Truth in Advertising

I’ll be honest. I don’t watch a great deal of television. In fact I hardly turn the set on and the two hours I sat watching the Leaders’ Debate broke my evening watching record, for the year. What I do see on television is generally on those distracting screens which seem to predominate most bars these days. 
Last night after a film and poetry event in Regina, a few of us including the poets, went across the street for a beer. What drew my attention away from the conversation were the bright red and blue Conservative commercials attacking the Liberal platform and their leader, Michael Ignatieff. I want to make this clear. I am not a Liberal ( Liberal leaning readers of this blog probably just breathed a sign of relief) Even without the sound these ads were offensive.  

Now I do know that as hard as it seems for some of us to believe it, we do have a Canadian Code of Advertising Standards and I thought “Surely this must be over the line” So I looked. 

Under the heading Truth. Fairness. Accuracy advertizing standards says the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards is the criteria for acceptable standards for advertizing in Canada.

They apparently set the criteria for truthfulness, accuracy and fairness. Things were looking up. Perhaps I'd file a complaint.

Now I used to think that truth was truth – end of story, but I have come to understand that when it comes to telling stories, as the country and western song says “There are three sides to every story, yours, mine and the cold hard truth.”  Let me tell you. In political advertising, the cold, hard truth is hard to find.

Never the less I thought it might be a good time to bring, at least a few of the 14 clauses in the code to Stephen Harper’s attention because it seemed to me that the ads I saw broke quite a few of the rules.

Clause #1 under the heading Accuracy and Clarity says:

(a) Advertisements must not contain inaccurate or deceptive claims, statements, illustrations or representations, either direct or implied, with regard to a product or service. In assessing the truthfulness and accuracy of a message, the concern is not with the intent of the sender or precise legality of the presentation. Rather, the focus is on the message as received or perceived, i.e. the general impression conveyed by the advertisement.

(b) Advertisements must not omit relevant information in a manner that, in the result, is deceptive.

(c) All pertinent details of an advertised offer must be clearly and understandably stated.

(d) Disclaimers and asterisked or footnoted information must not contradict more prominent aspects of the message and should be located and presented in such a manner as to be clearly visible and/or audible.

(e) Both in principle and practice, all advertising claims and representations must be supportable. If the support on which an advertised claim or representation depends is test or survey data, such data must be reasonably competent and reliable, reflecting accepted principles of research design and execution that characterize the current state of the art. At the same time, however, such research should be economically and technically feasible, with due recognition of the various costs of doing business.

(f) The entity that is the advertiser in an advocacy advertisement must be clearly identified as the advertiser in either or both the audio or video portion of the advocacy advertisement.

Then clause #6, under Comparative Advertising it suggests:

Advertisements must not, unfairly, discredit, disparage or attack other products, services, advertisements or companies, or exaggerate the nature or importance of competitive differences.

And finally under #14, Superstitions and Fears:

Advertisements must not exploit superstitions or play upon fears to mislead the consumer.

You have seen these ads. What do you think?

So would or could the Advertizing Standards step in? 

Looking a little deeper you'll find that bottom line is that the code is not the law, as we might expect. Like so much Tory bafflegab the code is touted as “...the cornerstone of advertising self-regulation in Canada.”

Self regulation is no regulation. 

That is when I gave up.


Election Creativity

For an election campaign during which the candidates have scarcely mentioned the arts, there is a hell of a lot a election creativity out there. Some is subtle, some right off the wall. I particularly like this one.

Democracy is in Trouble

Get out and vote.
 One Election after another the number of Canadians who exercise their right to vote drops further and further. Not that you can blame them but, people it seems are becoming more and more disengaged from the process, fed up with the feeling that their vote doesn’t count.

Interestingly what seems to be missing from the discussion about why people don’t vote is input from the politicians. During the Leadership debate, Jack Layton was the only participant to even mention proportional representation; even then it was just for one fleeting moment. For the other three, it was as if Jack never even said the words.

During an election campaign you might think the leaders of the political parties would be crying from the roof tops “Vote. Vote. Vote”

Or, at the very least you would think, considering Canada’s dismal participation rate, Elections Canada should be engaged in a significant campaign to get people out to the polls.

The silence is deafening.

I don’t think Stephen Harper actually wants new voters added to the mix. He is hoping his tired old demographic gets off their couches and votes but, the hell with everyone else. Every party is trying to poach a few votes here and a few votes there. Harper wants the “ethnic vote”, The Liberals want the NDP vote. The NDP want the Liberals, and the Greens want a bit from everyone.

A majority of Canadians don’t want the Harper Conservatives but we might get stuck with him again. That government, despite Harper tells you, never represented a majority of Canadians and never will. Let’s be honest here. Neither will the Liberals.

When voters believe their votes won’t make any difference, or don't even count, they have little reason to bother. In my riding the Conservative candidate did get a majority in the last election, just over 50%. So what about the rest of us, the 48% that didn't want Tom Lukiwski? Take it from me, we have no representation in Ottawa. Our MP is invisible to us.That scenario is repeated all across the country. It doesn't make sense.

There is some hope however.

Stephen Harper tells us, again and again, that Canadians didn’t want this election. I think he is wrong. A record number of Canadians turned on their television sets to catch the leaders’ debate. In fact, 10,6000,000 Canadians tuned in to watch, perhaps not for the whole debate but at least for some of it. That is not bad for a debate that started before most people could make it home from work if they lived further from Ottawa than Western Ontario. Thousands of others watched in on line.

The media tells us that people are disengaged but, every single person I talk to is following the campaigns. The blogosphere, Face book, Twitter and YouTube have almost been taken over by the election. I am over whelmed by the amount of material being shared on line – opinions, rants, songs, photos, videos and news links.

I feel a shift. I no longer think a Harper majority is possible. He may hang on to a minority by the skin of his teeth, but that won’t last all that long. The opposition have to decide. Either sell out their principles and support Harper or for some sort of power sharing new government. For me, that would be an easy decision to make.

If nothing else I think the last few years of witnessing a broken parliamentary democracy have started to arouse the sleeping giant. Canadians are fed up. I believe that no matter if politicians like it or not, we will see some form of, much needed, electoral reform in this country.

So stand up, speak out and fight for change. Oh yeah, don't forget to vote

Why Would we Trust this Man?

Stephen Harper tries hard to make Canadians all believe that he is the one bastion of hope, standing tall against those who want to chip away at the very underpinnings of our democratic structure. I don’t think anything could be further from the truth.

From day one in this election Stephen Harper has raged on and on about the legitimacy of coalitions forgetting it seems that he was the first one to propose that option in our recent history. Harper has been saying, over and over, how it isn’t democratic to try and be Prime Minister, if your party came second in the election.

So, one of my favourite moments in the debate this week was when Gilles Duceppe shared with us the time and place where Harper had called Jack Layton  and him together to propose exactly that. If the opportunity arose, they would take Paul Martin down and to propose to the Governor General that he, Steven Harper take over as PM. Harper’s nose grew another inch right on the spot.

Harper gave us the clearest insight into his thinking when he rejected the opposition leaders’ arguments saying, “I simply don’t accept the truth of those attacks." Those were the most honest words spoken by our PM, this whole campaign.

I could go on and on and on. It come so naturally to him I am not sure he really knows he is doing it any more.

I cannot remember  being so disappointed in a Prime Minister in my sixty six years. It is time for him to go Canada.

Please vote..


Generally it is not a Good Idea to Misquote Fraser

On the day of the leaders' debate (Well most of the leaders anyway) I find the Shelia Fraser story about G8 spending the most interesting.

No, not the story about her being unable to release her investigation of G8 - G20 spending.

The Conservative members of a parliamentary committee looking into the costs around the G8 and G20 summits dropped a quote from Fraser into their report. The report Fraser as saying: "We found that the processes and controls around that were very good, and that moneys were spent as they were intended to be spent."

Apparently Fraser's quote which went back to 2004, actually referred to the previous Liberal government spending.

As you might imagine, Shelia Fraser was rather annoyed about the misrepresentation.

The Conservatives, caught yet again, have apologized.

It is all about trust, isn't it?

Is anyone still thinking majority?

OK Folks - Where are we?

I don't think I can say I have been watching this election campaign more closely than I have others but, no question, this one has has intrigued, mystified and annoyed.

I just have to assume that most people just don't pay attention.

Then there is the debate. Over a million Green supporters are denied the opportunity to see their leader in action by that infamous consortium of TV executives. The same members of television's brain trust, decided the best time to schedule the debate. If you live west of Manitoba there is not a chance that you can get home from work before the debate starts. Oh yeah, it also doesn't interfere with prime time which would erode high commercial revenue. Ask your self. What is more important.
I am no economist but...ask your self.
Does this make sense to you?

So, where are we going with all this? There are the polls but I am not sure the pollsters give us answers, or if they simply push voter's opinions in one direction or another. No matter which, I do find the trends troubling. I am not sure how Canadians can be so disconnected from reality?

So in my continuing efforts to get people to think about things before they vote, I suggest you take a look at what Some Guy has to say.


Seven Bridges Road

There Should be a Song
OK, enough about the election.

After a long, make that a very long winter, spring has arrived with enthusiasm in Saskatchewan.

Rather than staying home and watching the snow melt - which should not be diminished as a spring pastime - we decided to see how things were coming along outside the city. I am fond of driving down Seven Bridges Road (There should be a song, don't you think?) and into Lumsden. Unfortunately by the time we hit bridge one, or seven I suppose, depending on your direction, we hit high water.

We had no choice but to turn around and find another route.

Spring Run-off Just Before the Bridge

Henry Mintzberg on Sunday Morning

Listening to CBC Radio's Sunday Morning this morning I was taken in by Michael Enright's interview with Henry Mintzberg, who is Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University.

I have reproduced a part of his website below and encourage you to visit it.

If you missed the program on Sunday you can go to the Sunday Morning webpage and download it as a podcasts.

Henry Mintzberg
  • This election is theatre: ignore the campaigns and the promises (which are just attempts to bribe us with our own money.) What matters is what the people who are elected can and will do. And that is best judged by what they have done.
  • What the Conservatives have done suggests that, with a majority, our most cherished institutions―Medicare [PDF], the CBC [PDF], others―will be threatened. As a prominent minister was overheard just after the 2006 election: “If we get a majority, they won’t recognize this country.”
  • Do not necessarily vote Liberal. Or NDP. Or Bloc. Or Green. Or Independent. If the majority of voters split their votes again, the Conservatives will go forward again. So please drop your party preference: this election is about the future of Canada. If you cherish what this country is, vote for whichever candidate in your riding has the greatest chance of beating the Conservative―in other words, the one who is ahead of these others.1 Consult the latest poll in your riding, or else see the results last time [PDF]. (See also www.Catch22campaign.ca. for information on this.)

  • If enough people do this, we will likely end up with a coalition government, which could well be the best solution. (Recall that cooperation of the NDP with the Liberals gave us Medicare fifty years ago.) This election has to be about the country, not about its personalities. In fact, such a coalition may well prefer as prime minister someone who is not now the leader of any of the parties.