Group Calls on Media to Ask Ontario Party Leaders "If You Break Promises, Will You Resign?" and Calls for Effective "Honesty-in-Politics" Law
"Promises make politicians all warm and fuzzy, but don't make one homeless person warm."
- Dry, former homeless person, on CBC Radio (December 27, 2005)
"When all is said and done, more is said than done."
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
OTTAWA - Today, with dozens of election promises already pitched by all the Ontario political parties, Democracy Watch called on media outlets across the province to ask political party leaders and candidates whether they will resign if they break their promises to voters, and whether they will pass an "honesty in politics" law if they form the next government.
The election debate this Thursday evening is the perfect time for the media to pose these two key voter-rights-protecting questions.
"If they want voters' trust, all party leaders must pledge to resign if they break their promises, and pledge to pass a law making it easy for voters to challenge dishonesty by politicians and other public officials," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and chairperson of the nation-wide Government Ethics Coalition. "If the media fail to challenge party leaders on these key pledges, they will be helping the leaders mislead voters and escape effective accountability for promise-breaking and day-to-day dishonesty in politics."
Democracy Watch called on all the provincial parties to promise they will pass a law making it illegal for all provincial politicians, political staff, Cabinet appointees and all other provincial public officials to mislead the public or be dishonest, and giving citizens an easy way to file a complaint with the provincial Integrity Commissioner, and giving the Commissioner the power to impose very high fines for dishonesty.
Democracy Watch will be writing to each of the party leaders asking them to pledge to resign if they break their promises, and to pledge to pass an honesty-in-politics law.
"Ontarians are sick of politicians baiting voters with promises, and then switching direction when they win power," said Conacher. "The cynicism-breeding habit of politicians and public officials misleading the public will only be stopped if Canadians have an easy way to challenge dishonesty, and have the misleader punished, similar to the relatively easy way that exists to challenge corporations and corporate executives that are dishonest."
If any Canadian corporation lies in its advertising, only six Canadians need to sign and send a letter to the Competition Bureau and the Bureau must investigate and determine whether the corporation lied, and what corrective measures are required. If any corporation or corporate executive misleads their shareholders, the shareholders have the right to go to court and seek compensation.
During federal election campaigns, and during elections in every province and territory except Quebec and New Brunswick, it is illegal for anyone to lie about a candidate, but it is only illegal in B.C.
for a candidate to make false statements about what they promise to do or what they have done. However, the B.C. system for challenging election lies is too costly and inaccessible to citizens.
According to the Elections Canada-commissioned poll of almost 1,000 non-voters from the 2000 federal election (the only recent, comprehensive poll of non-voters), the highest-ranked reason for decreased interest in politics by non-voters was "false promises / dishonesty / lack of confidence in politicians" while the second-highest ranked change that would make non-voters more interested in politics was "more honesty, responsibility, accountability" in government.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Democracy Watch's Ontario Election campaign page: