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Federal election ad spending law helps democracy by limiting influence of wealthy interests

Despite the false claims in an opinion article by National Citizens Coalition Vice-President Gerry Nicholls published by the Globe and Mail on March 15, 2007, the newspaper refused to publish the letter set out below, by Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch (in other words, the Globe and Mail refused to correct the false claims in Nicholls' piece).

Similarly, the National Post published an opinion article by Claire Hoy on May 4, 2006 making the same false claim that the federal election law is a "gag law" and then the Post refused to publish a responding opinion article by Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch, and the Post also refused to publish a much shorter, letter-length form of the opinion piece (in other words, the Post refused to correct the false claims in Hoy's piece).  To see Duff Conacher's May 15, 2006 opinion article, click here.

    Similarly, in December 2005, in The National Postpublished an editorial that also contained false claims on the same subject of the federal law limiting spending on paid advertising by non-political parties (so-called "third parties") during elections, and at that time the Post also refused to publish an opinion piece by Democracy Watch (although the Post did publish a short-letter that corrected some of the false claims made in the editorial).  Also in December 2005, the Globe and Mail published an opinion piece and editorial that contained similar false claims about the same subject (falsely claiming that the federal law is a "gag law", and also refused to publish either an opinion piece or letter correcting the false claims.

To see the opinion piece Democracy Watch submitted to the National Post and the Globe and Mail in January 2006, that both papers refused to publish, click here.

Dear Editor:

Gerry Nicholls made his usual false claim in his attack on democratic limits on advertising spending by non-political parties during election campaigns ("Spending-spree hypocrisy" - March 15).

It is completely false that the federal election law makes it "a crime for private citizens or independent groups to spend their own money to express their own views during elections" as Nicholls claims.

The law allows citizens and independent groups to spend as much as they want expressing their own views during election campaigns through news conferences, news releases, media interviews, op-eds, letters to the editor, educational events, websites, emails, and newsletters and mailings to group members.

Only spending on paid advertising is limited by the law, to $175,800 nationally and $3,516 in each riding (the limits increase by the rate of inflation each year).

These reasonable limits have the democratizing effect of ensuring that wealthy people and organizations can't dominate issue debates, nor attack candidates (whose spending is also limited), through massive advertising blitzes.  The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the limits in a 2004 ruling for these reasons.

That Mr. Nicholls' resorts to dishonesty to attack election ad spending limits shows clearly how invalid his arguments are.

That the Globe and Mail continues to publish Mr. Nicholls' false claims (December 9, 2005 was the last time) raises serious questions about how committed the newspaper is to the fundamental journalistic principle of accuracy.

Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Democracy Watch

Democracy Watch's Money in Politics Campaign