The Harperites like to present themselves as advocates for law and order. But, Errol Mendes writes in the Globe and Mail, they do their best to undermine the rule of law. Consider their taxpayer funded propaganda machine:
Governments are allowed to advertise about services and programs that they are implementing, but when some of them are either untruthful, promote partisan positions or are not even authorised by Parliament, it becomes a vehicle to undermine the foundations of any democracy that values the spirit and letter of the rule of law.
Dalton McGuinty was no Boy Scout. But he realized that government advertising could be used for blatantly partisan purposes:
The McGuinty government brought in rules that requires all government ads to be reviewed and passed by the auditor-general. The holder of that office has the ability to stop clear partisan ads being funded by the taxpayer.
There is no such mechanism at the federal level:
The present national ads for the family benefits tax package would have been stopped dead in their tracks if we had a similar screening process of government ads at the federal level, especially given that they were not even passed by Parliament.
And Stephen Harper has devoted much of his energy to making sure that no such mechanism materializes:
Even back in 2000, while heading up the National Citizens Coalition, he launched court actions against the spending limits of third parties under the Canada Elections Act. With a challenge that seemed to ignore the need for ensuring electoral fairness, his conservative advocacy group used the argument of citizens’ freedom of speech to ask the courts to strike down limits on third-party funding beyond a $150,000 limit during the election campaign. He failed when the Supreme Court lectured him and his group that the law was needed for electoral fairness and a level playing field in order to prevent certain groups or individuals from dominating the media and the electoral process.
Now in government – and outside the electoral period – Mr. Harper has found a way for his government to flood the media with partisan propaganda to the tune of hundreds of millions of our dollars. If such democratic subterfuge has the same effect of unfairness before an election, then the Harper government is clearly undermining the spirit of the rule of law critical to fair elections. He has, in effect, made the government a third party that is allowed to spend potentially millions of dollars, making the actual limits in the election period illusory to some extent.
Empty barrels always make the most noise. And dictators love to pose as democrats.