Why is it controversial? The ad was published in the North Bay Nugget on September 23rd, 2008 (during the writ period) and it doesn’t appear to contain the words “approved by the official agent for Anthony Rota”. If my eyes do not deceive me, this would be in contravention of s.320 and s.321 of the Elections Act.
Those sections are,
320. A candidate or registered party, or a person acting on their behalf, who causes election advertising to be conducted shall mention in or on the message that its transmission was authorized by the official agent of the candidate or by the registered agent of the party, as the case may be.
321. (1) No person shall knowingly conduct election advertising or cause it to be conducted using a means of transmission of the Government of Canada.
(2) For the purpose of subsection (1), a person includes a group within the meaning of Part 17.
This appears to be an ad authorized by Anthony Rota as an MP. If that’s the case, he’s advertising himself (he’s now a candidate) using his MP office.
UPDATE: Rota’s campaign explains that the ads were bought prior to the writ drop. According to them, this makes it legal. Since Rota couldn’t have known when the writ period was going to be, this is an understandable oversight. However, according to my reading of the law, the act is clear on these two sections. Rota should have cancelled the ads. I wouldn’t accuse Rota of cheating because of this. Instead, I’d chalk it up to an unfortunate coincidence that could be interpreted as a violation of the Act.
Elections Canada disagrees and claims that the content doesn’t appear to be election advertising. Then again, Elections Canada is quite a subjective arbiter on what constitutes election advertising and in who’s name elections advertising is done (MP/candidate and federal/local). I suppose the Prime Minister now has the green light to circumvent the spending limit by buying the back page of every single paper in the country (with taxpayer money, natch) to say “Hi, I’m the PM” and as long as he doesn’t say “Vote for me, I’m the PM”, it’s all good.
More than 300 people have taken the trouble this month to complain to the CBC ombudsman about a column we ran on CBCNews.ca about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Sept. 5.
The column, by award-winning freelance writer Heather Mallick, was also pilloried by the National Post in Canada and by Fox News in the U.S. Despite its age — it is three weeks old, several lifetimes in web years — this posting remains a subject of fascination in the blogosphere.
Vince Carlin, the CBC ombudsman, has now issued his assessment of the Mallick column. He doesn’t fault her for riling readers by either the caustic nature of her tone or the polarizing nature of her opinion.
But he objects that many of her most savage assertions lack a basis in fact. And he is certainly correct.
Mallick’s column is a classic piece of political invective. It is viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan.
And because it is all those things, this column should not have appeared on the CBCNews.ca site.
On the whole, the CBC News policy handbook takes a very anxious view of any mixing of opinion in with the news business. It sees the two as nitro and glycerin, innocuous on their own but explosive together. This is a very healthy restraint for a public broadcaster.
But every news organization needs to have an opinion dimension. Access to different viewpoints helps readers, listeners and viewers make reasoned choices, especially during an election campaign.
As a public broadcaster we have an added responsibility to provide an array of opinions and voices to complement our journalism. But we must do so carefully. And you should be able to trust us to provide you with work that’s based on solid reporting and free from the passionate excesses of partisanship.
We failed you in this case. And as a result we have put new editing procedures in place to ensure that in the future, work that is not appropriate for our platforms, will not appear. We are open to contentious reasoned argument but not to partisan attack. It’s a fine line.
Ombudsman Carlin makes another significant observation in his response to complainants: when it does choose to print opinion, CBCNews.ca displays a very narrow range on its pages.
In this, Carlin is also correct.
This, too, is being immediately addressed. CBCNews.ca will soon expand the diversity of voices and opinions and be home to a diverse group of writers with many perspectives. In this, we will better reflect the depth and texture of this country.
We erred in our editorial judgment. You told us in no uncertain terms. And we have learned from it.
Here was CBC ombudsman Vince Carlin’s assessment of the complaints that followed Mallick’s column,