.

A source close to the case said, however, that Ms. Tabib's view may not be shared by the judge who hears the case and is not binding on that judge.

maryT said...

It is too bad that maps of the 308 ridings are hard to find, much is made of population/riding but I think Gayle and others think all ridings have the same land area as a TO riding. Some MPs have 100s of miles to cover, instead of a few blocks and apt bldgs. It is physically impossible for these mps to get to every hamlet, town, city, in the few weeks of a campaign, without tv and radio and print ads. If all partys are advertising in these ridings they are also breaking laws.
Elections Canada has been after PMSH for years, and he and his org have won several battles. Think of the gag laws.
The numbers of employees at EC is huge, but that does not mean they have any smarts.
The whole thing behind this, IMHO, is the conservatives have more money, more small donors, more members than the others. Think ENVY of all the other partys.

Gayle said...

For the last time, the decision about whether the spending was "local" or "national" will be made by the judge.

I neither know, nor care, whether or not it falls within that definition.

My point, again hopefully for the last time, is that there is a clear difference between the advertising done by the liberals and that done by the CPC. Whether that difference supports different treatment is a question for the court, however the difference is substantial enough that it debunks your contention that EC are biased. They are not going after the CPC for doing the same thing as the liberals - they are going after them for doing something different.

Gabby in QC said...

Gayle, three different political pundits of different affiliations today affirmed that the political parties they worked with did exactly the same thing the Conservatives are now on the carpet for doing, not something different, as you contend.

The pundits are:
1. Robin Sears, formerly campaign director with the NDP
2. John Parisella, formerly with Quebec Liberal premiers Robert Bourassa and Daniel Johnson, and presently as a volunteer advisor to Jean Charest
3. Philippe Gervais, formerly campaign advisor for the Conservative Party.

The three were on with L. Ian Macdonald on his radio program called The Insiders. Unfortunately, the radio station (CJAD) does not archive its broadcasts - so, no link for you!

Anonymous said...

Well that's your opinion gayle.

Like Jo Anne asks in her title:
"Elections Canada-above reproach, or undermining free speech.?"

No amount of legalese here will change my opinion of the poor work habits of EC.My opinion is based on their response to other situations.They have lost my trust.


bluetech

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Global National just reported the contents of the warrant will be made public tonight.

Gayle said...

gabby - did they say they used the money to pay for national advertising, because if they didn't, then it is NOT the same thing.

Gabby in QC said...

"did they say they used the money to pay for national advertising, because if they didn't, then it is NOT the same thing."

Gayle, as I said, the radio station does not archive its broadcasts, otherwise I would gladly have run the program over and over in order to quote them verbatim.
Failing that, I have to tell you YES! they said it was done in the past exactly as done by the Conservatives.
John Parisella even added that there was nothing immoral or illegal - his words - about it.

Furthermore, the question regarding client/lawyer privilege was brought up, i.e., that the documents removed were to be used in the deposition of EC officials the following day, so the client/lawyer privilege may have been breached (not verbatim).