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c) knowingly publish a false statement that a candidate is withdrawing or has withdrawn their candidacy.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