Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada limited special interest spending in election campaigns by third-parties.
The blogosphere is up in arms about this. Damian Penny thinks that the decision will “come back to haunt” us. He links to Colby Cosh, who claims this law turns special interests into “second-class citizens”. David Janes says that “Freedom died today in Canada”. And so on. And so forth.
I’m going to take a flying departure from all of them and say that I think this ruling is actually a very good idea. And here’s why:
“Freedom of expression” does not mean the same thing as “freedom to buy politicians and drown out everyone else’s expression”. There may be nobody much to vote for at the polls, but at least my choices are still between the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, or Bloc… and not between the gun lobby, the anti-abortion lobby, the union lobby, or the environmental lobby. We need only to glance towards our neighbours to the south, who are stuck between voting for the ACLU or the NRA in each and every election.
Lobbying as a political activity in itself is all very well and good. But sadly, it has the effect of so heavily mortgaging political parties to special interests, that they no longer have the freedom to govern effectively.
This law doesn’t restrict third-party spending outside of an election period. It doesn’t stop people from expressing their opinions, or from organizing to do so in a concerted fashion. If anything, this will allow a wider variety of opinions to be heard, because the ones with the most money can’t drown out the rest.
The next step, in my opinion, is rigorous campaign spending laws for candidates and parties. People should win on the strength of their ideas, not on how frequently they can plaster their face on prime-time.
But, as Dennis Miller would say, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.