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Electoral Reform Part Two

Web posted on September 08, 2016

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

Robocalls by any party, organization or group for any reason, except Elections Canada under extreme circumstances, during an election campaign must be outlawed, with serious consequences for the individual including a lifetime ban on voting in any election, and obviously holding elected office. I realize that voting is a right, but I also feel that interfering with the right to vote, and interfering with the election process should result in losing the right to vote. The punishment should fit the crime. There should also be some serious (several hundred hours minimum) and demeaning community service time. The ideal thing would picking up goose poop with tweezers along river banks, and cleaning up in the off leash dog parks. There should also be a substantial fine, at least five figures. The fine for the party or organization should be six figures. All calls from political parties and organizations must come from a real person one call at a time, the old fashioned way. They should have to do some real work to get our votes. The last thing I want to hear is a robocall from a party leader begging for my vote. The same would go for unsolicited emails. Buying mailing lists for election purposes must also be illegal. Instead of incessantly whining (we all know who they are) about what happened in 2011, let's make sure that the penalties are strong enough that it will never happen again.

There must be more televised leaders debates with mandatory attendance. With a 28 day campaign, there should be time for two preferably three leaders debates in each official language. Only questions submitted by voters could be used. We need real questions asked by real voters, not the softball questions asked by reporters or moderators. The questions could be pre recorded or live. That should make them squirm. Debates need to be organized by an independent agency rather than allow the broadcasters to do it Broadcasters should only be responsible for providing air time. The moderator should come from a group like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The same concept should apply to televised debates at the local level. The only local televised debate was a debacle at best. No candidate should have been expected to put up with that formula. I had to give up before the end of the first hour. Local cable channels must also be required to televise as many candidate meetings and forums as possible. It would give greater incentive for all of the candidates to show up if they knew that their lack of participation would be obvious. Of course, exemptions could be given in the ridings of the party leaders. With more debates televised, there would be room for more themed debates, rather than the current formula. There needs to be more time for meaningful discussions without a pathetic 30 second time limit. All questions must come from the audience, either live or selected from written questions submitted. A more suitable venue such as Fox Auditorium (Ross Hall as most of us know it), War Memorial Hall, or River Run, with room for a decent sized audience should be used. High school or university students could do a better job of organizing a local debate than done by local groups in the past.

There are different rules at different levels on third party advertising. I would like to see the rules standardized for both federal and provincial elections. All groups including the ones on the internet must live under the same rules as the political parties. Advertising would only be allowed during the actual campaign. With fixed campaign start dates this would be easy to do and enforce. Any organization wishing to advertise during an election campaign must maintain an office in each riding, plus a national/provincial office. I want to be able to visit an office and talk to someone, just like at a candidate's office. These offices cannot be located in any facility owned or run by any contributor. All groups must be registered at least 90 days prior to the election call. All advertising must include the name of the head of the organization, and the fact that they a third party group wishing to influence the outcome of the election and their affiliation. The web site must include information on who is really backing the group. I want to know who these anonymous people are. They should never be allowed to hide behind a fancy name. I am tired of all of the groups (of all political stripes) that crawl out of some swamp around every election. Who they are is more important to me than their message. Financial contributions would have the same limits as the parties have, with the exception of tax deductions. Disclosure would also be the same. I realize that some of these ideas are already in place, but the rules have to be made much stronger and enforced.

Advertising would be allowed up to 90 days before the election date. A 90 day moratorium would be in place prior to the election. Web sites must also be shut down for 90 days, with only a bare minimum home page. Then the election rules would kick in. This would also apply this to all government advertising as well.

I would like to see strict limits on advertising. The amount of advertising during the last election was excessive to the point that I was completely tuning it out. Advertising should be limited to the last two weeks of the campaign. No amount of advertising is a substitute for a well run debate with the right questions being asked.

There has been some movement on campaign contributions, however, I am still not happy with what is being done. I would like to see stricter limits than proposed. I agree with the concept of no corporate or union contributions. I would expand that ban to contributions from special interest groups. Individuals would be restricted to a maximum of one to two thousand dollars (to be determined by an independent group) split between local and federal/provincial campaigns. Tax deductions would be on a sliding scale, with the first $250 being 100% deductible, and decreasing deduction rates as the size of the contribution increases. This should encourage more people to make smaller contributions. I would also like to see some serious reform of fund raising by political parties, but that's a whole different can of worms.

More to come....


Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at news@thefountainpen.com

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.


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