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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Blogs and the gag law

In a piece penned for the National Citizen's Coalition and pre-released on his blog, Stephen Taylor says "citizens with a message for change are enabled by blogging." I think this is true up to a point for two reasons. The first is that it is unclear how much the average, non-ideological, not-actually-too-interested voter uses blogs to get information about candidates, issues, etc...  I would predict that those voters susceptible to the message that the Conservatives are scary are not the type of voters who will look for alternatives to the MSM coverage of elections. That said, I think the number of blog-reading voters will grow, it is nowhere near the critical mass necessary for Conservatives to make the breakthrough we are all looking for. The second reason that I'm sceptical is that I'm not sure that Taylor's contention that because "blogging is virtually free" the "the costs of getting your message out on the Internet falls far below the gag law imposed limits." I have talked to several lawyers about this and they are convinced that the way the law is written to include not only what is paid to promote an election-time message but the value of such messages, Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley may decide to go after blogs or ask that the Elections Act be amended to restrict the freedom of blogs in future elections. One lawyer even predicted that Kingsley may even send a note to prominent bloggers to inform them that they ought not to blog about the election in a partisan manner in an effort to intimidate them, to preemptively silence them. It is incumbent upon us bloggers to not succumb to such intimidation. That said, Taylor may be right but perhaps only for the next election until Elections Canada can figure out how to further limit election-time liberty. In the meantime someone should begin a legal defense fund for the first blogger Kingsley tries to make an example of.

Posted by Paul Tuns on October 18, 2005 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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Martin's Liberal government is illegitimate and has been since May 2005.

Boycott the Federal Election. It's fixed anyway.

Posted by: Speller | 2005-10-18 9:39:53 PM

Personally, I forward interesting articles via e-mail to my non-involved friends.
Every bit helps.

Posted by: Monty | 2005-10-18 10:36:58 PM

What is the "value" of a celebrity speaking out during an election?

What is the "value" of personal speech?

Blogging levels the playing field; everyone can publish their message. Elections Canada's supposed intent is that they do not want third party advocacy that extends beyond the means of the average voice.

Posted by: Stephen Taylor | 2005-10-19 12:48:27 AM

So many zeros and ones .... so few liberal watchers.
When there are tens worlds of information evey-changing and zipping from a to z in a heart beat .... the traffic cops had better be X-Men ... how else??

Posted by: John | 2005-10-19 1:04:35 AM

Did any of these lawyers you talked to actually review the relevant section of the legislation ?

319. The definitions in this section apply in this Part.

"election advertising" « publicité électorale »

"election advertising" means the transmission to the public by any means during an election period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a registered party or the election of a candidate, including one that takes a position on an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated. For greater certainty, it does not include

(a) the transmission to the public of an editorial, a debate, a speech, an interview, a column, a letter, a commentary or news;

(b) the distribution of a book, or the promotion of the sale of a book, for no less than its commercial value, if the book was planned to be made available to the public regardless of whether there was to be an election;

(c) the transmission of a document directly by a person or a group to their members, employees or shareholders, as the case may be; or

(d) the transmission by an individual, on a non-commercial basis on what is commonly known as the Internet, of his or her personal political views.

Blogs would be covered by (a) “editorial”, “column”, “commentary “ and (d) “personal political views” - so long as you are not being paid ( i.e a spokesperson ) or are paying someone to post your views.

The expenses you have in bringing your personal political views, commentary etc. to the public is not counted as election spending Even if you manage to eek out a few bucks through the sale of adverts you are not transmitting your political views on a commercial basis as contemplated by the act.

You are in the same shoes as the Post, G &M, CTV, etc. Do you think they’re going to stop publishing columns, commentary etc. because they have production expenses and their writers get paid ?

Posted by: NBob | 2005-10-19 1:50:21 AM

In fact Paul, the more I think about this the more I think you should take this legislation back to those lawyers and ask them whether , indeed, it actually encourages blooding.

As I read it there are only 3 ways an individual can express his personal political views- during an election- to a mass audience with out having to worry about spending limits:

1. Submit your opinion to MSM and hope they print it as a “ letter to” or guest column.

2. Print thousands of copies, individually address them and send through the mail.

3. Start a Blog or post a comment somewhere on the net.

If you paid MSM to run your opinion that would be election advertising

If you just stuffed the copies of you opinion in mailboxes or handed them out on the corner they would be “flyers” and hence election advertising

But if you start a blog you can spend to the depths of your pocket on it with out having to worry - unless :

(a) you are a front and have been paid to write about a certain topic - in which case Elections Canada will count that as spending against whoever paid you ( though you might give your ethics a shake )

(b) you are buying space on the web to publish/promote a specific opinion ( but who would do that when you can start your own blog and/or post in comments section for free ? )

Posted by: NBob | 2005-10-19 5:28:14 AM

err.... whether it indeed encourages blogging, would ja believe

Posted by: NBob | 2005-10-19 5:33:16 AM

If it has any prospect of weakening their stranglehold on power then Librano$$ will try to ban the blogs at election time. NBob’s information gives us hope the Librano$$ would have to overtly take action to ban it.

If they were to ban blogs then they will have to ban letters to the editor because that’s essentially all a Blog is – an online, interactive series of letters to the originally posted letter. Banning letters to the editor would surely awaken the silent majority into where the Librano$$ stand on free speech.

Librano$$ are the most successful party in power anywhere on the planet. They’ve held onto power for most of a century. They currently do this by clinging to power with only about 20% of the vote-eligible population. They get in with only 35% of the vote but since only 60% of the population bothers to vote the Librano$$$ net out at 20% support. Therefore support is very fragile and minute shifts will throw them out. Blogs can cause minute but critical shifts as seen by the Swift Boat Veterans in the USA.

While the MSM journalists suffer from groupthink of hiring like-minded socialists, I don’t think it’s a vast left wing conspiracy. As one of the smartest Bloggers I know recently said “I think the MSM are basically lazy, they’ve made their a priori conclusions and further investigation of the facts is simply too much work for them. Blogs and Bloggers aren’t feeding original news into the system, they are more like investigative reporters doing the grunt work for journalists.”

The way that this seems to work is the MSM will occasionally pick up on “blog-news” if it’s going to sell and improve their ratings. Ironically, this blog-news usually consists of simply highlighting and feeding back to the MSM an important point in their own last paragraph of their news release that got underplayed due to their laziness.

Finally, I think blogs play a role in demoralizing the other side who now know that we know "the truth". This has a debilitating impact on their self-confidence.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2005-10-19 7:09:43 AM

Thanks NBob for the specific information.

I don't think that blogs and bloggers have to worry, for all the reasons outlined above. The basic axiom is the right of free speech and debate.

A blog that doesn't even permit comments can't be defined as a 'paid advertisement' or any advertisement; it's an online editorial. The Librano$ aren't going to get caught up in refusing the right of online 'news editorials'; ie, they can't restrict editorials to the registered newspapers.

They couldn't even try to restrict online blogs by trying to licence them; the network is too 'smart' to put up with that - as we saw when Captain's Quarters overran the 'no media publicity' of the Gomery Commission.

So, I think they'll ignore the internet for as long as they can. They read the blogs, and will use them as a litmus test.

The Liberals set up their policy, not on the basic of any economic or social principles but for one reason only. Power. They will do anything to 'get the votes' to that Front Door to Power - the House of Commons. Once in the door- they ignore the electorate.

So, their tactics over the next few months will be to bribe, bribe, the voters. Then, they will brainwash the voters; they will publicize, via their MSM control, 'polls that show the Liberals are on top'. That sets up a 'follow the lemming' groupthink. There'll be lots of polls like these. And, they'll announce all kinds of bribes.
Every act the Liberals take has one agenda only; bribe, sway, dazzle the voters. None of their actions has anything to do with principles. There is no ethical, economic, social or other agenda involved. None.

What we have in our midst is a Cabal that has taken control of the gov't for its own economic benefit. This has only been able to continue because the Canadian economy is not directly linked to the political infrastructure.

It's a piggyback economy directly linked to the US economy. This means it is essentially a fragile economy. In biological terms, it's like an organism that can live only within the cellular operations of a larger organism (a virus, a bacterium). Without that larger organism, it can't exist on its own.

That's what Canada has developed into- a dependent, secondary economy. It hasn't, despite its resources, self-organized itself as a self-governed economy that extracts, manufactures, markets its own goods and services. Why not?

Because that self-organized economy requires large scale capital input that is future-oriented rather than the immediate use of capital for day-to-day living. Canada has discouraged its population from amassing capital and investing it in future-projects (industry and also research and innovation). It has confined the growth of capital to a Cabal - that has taken power over the last few decades.

That has left Canada fragile and dependent. What if the Host Organism (the USA) doesn't host us anymore? Will we do as Quebec has done, and sue Wal-Mart for refusing to set up a store in Quebec to hire Quebecers? Will we do as Martin is now doing, and trumpet that the US HAS to purchase our cheap subsidized lumber?...???

Posted by: ET | 2005-10-19 7:49:27 AM

NBob makes great points if the letter of the law meant anything. J-P Kingsley wants to interpret the law as broadly as possible. That's why although I think it is wrong to go after bloggers, I suggested a legal defense fund be created.

That trying to shut down bloggers will be like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble does not mean that Elections Canada isn't going to try.

Posted by: Paul Tuns | 2005-10-19 10:42:34 AM


Nice post and it tells it's like it is. I have watched this devolution of my once fine country to the backroom economy it has become.

We have lost most of the freedoms that matter. Freedom to bitch has little value. Property rights do .. as does fair taxation, a right to self-defense, decent health care (private or public) and to be able to grow a business without government as a partner. The list goes on.

Once you lose your basic freedoms, you will have to kill to get them back. It's better to not lose it in the first place else all the past killing with have been for naught.

This country is in real trouble.

Posted by: John | 2005-10-19 10:43:59 AM

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