OTTAWA -- As the US electorate turns out today to vote, Canadians have been horrified by the vicious television ad campaigns waged as part of the mid-term elections. "We recognize that our own political culture is increasingly being contaminated by the same kind of poisonous manipulation seen in the US. Before Canadians next go to the polls, we want to propose sweeping new changes to protect our political commons," said Elizabeth May, Canadian Green Party Leader.
"The control of television ad content is not possible, but it is possible to regulate the way elections are waged. The 2008 election had more vicious attack ads than 2006, and 2006 was worse than 2004. We are on a very dangerous trajectory, as it is well understood in public opinion research that attack ads 'work' by reducing voter turn-out. Those who use attack ads have the goal of reducing voter turn-out. It is a deliberate strategy of their campaigns," said May.
Many countries ban the use of television advertising for political parties, including the U.K., South Africa, Brazil, Belgium, Switzerland, Chile, Sweden, and Ireland. Attack ads are widely recognized to discourage democratic participation and cost an incredible amount of money, creating an enormous imbalance between the different parties.
In order to have open, fair and participatory election campaigns, Canada should ban the use of television for political advertising before and during the writ periods. Current Elections Canada rules limit political party spending on television ads during a writ period, but there are no controls at all on television ads outside a writ period. "We should rely on free access to the airwaves, organized by networks to allow candidates to explain their own views and policies, not attack the character and personal foibles of the opposition," said May.
"The banning of political advertisements would be an important first step in the renewal of democracy in Canada. I don't see why every party in Canada would not agree to this proposal - after all, it would be an excellent chance to speak about what really matters, policy and governance," said Deputy Green Leader Adriane Carr.