On October 20, 2007, the National Post published a column by David Frum that made false claims about the measures in Canada's federal election law that limit spending on paid advertising by non-political parties (individuals and interest groups, so-called "third parties"). The letter set out below, by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher, was published by the Post on October 24, 2007.
Despite similar 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 a letter by Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch (in other words, the Globe and Mail refused to correct the false claims in Nicholls' piece). To see Duff Conacher's letter, click here
On May 4, 2006, the National Post published an opinion article by Claire Hoy making the same false claim that the federal election law is a "gag law" but at that time 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.
Every year or so, the National Post publishes an editorial or column containing false claims about the measures in Canada's federal election law that limit spending on paid advertising by non-political parties (individuals and interest groups, so-called "third parties"). The latest example is David Frum's column ("Make Speech Free, And All Else Follows" - Oct. 20).
No one should take seriously David Frum's claim that "It is seriously illegal for anyone other than a registered political party or a major media organization to try to make their voices heard at election time in any way that costs money."
In fact, seriously, it is legal for individuals, corporations, unions, and all other types of organizations 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, Web sites, e-mails, and newsletters and mailings to group members.
Only spending on paid advertising is limited by the law, to $175,800 nationally (enough to buy four national, full-page ads in the Post) and $3,516 in each riding. 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. Frum resorts to dishonesty to attack election ad spending limits shows clearly how invalid his arguments are.
That the National Post continues to publish such false claims (May 4, 2006 was the last time) raises serious questions about how committed the newspaper is to the fundamental journalistic principle of accuracy.