Why is the CBC is above the law?

The setup, from Kris Sims:

OTTAWA – The CBC isn’t getting taken to the woodshed for airing vote results to western Canada on election night.

In a letter to a complainant in British Columbia, Elections Canada said since the state broadcaster didn’t intend for their signal to hit screens in the west, no penalties will be dealt.

The law in question is the Canadian Elections Act, specifically s.329:

329. No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.

This particular law was under debate during the last federal election and in my role as Director of the National Citizens Coalition, I participated in a number of television, newspaper and radio interviews on this terrible section of the Act. It also seems to be one of those topics that I write about during each time an election rolls around. Also, I usually pull Blogging Tories offline for three hours during election night in order to comply with the Act.

If, for some reason, it isn’t immediately apparent was is wrong with the law, in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, it is unreasonable for Elections Canada to expect individual Canadians to keep Eastern results to themselves when many are ignorant of the details of the Act. Further, while there is the ideal of fair elections to respect, there is also the principle of free expression. Legislators must create laws that recognize and move with reality, not try to shape new ones.

The National Citizens Coalition has history with this section of the Elections Act. In 2000, a BC webmaster named Paul Bryan published election night results from the east coast on his website and was subsequently charged under the Act. The National Citizens Coalition bankrolled his fight through the BC Supreme Court through the BC Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada where s.329 was deemed constitutional and legal because it ensured “informational equality”.

Yet, lets understand “informational reality” while aiming to safeguard “informational equality” at the same time. When the tools of mass communication can exist in anyone’s hands, one must recognize a new truth. The mandate of Elections Canada is to protect the integrity of election results. In truth, the onus of protecting against premature transmission lies with them. They are the custodians of this information, in fact they likely swear an oath to protect it. To ensure “informational equality”, Elections Canada should keep all poll boxes sealed until polls close in British Columbia. Former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley complains that this approach means Canadians won’t get “timely” results (in this age of mass media, no less). Yet, a higher principle of freedom of speech exists for Canadians who are unbound by any mandate to protect the information of Elections Canada.

While mass media technologists armed with Twitter faced fines of up to $25,000 for tweeting election results, the CBC accidentally broadcasted the same to all of their viewers. Because there was no intent, Elections Canada argues, CBC will skate free. Yet, tweeters ignorant of the law (most of them) faced crushing fines.

This also brings the fair and equitable application of the law by Elections Canada on some parties versus others. How is it we see progressive champions of progressivism at the CBC save themselves from what would amount to chump change for the Crown corporation while the small guy gets a hefty fine? Why can Elections Canada shrug its shoulders at the CBC but yet force a seven year $1 million Supreme Court fight for someone that wouldn’t have had a voice without the good financial supporters of the National Citizens Coalition? Why is it that Elections Canada raids Conservative Party offices over the “in-and-out” scheme where it has been shown that all parties have participated in one form or another of the same scheme? Why is it that the Manning Centre cannot register as a charity and do political work, while David Suzuki’s charity plays politics frequently? When laws are seen to be applied unequally, existing-only-on-the-back-of-a-napkin-only-type organizations like the Broadbent Institute think that they can use the special tax status of a political party like the NDP to funnel contributions through and issue tax receipts.

Why is it that some laws in our society only exist to regulate some while elite institutions and causes need not worry about the same?

Jack Layton, 1950-2011

This morning I learned the terrible news of Jack Layton’s passing as the news spread instantly via Twitter. His final press conference in Ottawa this July left one feeling hopeful yet very anxious about the prospects of his return. Looking frail, weakened by a second bout of the disease, having fractured his hip during the campaign, the stomach was knotted.

And this morning, it sank. Cancer is a terrible disease, and all of us will be affected by it one day — either ourselves or with someone we love. In a pan-partisan sentiment today and in the future, Canadians are united to better understand and perhaps one day cure the many variations of this disease.

To most anyone that watches Ottawa, what goes in this city appears as bloodsport. Yet in truth it is quite a close-knit community. We are defined by our disagreements yet though we share a common desire — like most Canadians that democratically invest in this place — to make this country a better place. Though we disagree on the path to get there, we have a mutual respect and odd commonality that is an overzealous interest in the political.

Jack Layton and my friends in the NDP stand for many different ideas than I do. But I respect them because they stand for ideas and what they truly believe to be in Canada’s best interest. New Democrats are also fun to have a drink with because a discussion without disagreement is often too sober.

I feel modestly blessed to live in a country where the reaction to the passing of a political opponent is profound collective sadness.

Jack Layton was a decent man who fought passionately for his ideas. We will miss him.

God bless, rest well.

We demand transparency!

News broke yesterday about the CBC’s Radio Canada hiring former separatist leader Gilles Duceppe to host a show on the french-language network. Canadians are outraged and the story led the front pages of a number of Sun newspapers this morning.

When Mr. Duceppe was working to split up Canada from the House of Commons for twenty years in Ottawa he was collecting a paycheque from the Canadian taxpayer. Now that he’s a “retired” politician, he collects $141,000 per year in his gold-plated pension — also paid by the taxpayer.

If this isn’t outrageous enough, Duceppe has landed a gig at the state broadcaster. For a man working for independence for so many years, he’s always the first in line for a cheque from the Government of Canada.

This shows that the CBC isn’t even holding true to its mandate of being a supposed unifying cultural force for all Canadians. But leave it to the twisted logic of our state-run broadcaster to seek unity through division. And to think that’s what the cultural elites said what Sun News would do!

The final outrage? CBC won’t disclose what they’re we’re paying Duceppe as a state employee.

We here at the National Citizens Coalition are calling upon Heritage Minister James Moore to extend federal accountability to all Crown Corporations including the CBC. The Ontario Government has a “sunshine” law compels the disclosure of salaries of all taxpayer funded positions over $100,000. We’re calling for the same sort of law to be instated federally.

The CBC collects $1.1 Billion worth of taxpayer subsidy every year. How much of this are we using to further subsidize one of Quebec’s most visible separatist leaders?

Will you stand with us at the NCC and demand transparency? Click the recommend button if you want the CBC to account for the taxpayer dollars it’s wasting on separatism.

UPDATE: Gilles Duceppe has resigned!