Back in June I introduced my first private members
bill and it generated some national media attention. I suspect the
interest was there because of some negative ads that were paid for
by the Conservative Party and how the ads took negative shots at
Justin Trudeau, the new Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Negative attack ads are hard to avoid and they can be very effective.
They are not only used during elections but we are seeing more and
more of them in-between elections. Give a person some money and
with the right or wrong motivation, that person could make Mother
Theresa look bad in the eyes of many.
Many negative ads are meant to destroy, not critique, and the person
responsible for the ad often does not want to take responsibility
Do not get me wrong -- I do not want to censure political ads but
I do want to insure that leaders of political parties that advertise
take full responsibility for the message they are communicating,
whether it is through TV, radio, newspapers or the internet.
With so many advertisements saying different things, it’s
important that candidates, parties, and organizations are transparent
and held accountable for all the ads that they produce. Canadians
have the right to know where the information they are receiving
is coming from and who exactly is responsible for the content.
That is why I introduced Bill C-524, An Act to Amend the Canada
Elections Act (election advertising).
First and foremost, the purpose of C-524 is to ensure transparency
and accountability for all political ads whether they are released
during an election period or between elections.
Current election advertising legislation only covers advertisements
during election periods. It also allows political leaders to distance
themselves from potential controversial advertisements (negative
So how exactly will my bill ensure transparency and accountability?
Well, my bill would require voice-overs from those responsible for
the ad, should it be in audio-visual form (for instance, on television,
internet, or radio).
Not only that, but party leaders must endorse their party’s
I firmly believe that leaders must take responsibility for the messages
that their party produces.
Candidates, as well, must take sole responsibility for the ads that
come from their campaigns. I think this will be especially effective
when parties try to farm out negative ads to candidates. If a candidate
is willing to run the ad, then that candidate should be willing
to visibly endorse his/her name on the advertisement.
C-524 is about accountability and transparency, to give Canadians
the right to know where the information they are receiving is coming
This form of accountability is not unique to the world -- we just
need to look at the USA where they have a similar law already in
If my bill were to pass, it will not stop negative advertising.
It might reduce the number of negative ads or affect the actual
content. But what it will do is make our Leaders more accountable
on what they are saying about their opponents.
If passed, at the end of the ad message you would either hear or
read something like: “My name is Steven Harper or Justin Trudeau
and I approve of the content of this ad”.
It will be interesting to see how members of Parliament will vote
on bill C-524.