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It’s right there, as wrong, in black and white

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Yesterday I wrote in my column that tactics by the Conservative Party in the Montreal riding of Liberal MP Irwin Cotler were akin to bullying.

The party had a pollster call into the riding telling voters Cotler was going to be resigning and there was going to be a by-election, and oh by the way, can we have your vote? But Cotler isn’t resigning. There is no byelection coming. The pollster was basically hired by the Conservatives to spread a false rumour and solicit partisan support.

Some people think it is a mountain made out of a mole hill to complain about this. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan says it’s freedom of speech. Many people agree it’s simply wrong for a political party to knowingly and willingly lie about another MP.

So today, I’m writing a story about the new First Nations Elections Act, legislation to try and make the process where First Nations elect their chiefs and councils a lot better. It’s necessary legislation. First Nations elections need the kind of electoral scrutiny governing municipal, provincial and federal governments. First Nations people deserve that.

How do these two things connect? Well, written right into the new First Nations Elections Act, section 12:

A person must not, in connection with an election, . . .

c) knowingly publish a false statement that a candidate is withdrawing or has withdrawn their candidacy.

Hmmm . . .so in an election it’s not okay to lie about whether someone is running or not because well, that could affect the vote.

Wait, what does the Elections Canada Act say about this?

Oh look it’s there too.

Section 92. "No person shall knowingly publish a false statement of the withdrawal of a candidate."

So during an election it’s against the law to lie about a candidate’s withdrawing. It’s such an important fact it is being written into brand new elections legislation by the Conservative government.

But when the candidate is an MP, it’s totally fair game to continually tell voters they are resigning?

True, during an election the affect could be devastating if a bunch of people think someone really isn’t running again. But there are still consequences to the outcome of a future vote when lying about whether a sitting MP is going to be resigning or not.

Elections Canada doesn’t govern the conduct outside of elections so the law doesn’t technically apply here.

But morals still should.


-- Mia Rabson / The Capital Chronicles

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.


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