Attack ads are all about creating wedge issues. Because of the ridiculous length of the federal election campaign and the huge wad of cash the Conservatives had to throw around, the public has been subjected to attack ads for over two years.
The purpose of attack ads are to confuse information and promote anger, divisiveness and fearfulness. It culminates in malice, hyper partisanship and polarized debate. All of which is absolutely American and completely contrary to the Canadian character of civility and inclusivity.
Christopher Holcroft head of the non-partisan group, Civil Election, aims to see citizen engagement and civil discourse returned to Canadian politics. In a CBC Radio interview, Holcroft said, “attack ads are not helpful for building the kind of democracy that we want to build and allow us to have an exchange of ideas on the serious public policy issues that affect our day-to-day lives.” Such as publically funded health care which has all but been ignored this election.
Instead Canadians have spent the vast majority of the last two years listening to attack ads on nice hair and debating head covers worn by women. Although I might add with nary a mention of those offensive ball caps that seems to adorn male heads everywhere–at dinner tables, churches, even weddings!
Civil Election has drawn up several recommendations as a response to the results of a survey that says Canadians are in for the nastiest and most divisive election ever and it’s only going to get nastier and meaner in the last week leading up to the election.
Civil Election recommends the next government seriously consider implementing the following changes: (1.) Develop a code of conduct for political advertising. (2.) Amend the rules around campaign spending and fix the Fair Elections Act. (3.) Set up a permanent, non-partisan committee to organize national leader’s debates during elections and provide tools to grassroots community groups planning all-candidates’ meetings at the local riding level. (4.) Strengthen civic literacy.
Two additions could also be included: (1.) the elimination of fixed election dates as they inevitably lead to longer, nasty American-style campaigns; and (2.) stringent restrictions for government advertising between elections to protect taxpayers from blatant partisan advertising under the guise of doing the people’s business.
The Canadian Press also has been reporting that Elections Canada is quietly warning staff to be on the lookout for increasingly sophisticated ways to keep people away from the polls. In the United States, intensive data analysis on data bases allow political parties to zero in on people who support rival candidates and find ways to prevent them from voting. Of course, this already happened during the last election when the Conservative data base was used for robocalls to send supporters of rival candidates to the wrong polls.
This election is not as much about the economy, jobs or even hair–it’s about the underpinning fabric of Canadian politics. There are two distinct camps, those who promote the Americanization of Canadian politics and those who have said they would strive to return reason and civility to Canadian elections and the House of Commons. The choices are absolutely clear and on October 19th Canadians will have the final say.
And thank God the marathon federal election will be over.