Election Called, Media in Crisis, International Observers Called In
Yesterday Prime Minister Harper dropped the election writ, and Canada is now in it's 42nd election since confederation. There has been much speculation around the timing of the writ dropping. This election will be one of the longest and most costliest elections in modern times, which could cost Canadian tax payers close to $1 billion+ when all is said and done at a time of economic instability, and recession.
The majority of those costs (an est. $500 million) will be dished out to Elections Canada to handle the longer election cycle for staff, offices, and supplies. The rest will be the tax payers shouldering costs to political parties. 50% - 75% of the expenses political parties incur during this election will be reimbursed by the tax payer. With the longer campaign parties can spend a lot more money on advertising. When Harper was questioned on the expenses to Canadian tax payers, he replied that there will be no cost to tax payers as a result of the length of the election period. What?
The political influence in media is becoming a very interesting side story to the debates. I've posted extensively on this here, here and here. Over this past week the NDP dropped out of the consortium debates, and issued a list of demands for future debates. The NDP demands (emphasis added) are:
- The host organization is credible and non partisan
- The proposed topics to be discussed are varied and relevant to a large number of Canadians; and
- The Prime Minister and other political party leaders are invited and have agreed to participate
- The NDP will participate in an equal number of French and English language debates
This is an interesting update. While many in the media focused on the NDP decision not to attend the consortium debates was explicitly due to Harper's refusal to attend; from the above demands it looks like NDP want to debate ALL parties leaders including Steven Harper. It also looks as though the NDP are having issues with the Consortium being bias towards the Liberal party, to which I've discussed in great detail in other blogs.
That bias was very visible especially with the CBC coverage of the election call which pointed to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau being the most "ready" for the election, while Trudeau seemed extremely uptight, reading from cue cards, and late to his speech. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair looked a bit rattled as well during his speech reading from a teleprompter and not answering any questions. The leader that looked more ready out of the bunch to me was Green Party leader Elizabeth May. May seemed rather relaxed, ready to go, and the only leader out of the opposition parties not reading from cue cards, or teleprompters. I'm very curious as to why CBC pointed towards Trudeau as being the most ready out of the bunch, when that's not clearly the case.
While the NDP hasn't come out fully accusing the consortium of bias, the political messaging around their demands looks to be quite clear. The Consortium debates are essentially dead now and other debates may fall by-the-way-side as well. From the looks of the last line of the NDP demands that might actually happen. So far there has been only one French language debate confirmed. That means right now the NDP will only commit to one English language debate, to which the first of those debates is scheduled for Thursday August 6th, and all political parties will be attending that debate.
On top of the media consortium having a crisis of ethics, we now have confirmation that the Organization for Security and Economic Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will be monitoring our federal election. The OSCE is an international body that specializes in monitoring elections, and their presence in this election is to ensure that the election laws recently passed by the Conservatives allow for a free and fair election, and to ensure that these laws are consistent in ensuring democracy can take place. The OSCE will release it's final report to the Canadian public eight weeks after the election.
The Fair Elections Act which was passed by the Conservatives will not allow Canadians living abroad to vote in the next election. Actor Donald Sutherland recently posted an op-ed in the Globe and Mail in which he blasted the Conservatives in taking away his right to vote. Sutherland stated:
"It’s very sad. And this new “Canada,” this Canadian government that has taken the true Canada’s place, has furiously promoted a law that denies its citizens around the world the right to vote. Why? Is it because they’re afraid we’ll vote to return to a government that will once again represent the values that the rest of the world looked up to us for? Maybe."
There was also a court challenge on the fair elections act. The courts decided not to strike down the law so close to an election, stating that it might appear the courts would be influencing the vote if they did. The courts determined that the issues with the fair elections act were extremely serious, and likely to be dealt with after the election. This means that if there are any court challenges on the election (look to that also coming from Canadians living abroad), this will be one of the most costliest elections in Canadian history to Canadian tax payers.
While the Conservatives shoulder a lot of the blame for this, the media shoulders the other half. If in fact we have media being influenced by any political party and not fully educating Canadians on the facts due to political influences and favors, than we've already lost our democracy, and I think that will play out with the OSCE report and substantive court challenges that are sure to follow as a result.