Lately it has been coming up in the news that Ed Stelmach is considering implementing a gag law (similar to the federal one that Steven Harper used to oppose) that would restrict or eliminate third-party advertising during a provincial election.
The federal gag-law has been in and out of courts for years now and while there has traditionally been opposition to the law in Alberta, the courts outside of Alberta have held the law up as a justifiable restriction on free speech. The National Citizens Coalition went to court numerous times trying to get that law struck when Harper led them. Now that Harper is on the throne, it appears that the gag-law is no longer a priority.
The trend of governments in power trying their hardest to squash critical and open comment is disturbing and dangerous. This must be fought on every level.
I never would have thought that here in the heartland of individualism and open opinion (Alberta of course) that we would have our own Premier speaking of bringing in such legislation.
Those who support these kind of assaults on free-speech have always claimed that by allowing third-party advertising during elections, that the public could be wrongly swayed on their electoral choices. In the last election in Alberta, labor groups wasted union worker’s contributions to the tune of millions in order to run attack ads against the Progressive Conservative government. The outcome of these ads was for the left leaning parties to be decimated at the polls. The NDP lost party status in the legislature and Stelmach’s majority increased.
It is pretty obvious that third party advertising does not have much impact on the electorate in these situations. The voters are bright enough to see through the propoganda and make their electoral decision on their own.
As the impact of third-party advertising has been recently proven to be rather limited, why would Ed Stelmach be rumbling about banning such advertising? I can only assume that while it clearly did not impact the vote, the advertising hurt Eddie’s feelings. Eddie did not like such open criticism of his government and he is willing to stomp on free speech in order to stop that.
In the future there may be some important third-party voices to be heard at election time. These voices may be promoting property rights, environmental issues, crime issues or any number of concerns at the time that are being ignored by traditional parties. It is vital that citizen’s be allowed to put forth their opinions at election time.
Many people say they are tired of the endless partisan battles at election time. Well for people tired of that, keep in mind that the only voices legally allowed to speak during elections will be political parties if Ed Stelmach has his way. Remember, Stelmach is the man who likes to attack student bloggers with threats of legal action. He may seem like a sweety, but he sure gets his hackles up when some dare speak against him.
Free speech is a vital right and Ed Stelmach is threatening it.
That is a pretty high price to pay to spare Ed Stelmach’s feelings.