Election Libel Watch

The Globe and Mail has reported that an NDP candidate has filed a complaint with Elections Canada against a Liberal candidate. The story is available on the front page of the Globe’s Decision 2006 page.

Now, a complaint with Elections Canada is apparently not public information. The Globe quotes a spokesperson in the story as saying that EC never confirms if it has a complaint. The Globe did get a copy of the complaint and quotes it extensively.

You will notice that I have not described the allegation in the complaint. Nor have I linked to the story. KOB is our resident media law expert, and I’ll let him look over the story before I link to anything libelous. Needless to say, the Globe better be sure the accusations are correct – the Liberal candidate has yet to be charged (the Globe actually points out that EC investigations sometimes take years).

Look out for how different media cover this story and how extensively they quote the NDP candidate’s letter. I’ll link to what I can, when I can. Watch for updates.

Update – 17:10 EST

The CBC is reporting on the front page of their Canada Votes section that the Liberal Party has axed the Liberal candidate named in the NDP complaint. Their story quotes from the EC complaint letter, written by the NDP candidate as well. I’m still not linking to stories unless KOB reads them and finds they are not libelous. To the best of my knowledge, both these stories contain libel.

Update – 17:20 EST

Canada.com is also reporting that the Liberal candidate has been asked not to campaign as a Liberal any more and will be not be permitted to sit as part of the Liberal caucus if he wins his riding. The story is safer – not quoting directly from the EC complaint letter (perhaps CanWest doesn’t have a copy) but it still paraphrases accusations from the NDP candidate.

Update – 17:55 EST

The Liberal Party press release is libel-proof (not surprisingly). It’s as much information as this site can offer right now, but I am linking to publicly availably sources and not to the article itself, so I’m sure this won’t be news to any of you.

Statement from the Liberal Party of Canada January 13, 2006

Ottawa – It came to our attention today through media reports that the NDP candidate in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Jeffery Hansen-Carlson had signed a sworn affidavit in respect of the conduct of the Liberal candidate in Abbotsford, David Oliver.

Subsequent to consultations with the National Campaign, Prime Minister Martin decided that it was in the best interests of the party that Mr. Oliver cease campaigning as a Liberal candidate and that he not sit in the Liberal Caucus should he be elected.

The Prime Minister has directed that the Liberal Party of Canada refund to Elections Canada any funds that will accrue to the Party under Elections Canada’s $1.75 per vote party financing system as a result of any votes garnered by Mr. Oliver on January 23rd.

The National Liberal campaign will also recalculate its campaign spending on the basis of 307 candidates. In the interest of fairness, the Prime Minister has asked Mr. Oliver to no longer publicly identify himself as the Liberal candidate.

Finally, he has directed the British Columbia Liberal campaign to re-possess any Liberal party promotional material bearing Mr. Oliver’s name.


  1. Yeah, I’ve looked over most of the coverage. None of it quotes oliver, and the majority of media outlets seem to take the Liberal comments as sufficient for consent; this, natch, isn’t true. You can’t really libel the Liebral Party of Canada. It generally does libel Mr. Oliver.

    Now, whether or not they’ll get sued over it is the question that drives most in the business. Affidavits are simply sworn statements; until they are read in court, they are not protected by any sort of privilege.

    Canada needs a really good libel case to spell out just how far the media can go. I may elaborate more on this once I’ve slept.

  2. Hello,

    This is Ben, I am second-year student at Carleton (some of you will know me), long time reader, one time listener, and first-time caller. I have only had the pleasure of two Media Law courses and counting so I will defer to the resident libel experts and focus on what I thought was the second problem with this story. It can be said of nearly every breaking story, but now it has been a while and still no background or context. No sources I came across felt any background information about the riding was necessary.

    The Province Jan. 15

    “The Liberals have seized Oliver’s campaign material and have promised to return any money to Elections Canada that the Liberals earn in the riding under legislation that gives parties $1.75 in federal funding for each vote they win.”

    Surely a rough idea of how many votes the Liberals are expecting or how many they received last time may be helpful. I am from Abbotsford and anyone who was there in the last election can tell you that nothing could stop the Conservatives. Not even national news about the Abbotsford Conservative candidate Randy White famously declaring (election weekend)

    “Well, the heck with the courts, eh. You know, one of these days we in this country are going to stand up and say, ‘The politicians make the laws and the courts do not”

    For anyone who was under a rock last election White’s comments were concerning his commitment to stop gay marriage at all costs (including the use of the notwithstanding clause). Liberals capitalized making White the embodiment of the hidden agenda they alleged and Canadians feared.

    White handily won in the staunchly Conservative riding of Abbotsford (still most churches per capita in Canada as far as I know). White did not manage the 60% he had predicted, but beating the Liberal by nearly 20,000 in spite of his comments can hardly be considered a failure. The Liberals only received 9,617 votes last time, I can’t see them getting more than 5, 000 this time. I think the Liberals can spare $8,000 for Elections Canada.

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