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The following letter-to-the-editor, by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher,
was the subject of radio interviews on The New 940 (Montreal) on December 22, 2006, and on CKNW Talk Radio (Vancouver) on December 28, 2006, was published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in early January 2007 and in the Hill Times on January 8, 2007, and was the subject of an article in the January 11, 2007 of The Georgia Straight

Media Helps Prime Minister Mislead Canadians on
so-called "Federal Accountability Act"

Dear Editor:

If a sports team scored 60 percent as many points as they pledged to score before a game, even though they had every opportunity to score 100 percent, no sports reporters would congratulate them on their success.  Nor would any sports reporter applaud a team that won only 60 percent of the games the team promised to win.

If a movie reviewer went to a movie promised to be 100 minutes long and it ended after 60 minutes, the movie would very likely be viciously criticized as a rip-off and its director as a fraud.

If a corporate CEO promised a 100 percent return, but only delivered 60 percent, business reporters would charge her with misleading shareholders.

Yet most political reporters and media outlets have applauded Prime Minister Stephen Harper for successfully keeping his election promise to pass the "Federal Accountability Act" (FAA), and many have repeated (without question or qualification) the PM's claim that "accountability in government is now the law" and Treasury Board John Baird's claim that the Conservatives have delivered "clean government" as a Christmas gift to Canadians, even though:

  • the FAA only contains 30 of the 52 measures (60 percent) that Harper and the Conservatives promised;
  • the FAA also repeals key ethics rules for the PM, Cabinet ministers, their staff and senior government officials;
  • Harper and the Conservatives claimed all 52 measures were needed to clean up the federal government and make it accountable;
  • the Conservatives rejected all attempts by opposition parties to add most of the 22 measures and ethics rules that the Conservatives promised to include in the FAA, and;
  • despite Parliament passing the FAA into law, the following measures included in the FAA will not even happen unless the federal Cabinet approves them (and the Cabinet is not required to approve them ever): 
    • measures changing the federal Access to Information Act; 
    • measures changing the ethics rules and enforcement system for Cabinet ministers, their staff and senior government officials; 
    • measures changing the federal Lobbyist Registration Act and lobbying enforcement system;
    • the establishment of the Public Appointments Commission, and;
    • the establishment of the Procurement Ombudsman.
The applauding of the passage of the FAA is only one of many examples that could be cited of political reporters and editors neglecting to point out politicians' false claims and broken promises, which not only encourages politicians to lie to voters and break promises, but also violates the fundamental journalistic principles of accuracy and objectivity.

Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Democracy Watch

To see a summary of the key measures in Bill C-2, the so-called Federal Accountability Act, click here

To see a summary of the 85 undemocratic loopholes in the federal government's accountability system that Bill C-2 does nothing to close, click here

To see the details about the ethics complaint Democracy Watch has filed about the Conservatives' breaking their election promises concerning Bill C-2, click here

To see an opinion piece about Bill C-2 by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in two Canadian newspapers, click here

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