OTTAWA – The Green Party has renewed its call for federal privacy laws to apply to political parties, part of a comprehensive package of proposed reforms to the Canada Elections Act designed to protect personal privacy, eliminate voter suppression and address the growing problem of misleading election advertising.
The proposed changes to the Canada Elections Act are laid out in a submission to the Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perrault, in response to a series of discussion papers on “Political Communications in the Digital Age.” They include:
- Expand federal privacy laws to apply to all federal political parties. A good model is the B.C.’s Personal Information Protection Act, which removed special protection for political parties.
- Address voter suppression tactics such as attack ads and misleading or untruthful election advertising by banning television and radio ads by political parties and third parties. Political broadcast ads are already banned in many countries of the European Union.
- Impose truth-in-advertising standards on political ads, giving citizens the right to complain about ads they believe are untrue and requiring parties to retract, correct and apologize when complaints are upheld.
Addressing the role of social media in the political process, the Green Party parliamentary leader and critic for democratic institutions and electoral reform, Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands), said that deep reforms, reaching beyond the confines of the election cycle, are needed.
“We must stop clinging to the fiction that the digital giants provide a neutral platform,” she said. “They are publishers and should be treated as such. Their existence as ‘platforms’ allows them to scoop advertising dollars from Canadian local media, undermining our democracy as we lose local newspapers. The ‘platform’ fiction also allows these publishers to avoid their legal responsibility to obey Canadian slander and libel laws.”
The Green Party submission also calls for a review of antitrust and competition laws to reverse the increasing centralization of news media ownership.
“The integrity of the electoral process is fundamental to a strong, functioning democracy,” said Green Party Interim Leader Jo-Ann Roberts. “The legislative changes we are proposing will help to restore public trust and confidence in our elections.”
** Letter to Stéphane Perrault, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, attached
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