[Democracy Watch Logo] [Op-ed]

The following letter-to-the-editor, by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher, was the subject of a radio interview on CFRA Talk Radio (Ottawa) on January 5, 2007, and an article in the Ottawa Sun on January 6, 2007

Political misleaders must face high penalties 
to stop abuse of voters' rights

Dear Editor:

The switching by federal Liberal MP Wajid Khan to the Conservatives is a symptom of a very undemocratic problem in Canada that must be solved as soon as possible.

Under the heading "Democratic Rights" in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms there are the words "Every citizen has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly" in a province or territory.

This fundamental right has been violated many times in the past decade by candidates, party leaders, and party platforms misleading voters with false promises, and by switching directions after the election in ways they did not inform voters about before the election.

In fact, it is impossible for Canadians to make the choices needed to vote meaningfully as long as lying to voters is allowed.

To stop this rampant abuse of voters, politicians must be required to resign and run in a by-election if they want to switch parties between elections, party leaders must be required to pay a very large fine if they break election promises, and all politicians and government officials must be required to pay a very large fine if they lie to voters at any time.

Of course, special situations may arise and as a result party-switching should be allowed if a party switches directions completely, and promise-breaking allowed if an unforeseeable situation arises.  However, to ensure that these exceptions are not used as a convenient excuse, the ethics enforcement officers in all governments must be given the power to review and rule on complaints about misleading actions and statements.

If politicians across Canada do not pass strong honesty-in-politics laws including the measures set out above within the next few months, they will show more clearly than ever how little they care about voters.

Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Democracy Watch

Democracy Watch's Honesty in Politics Campaign

Please donate online now to government accountability and corporate responsibility

Democracy Watch homepage