Chances are you will have heard the term “fake news” and concerns of alleged and actual uses of inaccurate information to unduly influence an election result.
While this remains a hot button issue south of our border, we have also had a real example of this here in Canada.
During the recent Burnaby South by-election, NDP candidate and party leader Jagmeet Singh was featured in an inaccurate news story suggesting Mr. Singh resided in what was described as a “$5.5-million dollar mansion resplendent with ornate staircases and murals painted on ceilings”.
For the record Mr. Singh lives in no such residence.
The incorrect story, as is often the case, was circulated in many social media circles, often by political opponents of Mr. Singh.
It is currently unknown who was ultimately responsible.
What is more troubling is that inaccurate news stories can be sourced from third party organizations or individuals from other countries who may refuse to respect or cooperate with the laws of Canada or other countries.
With our Canadian federal election approaching in October, similar concerns have been raised over the potential for electoral interference occurring during this time period.
This week the Liberal government released the rules they will be creating in response to these concerns.
Ultimately it will be a group of unelected senior public servants in Ottawa who will decide if an incident that occurs is considered to be electoral interference or not.
This group is made up of the Clerk of the Privy Council, the national security adviser to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Minister of Justice, the Deputy Minister of Public Safety and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In the event they believe a situation is an act of intended electoral interference they will notify the Prime Minister, the leaders of the other political parties as well as Elections Canada and an announcement providing further information will be forthcoming.
The challenge is that there is no actual definition of what type of incident or situation is defined as “interference”.
This decision will be up to the discretion of the people involved, who typically have often been appointed by the Prime Minister.
In this case the Prime Minister will not have the power to veto this process, if it concludes that an event or situation has transpired.
Some who follow Ottawa very closely will know that statements made by the former Clerk of the Privy Council during the SNC Lavalin/Justice Committee hearings were criticized by many journalists and pundits alike for being overtly partisan.
I can state that I would not have confidence in this process if the former Clerk had not retired after losing confidence of the other Party leaders.
My question this week:
Do you have confidence that this process will effectively prevent or otherwise discourage outside electoral interference during the election?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.