Time for a Truth in Politics Act - Macleans.ca
 

Time for a Truth in Politics Act

Andrew Coyne on how to stop politicians from lying, or at least reward the honest ones


 
Time for a Truth in Politics Act

Photograph by Cole Garside

If there is one thing Gilles Duceppe would like you to know about Stephen Harper, it’s that he’s a liar. The Prime Minister, he says, is “lying” about his past dalliances with coalition government, “lying” about Employment Insurance rules, lying, well, generally.

There’s a lot of that going around. Harper has much the same to say about Michael Ignatieff: when he tells you he won’t form a coalition government after the election, he’s lying. “He did it before, and he’ll do it again.” Jack Layton pretty clearly thinks both Harper and Ignatieff are liars, even if he never quite uses the word. Ignatieff, for his part, challenges Harper with the old line that “if he’ll stop telling lies about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about him.” And so on and on.

The sad thing is, all of these liars are telling the truth. A culture of lying has overtaken our politics, and every party has been caught up in it, to a greater or lesser extent.

Politics has never been noted as a place for unsparing honesty. At best, it consists of telling people what they want to hear; it deals in shades of truth, selective facts, exaggeration, blarney and spin. But in most places at most times, it has been expected that politicians will stay within some sort of limits. If you wish to deceive, do so by the sly omission, the evasive answer, the non-denial denial. Equivocate if you can, mislead if you must, but don’t say straight up, without room for ambiguity, in a manner that is intended to be believed, something that you know is false.

Small fibs, told in haste, are one thing. But the more solemn the vow, and the more important the matter, the greater the expectation that a statement could be taken at something approaching face value: if not wholly true, it would at least not be wholly untrue. But somewhere along the way that taboo was broken in Canada, and nowhere more so than in that most fundamental unit of democratic currency, the campaign promise.

Perhaps it began with Pierre Trudeau, who campaigned furiously against wage and price controls in the 1974 election—that famous, mocking “zap, you’re frozen”—only to introduce them shortly afterward. There followed Brian Mulroney, who unctuously upbraided John Turner for his patronage sins (“you had an option, sir”) as if he were not himself about to take the practice to new depths; Jean Chrétien, who promised to abolish the GST and renegotiate NAFTA, but did neither; Stephen Harper, who, having promised he would appoint no one who was not elected to either cabinet or the Senate, on his first day as Prime Minister appointed his unelected Quebec organizer Michael Fortier to both—a pattern that was to be repeated in everything from fixed election dates to the taxation of income trusts.

This is hardly reserved to federal politics. The list of Dalton McGuinty’s broken promises would fill a scrapbook, but the most notorious was surely his pledge, signed in public as a sort of contract with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, not to raise taxes without a referendum—which was no more than a promise to obey the previous government’s Taxpayers’ Protection Act. Six months after he was elected, he had raised taxes, amending the law to eliminate the referendum requirement.

Examples abound, from coast to coast. The former Liberal premier of New Brunswick, Shawn Graham, elected on a promise not to sell New Brunswick Power, proposed to do just that once safely elected. The current premier of Nova Scotia, New Democrat Darrell Dexter, came to power promising he would neither raise taxes, nor cut spending, nor run a deficit. He proceeded to do all three. I need hardly dwell on British Columbia’s Gordon Campbell, and his disavowal, prior to the 2009 election, of any intent to harmonize the province’s sales tax with the federal GST, except to note that neither the promise nor Campbell are still operative.

All three parties, both levels of government. These were not, it must be stressed, casual slips of the lip, minor items at the bottom of each party’s wish list. They were central planks in their platforms, often the major point of divergence between them and their opponents, in some cases arguably the key to their victory. The taxpayers’ pledge, for example, was vital to McGuinty’s efforts to shake the tax-and-spend label the Conservatives had hung on him: he would not have won without it. In many cases, moreover, the sins were not of omission—a failure to do something they had promised, against which they could plead the crush of events—but of commission: things they had promised not to do, but went ahead and did.

Facts change, of course, and a politician has a right to change his mind, the same as anyone else. But in none of the examples cited do the explanations, of unforeseen circumstances and unexpected deficits, ring true: we’ve simply heard these stories too often. The promises, rather, were in most cases of a kind that simply could not be kept: they were that foolish, and the people who made them knew it at the time. The point is not that politicians should persist in policies they know to be disastrous, just because they’ve promised them. The point is that they should not make such promises in the first place.

This is not politics as usual. It’s something far worse. It is not just corrosive of public trust. It makes it impossible for the public to form any sort of judgment about the people who seek to lead them. Elections are not referendums, of course, and a platform is only one of the criteria by which we choose between leaders. But how can the public assess even the general direction the candidates would take if they can have no confidence in any particular piece of evidence offered to that effect? It is not an answer to say they can “throw the bums out” at the next election, when the question of who said what four years before would have to contend with 40 other issues. The public should not have to choose between honest government and health care. It should be a given.

That it plainly is not is reflected in growing public disenchantment. Elections Canada surveys find this breakdown in trust to be the primary cause of declining voter turnout—to all-time record lows, if anyone has forgotten. It is the most common response when voters are asked what questions they would put to their leaders at election time: why should we believe you?

The mystery is why we put up with this. We do not, as a rule, in other areas of life. If a company lies to consumers about its products, it faces stiff fines or worse. Likewise, if it cheats its investors: a prospectus cannot be false or even misleading. There are laws against libel and slander, as there are for those who fill out false information on welfare or immigration forms: all enacted by the same politicians who grant themselves licence to tell worse lies to many more people.
Even within the political world, there are provisions against lying, in certain circumstances. Politicians are forbidden to lie to each other—witness the odium of Oda—or about each other, a provision in the election laws of Canada and eight of the provinces. But lie to the public, about a major campaign promise? All part of the game.

To be sure, free and feisty political debates are critical to democracy. Any proposals to police political speech, even to prevent out-and-out deception, must be viewed with skepticism, as certainly they would be if applied to the media. The only known Canadian attempt, British Columbia’s electoral fraud law, has avoided such stifling effect mainly by being almost impossible to enforce: it requires complainants to demonstrate not only that the fraudulent promise affected the outcome of an election, but that they personally suffered damages as a result.

But the problem remains. It is not so much that liars are prospering, as that honest politicians have no way of establishing their bona fides: so discredited is the profession generally that everyone is disbelieved equally. So perhaps the solution lies not in some blanket ban on political lying, such as the ethics-in-government advocacy group Democracy Watch has proposed, to be enforced by a public complaints process—a recipe for abuse, I fear, and anyway, not something the parties are ever likely to accept. Perhaps, rather, it is to let politicians opt in to legal liability if the claims they are making prove false.

Again, there are examples of this in private life: from bonded couriers to sworn affidavits, people have found ways to show they are trustworthy, by willingly assuming certain penalties if they are not. Suppose, then, there were a provision of the Elections Act, which a candidate could invoke at his discretion to cover particular statements or documents—such as a platform—with provisions for fines or other sanctions if they are found to be materially false. No gotchas over some stray comment on the campaign trail, but when they really needed to be believed they’d have some means of persuading people.

Such statements would no doubt be drafted with caution, as they are in private life, with conditions attached to cover different eventualities: “We will balance the budget, provided the economy grows by more than two per cent annually.” Fine. Voters could decide how much weight to attach to them accordingly—as they could any declarations issued without such backing. Over time, I have a feeling opting in would become the norm, rather than the exception.
I can think of no other single measure that would do more to restore public faith in the political process. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? It is broke. Let’s fix it.


 
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Time for a Truth in Politics Act

  1. Is it a coincidence or just a joke that the picture used in this article is of former Barrie City Councillor Andrew Prince, who was accused of domestic violence against his girlfriend. He said that nothing happened, whereas she claimed he hit her…someone is lieing…..!!!

  2. Is it a coincidence or just a joke that the picture used in this article is of former Barrie City Councillor Andrew Prince, who was accused of domestic violence against his girlfriend. He said that nothing happened, whereas she claimed he hit her…someone is lieing…..!!!

    • Its not to hard to figure out who was lying. Sometime we are a bit harsh on our elected officials. A quick search into the local media shows the crown “withdrew” the assault charge against councillor Prince shortly after the last municipal election. I wonder how much media attention was given to the false charge when it was withdrawn.

    • “Guest” wonder why you feel free to comment and are afraid to use your real name. I was a resident in councillor Prince’s ward. I voted for him as did my wife, we also PROUDLY displayed a lawn sign. Councillor Prince was cleared of this charge. He was found innocent of this charge in the court of law. And from what I can see was innocent in the court of public opinion. How else would you explain is very small election loss, losing his riding by under 80 votes to a former mayor. The public stood behind Prince. Its to bad he had to run an election with this frivilous charge. But I think his small loss was a LARGE win, when you factor what he had to deal with throughout his election….

    • "Guest" I find it amazing how you are quick to look at the pictures and not focus on the article itself. However, since you do find it far more entertaining to flip through the photos and make comments regarding something you clearly don't know much about lets focus on that. As "Melvin" and "Tom C" pointed out, former Councillor Prince's charges were withdrawn. The was no evidence that the alleged incident EVER occurred, the girl never required medical attention and further to that there was no medical evidence that she had been hurt in any way. From the start Prince stated that he did not do this and was innocent, in the end his innocence was proven. I feel it is also important to point out something that has already been mentioned…Prince was informed shortly after the very small loss of the election that the charges were being withdrawn, can you say COINCIDENCE??? I have always stood behind former Councillor Prince and will continue to do so. I live in his ward and also displayed a sign showing my support of him, in fact I hope one day he will decide to run again in this ward as he did a great job and always put forth the needs of others in his ward. It is a shame people like you only see the initial allegations made and do not properly research or review the outcome, it is time to take a look at the girl who accused him of such horrible things and put some blame on her for lying and making accusations against a person when she could not back it up with ANY evidence.

      • In addition to the assault charge, Andrew Prince was charged with two counts of uttering threats stemming from an incident involving a female police officer at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Andrew Prince plead guilty on one of the charges of uttering threats.

        • "Robert" maybe you should consider doing some background history before you start making comments. First, it was not a female officer it was a male officer. Secondly, after following this story since the beginning I am aware of the situation, not because I am interested in the gossip but because I wanted to make sure I was voting for a good and right person, I am proud to say I did vote for him. Prince stated in court and the papers that he will not say he didn't make the comment he just doesn't remember making the threat and will not argue it which is why he pleaded guilty. This was the only charge Prince admitted publically, everything else he maintained his innocence and after close to two years it was finally put to rest so he could move on with his life. In addition to that, as mentioned if you did some research, you may see that the situation that night when the threat was made was during a very difficult time for Prince, a time that many people may react in much of the same manner. I have personally spoken with Prince and admire the fact that he is a good guy with huge potential who has overcome many hard odds against him and done so with dignity and pride.

    • Interesting that you would point the absurd charge against Andrew, Andrew is a close friend of mine and someone I have stood beside through this whole process. This matter was closed the day the court withdrew the charges, for you to comment on the matter without identifying the end result is bias hypocritical. If anyone is lying here it would be you my friend, Andrew was a great Councillor who fought a hard campaign against a tough opponent with a trumped up charge hanging over his head. Andrew has nothing to be ashamed of, he is a great father, a wonderful friend and a man that is working his way back from a horrendous affair that a lesser person might have cracked from.

    • I am a personal friend of Mr. Prince and he has always been a gentleman, in the full sense of the word! With regards to the alleged assault charges that were filed against him, he was open and honest. The truth prevailed and Andrew’s innocence shined through! Furthermore, as a woman Andrew has always been caring, kind and calm! I personally do not believe he would ever injure a woman! I find it interesting that Mr. Prince would get dragged into this article in a negative context when he did numerous beneficial things for the City of Barrie in his time as councillor! How quickly we as humans focus on the negative even when its not true maybe we should focus on the good things our government does for us. Perfection doesn’t exist! Keep working hard Andrew!

    • In regards to the posts regarding Former Councillor Andrew Prince (Barrie), I feel that I must respond. Mr. Prince served his community with honour, and unfortunaly during that tenure there were some allegations made. Those allegations we withdrawn, shortly after the election. Now how quick we are to assume that he is guilty. We was never convicted of anything. How many people have been wrongly accused of something? I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Prince numerous times, and during those times he handled himself with dignity and respect. I for one feel that Barrie has suffered from his loss.

      • By the way, I just relized that I didnt use my name so here it is.

        Rahul Jain!!

  3. Andrew, is the press corps any better? The average citizen? We get the politicians and politics we deserve. Down south, we are awash in lies, corruption, malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance. We've earned it, because we have tolerated it for so long.

  4. Andrew, is the press corps any better? The average citizen? We get the politicians and politics we deserve. Down south, we are awash in lies, corruption, malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance. We've earned it, because we have tolerated it for so long.

    • I think the point is not to tolerate it anymore.

      • @non-partisan

        Exactly!

        Everyone in every profession is held accountable these days, except for politicians. Instead, they are asked to resign, when caught with their hands in the cookie jar, with not only a golden handshake, but taxpayers monies pension for life. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

  5. Let us go back to WAC Bennet in 1961 in BC, telling the BC electorate that the socialist hordes were at the gate and they were going to privatize BC Electric. Which he of course did in the next three months.

    So this is not some new phenomenon.

  6. Let us go back to WAC Bennet in 1961 in BC, telling the BC electorate that the socialist hordes were at the gate and they were going to privatize BC Electric. Which he of course did in the next three months.

    So this is not some new phenomenon.

  7. Excellent idea… should be a key plank in the platform of your new political party.

  8. Excellent idea… should be a key plank in the platform of your new political party.

  9. As far back as I can remember, when choosing who to vote for its always been a matter of not who's telling the truth, it's a case of who's lying the least. Its like the old joke. How can you tell a politician is lying? Their mouth is moving.

    Why can't we sue a politician who's lying. Its breach of contract. You made a verbal contract with me that if I vote for you you will or won't do this or that or whatever, and when the politician lyes then they just violated the verbal contract we agreed to.

  10. As far back as I can remember, when choosing who to vote for its always been a matter of not who's telling the truth, it's a case of who's lying the least. Its like the old joke. How can you tell a politician is lying? Their mouth is moving.

    Why can't we sue a politician who's lying. Its breach of contract. You made a verbal contract with me that if I vote for you you will or won't do this or that or whatever, and when the politician lyes then they just violated the verbal contract we agreed to.

  11. I still feel there is something particularly odious about Fortier. There was a promise that it would have been entirely possible to keep, yet he completely reverses himself on it on the first day, for absolutely no reason other than pure patronage.

    That his own supporters didn't lynch him at that point, I just don't understand.

  12. I still feel there is something particularly odious about Fortier. There was a promise that it would have been entirely possible to keep, yet he completely reverses himself on it on the first day, for absolutely no reason other than pure patronage.

    That his own supporters didn't lynch him at that point, I just don't understand.

    • for the same reasons McGuinty's supporters have not lynched him.

      • Again with the "But moooomommmmm they do it too!" excuse. Seriosuly, I thought you guys were aspiring to be *better* than the opposition, not just the same.

        • Or worse, IMHO.

    • And don't forget Emerson. Harper had been throwing hissy fits over Belinda Stronach being allowed to switch parties and get a cabinet position; he was adamant that this should never happen; that if someone leaves their party, they should sit as an independent until re-elected under a different banner.

      And then, announcing his cabinet, we discover he has enticed Emerson – freshly elected as a Liberal – to come play for his team.

      At that very moment, in his first act as PM, he lost all hope of ever getting my vote. Harper is a lying hypocrite (among other things).

      • I had much the same reaction. I was disgusted with the Stronach deal. Then Harper, shortly after getting elected to government on the pledge of 'doing things differently', entices Emerson to cross the floor, then appoints Fortin to cabinet via the senate. I was stunned… honest-to-goodness stunned. I don't think any other event in politics ever undermined my faith in politicians more than that. I don't mean that as an indictment of Harper in particular — I know, the Liberals were worse. That's why I voted Conservative in that election. But, as Coyne rightly points out, it's events like these that undermine our faith in the system altogether. No wonder people don't vote.

        • It's almost like he wanted to demonstrate right off the bat, on the very first day, that all his lofty rhetoric was just that, and that he was just as bad as all the other politicians before him.

      • Neither Stronach nor Emerson bothered me. Of course, I subscribe to the idealistic notion that your representative is there to represent you, so what flag he/she flies under doesn't matter anyway.

        That said, it did seem the switch for Stronach was far more natural — she'd spoken out against various Conservative positions a few times before, while Emerson had just barely finished talking about how they couldn't allow Conservative values to take over when he walked.

        • To be frank, Stronach didn't bother me – and Emerson wouldn't have either, had Harper not campaigned so hard on being open, honest and ethical. He promised to be different. He set the bar as to expectations much higher than it had been – and then immediately slithered under it the moment he had the votes.

          No one expects politicans to keep every promise they make – there are too many variables, and circumstances change. But breaking promises as one's very first act has to be a record – and when campaigning on ethics and accountability, it's that much worse.

          Had this proven to be a blip, I may have eventually come around. But it proved to be a pretty reliable indicator of Harper's modus operandi. It will take a new leader before I will seriously consider voting CPC.

  13. Jeez, Coyne, is there ANY problem you don't think can't be solved by increased state intervention and regulation, ya bleedin' commie?

    :)

  14. As long as the majority continue to want something for nothing and have Mommy government take care of them politicians will continue to buy their jobs with taxpayer money. People tolerate the lying because they want something for nothing–simple as that.

  15. As long as the majority continue to want something for nothing and have Mommy government take care of them politicians will continue to buy their jobs with taxpayer money. People tolerate the lying because they want something for nothing–simple as that.

    • This would be the Harper party you are talking about?
      Want jets, want corporate tax cuts, want prisons all the while building up a deficit they promised would not happen, but conveniently forgetting to tell us who is going to pay for it?
      The party sponsors conveniently tolerate lieing because they know that their welfare is just a majority away.

  16. Another problem is that in an election, no regulatory body could address the issue of lie within the time necessary for it to matter.

  17. Another problem is that in an election, no regulatory body could address the issue of lie within the time necessary for it to matter.

    • Not only that, look at what's happened to Elections Canada in trying to monitor the election financing rules! Who'd bet that a head will roll at EC if/when PM_SHrug is returned to office?

  18. With respect, such a change seems unlikely. Within legislatures, members are not allowed to call each other liars or deceivers, yet when two versions of what's going on are put forth, that may mean one is a lie, and the proponent a liar. There's no search for truth; the objection is to the word. The possibility someone may be lying is quietly recognized in Beauchesne:

    "It has been formally ruled by Speakers that statements by Members respecting themselves and particularly within their own knowledge must be accepted. It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements made by Members as being contrary to the facts; but no imputation of intentional falsehood is permissible. On rare occasions this may result in the House having to accept two contradictory accounts of the same incident." (_Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms_, 6th ed., p. 151)

    If members can talk that way inside their own world, with little consequence (the most common consequence is a member is asked to retract a statement), why would they willingly choose something different for outside that world?

    Jeff Bursey,
    author of _Verbatim: A Novel_,
    a parliamentary satire

  19. With respect, such a change seems unlikely. Within legislatures, members are not allowed to call each other liars or deceivers, yet when two versions of what's going on are put forth, that may mean one is a lie, and the proponent a liar. There's no search for truth; the objection is to the word. The possibility someone may be lying is quietly recognized in Beauchesne:

    "It has been formally ruled by Speakers that statements by Members respecting themselves and particularly within their own knowledge must be accepted. It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements made by Members as being contrary to the facts; but no imputation of intentional falsehood is permissible. On rare occasions this may result in the House having to accept two contradictory accounts of the same incident." (_Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms_, 6th ed., p. 151)

    If members can talk that way inside their own world, with little consequence (the most common consequence is a member is asked to retract a statement), why would they willingly choose something different for outside that world?

    Jeff Bursey,
    author of _Verbatim: A Novel_,
    a parliamentary satire

  20. No one wants honest politicians. The last one who actually did what he said he'd do was Mike Harris, and he got crucified. People want pretty lies, not ugly truth.

  21. I’d say that’s a pretty good idea. Opt-in is the key, maybe the penalty could be elegibilty to run again.

  22. for the same reasons McGuinty's supporters have not lynched him.

  23. Actually, once he left it became apparent how much he and Flaherty were lying about the province's finances.

  24. Actually, once he left it became apparent how much he and Flaherty were lying about the province's finances.

    • Care to link the budget with a deficit and Harris/Flaherty?

      • If history is any guide, we won't know how much money the country really has/had until a new government takes over. Remember his absurd figures which led, in part, to the coalition?

        • You made a statement, were asked a simple question to produce the Ontario budget that had Harris/Flaherty in a deficit and you can't? I am shocked, look up cognitive dissonance.

  25. I think the point is not to tolerate it anymore.

  26. Well…I'm sure this is proposal sure to please a ga-zillion Canadian lawyers.

    Let's be realistic. It would be about 2 years before any action ever saw a court room, then months of litigation…all paid for by our tax dollars.

    Besides that, every new government would simply use the time-honoured "oh…well…we had no idea things were so, so bad now that we've actually had a chance to look at the books ourselves…those guys screwed up really bad, it's going to take us years and years (and a couple of new mandates) to straighten out this mess. Sorry, but we just can't do all the things we promised you…and it's not our fault!"

  27. Well…I'm sure this is proposal sure to please a ga-zillion Canadian lawyers.

    Let's be realistic. It would be about 2 years before any action ever saw a court room, then months of litigation…all paid for by our tax dollars.

    Besides that, every new government would simply use the time-honoured "oh…well…we had no idea things were so, so bad now that we've actually had a chance to look at the books ourselves…those guys screwed up really bad, it's going to take us years and years (and a couple of new mandates) to straighten out this mess. Sorry, but we just can't do all the things we promised you…and it's not our fault!"

  28. What about recall legislation?

    The only thing politicians are likely to react to is having their nose(s) yanked out of the trough by the same voters who put it there in the first place.

  29. And don't forget Emerson. Harper had been throwing hissy fits over Belinda Stronach being allowed to switch parties and get a cabinet position; he was adamant that this should never happen; that if someone leaves their party, they should sit as an independent until re-elected under a different banner.

    And then, announcing his cabinet, we discover he has enticed Emerson – freshly elected as a Liberal – to come play for his team.

    At that very moment, in his first act as PM, he lost all hope of ever getting my vote. Harper is a lying hypocrite (among other things).

  30. Seems to me that this misses the distinction between "lies about the past" and "lies about the future", ie. outright deception about known facts vs. a promise that might be broken sometime in the future. And morally speaking, someone who lies about the past is much more odious.

    McGuinty, for all his flaws, doesn't lie in the first sense (unless you can prove that he never intended to keep his promises when they were made). Stephan Harper et al. often do.

  31. Seems to me that this misses the distinction between "lies about the past" and "lies about the future", ie. outright deception about known facts vs. a promise that might be broken sometime in the future. And morally speaking, someone who lies about the past is much more odious.

    McGuinty, for all his flaws, doesn't lie in the first sense (unless you can prove that he never intended to keep his promises when they were made). Stephan Harper et al. often do.

    • I should add, too, that I find it intensely wearying when people fail to make this distinction. Assuming that Michael Ignatieff is likely to be lying about his election platform because Bev Oda was lying when she said she didn't know anything about the Kairos document, merely because both of them are politicians, is a ridiculous syllogism.

  32. I should add, too, that I find it intensely wearying when people fail to make this distinction. Assuming that Michael Ignatieff is likely to be lying about his election platform because Bev Oda was lying when she said she didn't know anything about the Kairos document, merely because both of them are politicians, is a ridiculous syllogism.

  33. Care to link the budget with a deficit and Harris/Flaherty?

  34. Andrew, I agree with you in principle. There are other factors, though, and one is the minority government. When we have a minority government, all bets are off, and all promises might as well be void.
    I think one of the issues is the voters themselves. Over time, our views and beliefs have become more diverse. This makes it harder for a politician to get elected by taking firm stands. Every firm stand that a politician takes on a certain issue, alienates the people who disagree with that issue. If a politician takes enough firm stands, no way can they get elected.
    I think that is one of the keys to the Liberal party's past success – they are usually a party that tries to be all things to all people. This of course is impossible, as eventually decisions have to be made, but it did help them get elected. I think we will see in this election more people voting against a politician, rather than for a politician.
    Bottom line, this is probably the way it will be for the foreseeable future.

  35. Andrew, I agree with you in principle. There are other factors, though, and one is the minority government. When we have a minority government, all bets are off, and all promises might as well be void.
    I think one of the issues is the voters themselves. Over time, our views and beliefs have become more diverse. This makes it harder for a politician to get elected by taking firm stands. Every firm stand that a politician takes on a certain issue, alienates the people who disagree with that issue. If a politician takes enough firm stands, no way can they get elected.
    I think that is one of the keys to the Liberal party's past success – they are usually a party that tries to be all things to all people. This of course is impossible, as eventually decisions have to be made, but it did help them get elected. I think we will see in this election more people voting against a politician, rather than for a politician.
    Bottom line, this is probably the way it will be for the foreseeable future.

    • Yeah to be fair you'd have to be able to set some kind of parameters around your pledge like 'if current economic growth is maintained'. You could keep your promises in a minority but it could easily mean another election within months. I still think Coyne has come up with something pretty brilliant with the opt-in idea.

    • This is a very good point. I've always thought that the business of "election promiseering" is an undignified spectacle. It is after all, as everyone is aware, OUR actual money that's being flung with such gay abandon. I remember at school when the word "pragmatism" was discussed and I was introduced for the first time to that concept, I thought, "Oh, that makes a lot of sense." To think that any politician can promise specific THINGS over the course of several years into the FUTURE, seems insanity to me. What happens? "Events, dear boy, events!" I would rather know what principles the politician would adhere to in navigating those future events – will he/she tend this way or that way? What are his/her priorities? What will be the tone and tenor of the government. I think Andrew's idea of "qualified" promises might be a good idea – if this, then that.

      I was excited when i read the title of this article, as I would like to see standard "truth in advertising" rules applied to political advertising. However, I was disappointed in the article itself, as I don't see how it could ever be implemented. It would be like a government tying itself to fixed election dates …. oh, wait a minute …

    • There are promises that they should have been able to keep. No one was holding a gun to his head when he appointed Fortier to the Senate and cabinet in direct contradiction of his pledge.

  36. And the press doesn't lie or at least obfuscate, twist, manipulate the story in favour of a gotcha moment or worse yet, to support their own political beliefs? I dare McLeans to run an indepandant nationwide poll on that one.

  37. And the press doesn't lie or at least obfuscate, twist, manipulate the story in favour of a gotcha moment or worse yet, to support their own political beliefs? I dare McLeans to run an indepandant nationwide poll on that one.

    • In this case what would a poll do?
      Use your brain it would be like asking, "are lawyers shifty," or are "doctors arrogant."

    • Well, they do have to sell newspapers …. or pixels, or whatever they're selling these days.

  38. I had much the same reaction. I was disgusted with the Stronach deal. Then Harper, shortly after getting elected to government on the pledge of 'doing things differently', entices Emerson to cross the floor, then appoints Fortin to cabinet via the senate. I was stunned… honest-to-goodness stunned. I don't think any other event in politics ever undermined my faith in politicians more than that. I don't mean that as an indictment of Harper in particular — I know, the Liberals were worse. That's why I voted Conservative in that election. But, as Coyne rightly points out, it's events like these that undermine our faith in the system altogether. No wonder people don't vote.

  39. "The sad thing is, all of these liars are telling the truth. A culture of lying has overtaken our politics, and every party has been caught up in it, to a greater or lesser extent."

    Part of the problem so well described by Coyne is rooted in the desire of journalists to portray balance and fairness — even where and when it is not warranted. It's simply not credible to suggest that everyone is lying any more so than it is acceptable for journalists to repeat a politician's lie without calling it such, with proof.

    Tony Clement lied about the head of Statscan's statements, Bev Oda lied about the advice of CIDA's management, Vic Toews lies about crime rates … these aren't matters of interpretation, so equivocation (aww they're all the same) is not called for. Has another political party's members lied with this regularity about whether someone said yes or no or about evidence?

    Consider this whole "job- and investment-killing corporate tax hike" meme. After a decade of nothing but corporate tax cuts, at least two opposition parties advocate putting the rate back up to help slay the deficit. The Conservatives claim this will kill jobs and business investment. Economists and analysts know this objectively false — indeed declining employment and declining business investment have been the result of each tax cut.

    Businesses have held onto the extra cash while cutting jobs, and business investment has declined or remained flat with each tax cut. So to suggest that a tax rise would so the same is baseless. Moreover, we're talking about raising corporate tax rates to 10 points BELOW where they were in 2000 … back to where they were two years ago.

    This may seem a small matter, except that the Governing party has consistently lied about the effects of corporate tax rates on both jobs and business investment. Everyone who looks at the numbers knows it, but it sounds good and fits neatly into a pro-business ideology. So they don't correct it. They don't challenge it. They don't call a spade a shovel. Journalists think that the public doesn't want to be bothered with complicated facts and the public confirms this by their willingness to not be challenged.

    We can blame politicians for lying at first. But when they continue to lie, we have to pass around some of the blame to the reporters and to the audience who are just happy to have their stories filed and biases confirmed — regardless of evidence.

    After all, if you lie and get away with it, the next lie is so much easier for everyone.

  40. Just a point to ponder, but is it possible your own publication (and most others) drives the spinning (and "lying")? When I visit here I find an endless series of "gotcha" smears. Rarely if ever do I find balanced reporting. Don't even get me started on CBC/Globe/Star CPC hatefests. Are any of you in the journalism brain trust capable of self-reflection? To be fair to you and Mr. Wells, some are more balanced than others and everyone has off days, but look at the "agenda" people like Wherry and O'Malley carry out. Has the notion of the concept we all used to call "objective reality" been superceded by "wishful thinking"? When the smoke clears post May 2, perhaps you'll review some of your editorial policies and launch an appeal for an industry-wide autopsy.

  41. I would like to know about radiation levels from the Japanese reactors.

    Does anyone in Canada know?

    Try asking our politicians that.

  42. I would like to know about radiation levels from the Japanese reactors.

    Does anyone in Canada know?

    Try asking our politicians that.

  43. If history is any guide, we won't know how much money the country really has/had until a new government takes over. Remember his absurd figures which led, in part, to the coalition?

  44. Hint: Your idea of "balanced" isn't.

  45. Hint: Your idea of "balanced" isn't.

  46. Today, Julian Fantino, a minister of the Crown, declared to an adult audience that opposition MPs don't sing the national anthem (!!!). One can be forgiven for concluding that even penalty of jail time could not persuade today's Conservative Party to join the reality based community if they think there is electoral advantage to the lie.

  47. Today, Julian Fantino, a minister of the Crown, declared to an adult audience that opposition MPs don't sing the national anthem (!!!). One can be forgiven for concluding that even penalty of jail time could not persuade today's Conservative Party to join the reality based community if they think there is electoral advantage to the lie.

  48. The princes who have done great things are the ones who have taken little account of their promises.
    Nicolo Machiaveli

  49. The princes who have done great things are the ones who have taken little account of their promises.
    Nicolo Machiaveli

    • Careful now, you'll get down thumbed for being an ivory tower educated elitist intellectual.
      You quite clearly have read a book and it was written by a furriner.
      That's two strikes.

      • I'd light my torch and sharpen my pitchfork, but those are more — you know — rural things.

  50. @non-partisan

    Exactly!

    Everyone in every profession is held accountable these days, except for politicians. Instead, they are asked to resign, when caught with their hands in the cookie jar, with not only a golden handshake, but taxpayers monies pension for life. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

  51. Brilliant idea!

  52. Brilliant idea!

  53. See Democracy Watch's February 2011op-ed, from which some parts of this article are drawn, about how an honesty-in-politics law and enforcement system could work in a timely and effective way, without involving the courts or lawyers, not only for election promises but also for misleading statements in between elections, at: http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/OpEdFeb2411.html

    and see many more details on Democracy Watch's Honesty in Politics Campaign page at: http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/honestydir.html
    and on http://www.CoffeeParty.ca

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch http://www.goodgovernment.ca
    Organizer of the CoffeeParty.ca movement http://www.CoffeeParty.ca

  54. See Democracy Watch's February 2011op-ed, from which some parts of this article are drawn, about how an honesty-in-politics law and enforcement system could work in a timely and effective way, without involving the courts or lawyers, not only for election promises but also for misleading statements in between elections, at: http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/OpEdFeb2411.html

    and see many more details on Democracy Watch's Honesty in Politics Campaign page at: http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/honestydir.html
    and on http://www.CoffeeParty.ca

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch http://www.goodgovernment.ca
    Organizer of the CoffeeParty.ca movement http://www.CoffeeParty.ca

  55. Again with the "But mommmm they do it too!" excuse. Seriosuly, I thought you guys were aspiring to be *better* than the opposition, not just the same.

  56. Neither Stronach nor Emerson bothered me. Of course, I subscribe to the idealistic notion that your representative is there to represent you, so what flag he/she flies under doesn't matter anyway.

    That said, it did seem the switch for Stronach was far more natural — she'd spoken out against various Conservative positions a few times before, while Emerson had just barely finished talking about how they couldn't allow Conservative values to take over when he walked.

  57. Its not to hard to figure out who was lying. Sometime we are a bit harsh on our elected officials. A quick search into the local media shows the crown “withdrew” the assault charge against councillor Prince shortly after the last municipal election. I wonder how much media attention was given to the false charge when it was withdrawn.

  58. This would be the Harper party you are talking about?
    Want jets, want corporate tax cuts, want prisons all the while building up a deficit they promised would not happen, but conveniently forgetting to tell us who is going to pay for it?
    The party sponsors conveniently tolerate lieing because they know that their welfare is just a majority away.

  59. “Guest” wonder why you feel free to comment and are afraid to use your real name. I was a resident in councillor Prince’s ward. I voted for him as did my wife, we also PROUDLY displayed a lawn sign. Councillor Prince was cleared of this charge. He was found innocent of this charge in the court of law. And from what I can see was innocent in the court of public opinion. How else would you explain is very small election loss, losing his riding by under 80 votes to a former mayor. The public stood behind Prince. Its to bad he had to run an election with this frivilous charge. But I think his small loss was a LARGE win, when you factor what he had to deal with throughout his election….

  60. In this case what would a poll do?
    Use your brain it would be like asking, "are lawyers shifty," or are "doctors arrogant."

  61. Careful now, you'll get down thumbed for being an ivory tower educated elitist intellectual.
    You quite clearly have read a book and it was written by a furriner.
    That's two strikes.

  62. Or worse, IMHO.

  63. Bring back the public stocks…rotten tomatoes, eggs and veggie for the fibbers. Guarantee it would be a popular event. Even journalists could participate. In fact why not make the most of it – journalists the second course, or aperitif even?

  64. Bring back the public stocks…rotten tomatoes, eggs and veggie for the fibbers. Guarantee it would be a popular event. Even journalists could participate. In fact why not make the most of it – journalists the second course, or aperitif even?

  65. To be frank, Stronach didn't bother me – and Emerson wouldn't have either, had Harper not campaigned so hard on being open, honest and ethical. He promised to be different. He set the bar as to expectations much higher than it had been – and then immediately slithered under it the moment he had the votes.

    No one expects politicans to keep every promise they make – there are too many variables, and circumstances change. But breaking promises as one's very first act has to be a record – and when campaigning on ethics and accountability, it's that much worse.

    Had this proven to be a blip, I may have eventually come around. But it proved to be a pretty reliable indicator of Harper's modus operandi. It will take a new leader before I will seriously consider voting CPC.

  66. "Guest" I find it amazing how you are quick to look at the pictures and not focus on the article itself. However, since you do find it far more entertaining to flip through the photos and make comments regarding something you clearly don't know much about lets focus on that. As "Melvin" and "Tom C" pointed out, former Councillor Prince's charges were withdrawn. The was no evidence that the alleged incident EVER occurred, the girl never required medical attention and further to that there was no medical evidence that she had been hurt in any way. From the start Prince stated that he did not do this and was innocent, in the end his innocence was proven. I feel it is also important to point out something that has already been mentioned…Prince was informed shortly after the very small loss of the election that the charges were being withdrawn, can you say COINCIDENCE??? I have always stood behind former Councillor Prince and will continue to do so. I live in his ward and also displayed a sign showing my support of him, in fact I hope one day he will decide to run again in this ward as he did a great job and always put forth the needs of others in his ward. It is a shame people like you only see the initial allegations made and do not properly research or review the outcome, it is time to take a look at the girl who accused him of such horrible things and put some blame on her for lying and making accusations against a person when she could not back it up with ANY evidence.

  67. Interesting that you would point the absurd charge against Andrew, Andrew is a close friend of mine and someone I have stood beside through this whole process. This matter was closed the day the court withdrew the charges, for you to comment on the matter without identifying the end result is bias hypocritical. If anyone is lying here it would be you my friend, Andrew was a great Councillor who fought a hard campaign against a tough opponent with a trumped up charge hanging over his head. Andrew has nothing to be ashamed of, he is a great father, a wonderful friend and a man that is working his way back from a horrendous affair that a lesser person might have cracked from.

  68. Get caught lying (or taking advantage of the public trust) – forefeit your pension!

  69. Get caught lying (or taking advantage of the public trust) – forefeit your pension!

    • The downside is that it would never pass. The upside is that if it did, it would save Canada a hundred thousand zillion dollars a year.

  70. I am a personal friend of Mr. Prince and he has always been a gentleman, in the full sense of the word! With regards to the alleged assault charges that were filed against him, he was open and honest. The truth prevailed and Andrew’s innocence shined through! Furthermore, as a woman Andrew has always been caring, kind and calm! I personally do not believe he would ever injure a woman! I find it interesting that Mr. Prince would get dragged into this article in a negative context when he did numerous beneficial things for the City of Barrie in his time as councillor! How quickly we as humans focus on the negative even when its not true maybe we should focus on the good things our government does for us. Perfection doesn’t exist! Keep working hard Andrew!

  71. Yeah to be fair you'd have to be able to set some kind of parameters around your pledge like 'if current economic growth is maintained'. You could keep your promises in a minority but it could easily mean another election within months. I still think Coyne has come up with something pretty brilliant with the opt-in idea.

  72. I'd light my torch and sharpen my pitchfork, but those are more — you know — rural things.

  73. The downside is that it would never pass. The upside is that if it did, it would save Canada a hundred thousand zillion dollars a year.

  74. In Andrew's list of Prime Ministers who lied or broke election promises, I noticed the absence of Paul Martin.

    The story went from Chretien to Harper.

    There was a guy in between. But maybe he was honest? Is that why he's not around anymore?

  75. In Andrew's list of Prime Ministers who lied or broke election promises, I noticed the absence of Paul Martin.

    The story went from Chretien to Harper.

    There was a guy in between. But maybe he was honest? Is that why he's not around anymore?

    • I think he was forgotten.

  76. In regards to the posts regarding Former Councillor Andrew Prince (Barrie), I feel that I must respond. Mr. Prince served his community with honour, and unfortunaly during that tenure there were some allegations made. Those allegations we withdrawn, shortly after the election. Now how quick we are to assume that he is guilty. We was never convicted of anything. How many people have been wrongly accused of something? I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Prince numerous times, and during those times he handled himself with dignity and respect. I for one feel that Barrie has suffered from his loss.

  77. By the way, I just relized that I didnt use my name so here it is.

    Rahul Jain!!

  78. In addition to the assault charge, Andrew Prince was charged with two counts of uttering threats stemming from an incident involving a female police officer at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Andrew Prince plead guilty on one of the charges of uttering threats.

  79. "Robert" maybe you should consider doing some background history before you start making comments. First, it was not a female officer it was a male officer. Secondly, after following this story since the beginning I am aware of the situation, not because I am interested in the gossip but because I wanted to make sure I was voting for a good and right person, I am proud to say I did vote for him. Prince stated in court and the papers that he will not say he didn't make the comment he just doesn't remember making the threat and will not argue it which is why he pleaded guilty. This was the only charge Prince admitted publically, everything else he maintained his innocence and after close to two years it was finally put to rest so he could move on with his life. In addition to that, as mentioned if you did some research, you may see that the situation that night when the threat was made was during a very difficult time for Prince, a time that many people may react in much of the same manner. I have personally spoken with Prince and admire the fact that he is a good guy with huge potential who has overcome many hard odds against him and done so with dignity and pride.

  80. Here's one for you, Mr.Coyne:

    Campaign 2008: NDP leader Jack Layton, as his main plank on the platform, campaigns against corporate tax cuts. Only the NDP and The Greens were against corporate tax cuts in 2008.

    Dec 1, 2008: coalition agreement with the Liberals and BQ: NDP agrees to drop its main stand on corporate taxes; NDP agrees to the Liberal stand on corporate tax cuts. 180 degree turn.

    This actually happened and this switch by Layton was open, public knowledge at the time. I know I wrote about it on this webpage. Yet, is has never really been marked as a major campaign promise switch.

    Now, think about how crooked this gets:

    NDP informs the nation that is has the voter's backing to take over Harper's minority government because 60 some % of voters were against Harper. In fact, a certain percentage probably voted for the NDP because of its opposition to the corporate tax cuts. And here comes Jack, telling us he has the right to take over from Harper by agreeing what Harper stood for in the 2008 campaign, namely the corporate tax cuts. Now, you call that a democratic coalition forming to overtake a minority government??

    And don't tell me the media didn't know about it at the time, for I know for certain I did mention it at the time at the Macleans webpage. :)

  81. Here's one for you, Mr.Coyne:

    Campaign 2008: NDP leader Jack Layton, as his main plank on the platform, campaigns against corporate tax cuts. Only the NDP and The Greens were against corporate tax cuts in 2008.

    Dec 1, 2008: coalition agreement with the Liberals and BQ: NDP agrees to drop its main stand on corporate taxes; NDP agrees to the Liberal stand on corporate tax cuts. 180 degree turn.

    This actually happened and this switch by Layton was open, public knowledge at the time. I know I wrote about it on this webpage. Yet, is has never really been marked as a major campaign promise switch.

    Now, think about how crooked this gets:

    NDP informs the nation that is has the voter's backing to take over Harper's minority government because 60 some % of voters were against Harper. In fact, a certain percentage probably voted for the NDP because of its opposition to the corporate tax cuts. And here comes Jack, telling us he has the right to take over from Harper by agreeing what Harper stood for in the 2008 campaign, namely the corporate tax cuts. Now, you call that a democratic coalition forming to overtake a minority government??

    And don't tell me the media didn't know about it at the time, for I know for certain I did mention it at the time at the Macleans webpage. :)

  82. State regulation of the banks saved Canada from the financial meltdown.

  83. State regulation of the banks saved Canada from the financial meltdown.

  84. Not only that, look at what's happened to Elections Canada in trying to monitor the election financing rules! Who'd bet that a head will roll at EC if/when PM_SHrug is returned to office?

  85. Here's another one for Mr.Coyne:

    Ask Mr.Ignatieff what agreement he signed onto in 2008, because the media seems to want to uphold this lie more so than anyone else. What did Ignatieff sign onto in 2008, and what exactly was signed in cooperation with the BQ, which party's involvment btw was mentioned in the two 2008 documents belonging together.

    Now, ask Mr.Harper why he never signed a coalition agreement in 2004. And ask Mr.Harper why he never signed a coalition agreement which would have involved the BQ?

    Ask both men the above mentioned questions and see who will have to lie in order to wiggle himself out of the predicament.

    I will guarantee you that it won't be Harper doing the wiggling. Harper knew very well that he could not go any further in a letter to the GG, for proposing a formal agreement with the BQ would go against everything Harper and his vision for this federation stands for.

    (And don't go digging for excuses: The 1997 letter addresses something entirely different than formal coalition forming.)

  86. Here's another one for Mr.Coyne:

    Ask Mr.Ignatieff what agreement he signed onto in 2008, because the media seems to want to uphold this lie more so than anyone else. What did Ignatieff sign onto in 2008, and what exactly was signed in cooperation with the BQ, which party's involvment btw was mentioned in the two 2008 documents belonging together.

    Now, ask Mr.Harper why he never signed a coalition agreement in 2004. And ask Mr.Harper why he never signed a coalition agreement which would have involved the BQ?

    Ask both men the above mentioned questions and see who will have to lie in order to wiggle himself out of the predicament.

    I will guarantee you that it won't be Harper doing the wiggling. Harper knew very well that he could not go any further in a letter to the GG, for proposing a formal agreement with the BQ would go against everything Harper and his vision for this federation stands for.

    (And don't go digging for excuses: The 1997 letter addresses something entirely different than formal coalition forming.)

  87. This is a very good point. I've always thought that the business of "election promiseering" is an undignified spectacle. It is after all, as everyone is aware, OUR actual money that's being flung with such gay abandon. I remember at school when the word "pragmatism" was discussed and I was introduced for the first time to that concept, I thought, "Oh, that makes a lot of sense." To think that any politician can promise specific THINGS over the course of several years into the FUTURE, seems insanity to me. What happens? "Events, dear boy, events!" I would rather know what principles the politician would adhere to in navigating those future events – will he/she tend this way or that way? What are his/her priorities? What will be the tone and tenor of the government. I think Andrew's idea of "qualified" promises might be a good idea – if this, then that.

    I was excited when i read the title of this article, as I would like to see standard "truth in advertising" rules applied to political advertising. However, I was disappointed in the article itself, as I don't see how it could ever be implemented. It would be like a government tying itself to fixed election dates …. oh, wait a minute …

  88. Well, they do have to sell newspapers …. or pixels, or whatever they're selling these days.

  89. I've really enjoyed reading all these comments, and even laughed at a lot of them. Good points, quite friendly debate, without all the stuff that usually makes me mad! AND … the topic was lying politicians … coulda got nasty, but it didn't.

    "You've all done very, very well!" (Young Mr. Grace).

    Thank you, one and all.

  90. I've really enjoyed reading all these comments, and even laughed at a lot of them. Good points, quite friendly debate, without all the stuff that usually makes me mad! AND … the topic was lying politicians … coulda got nasty, but it didn't.

    "You've all done very, very well!" (Young Mr. Grace).

    Thank you, one and all.

  91. Let's have a look at how the public is capable of lying:

    Most of us say we are very concerned about the environment.

    Yet, very few of us have made actual changes to our life styles to protect the pollution of the environment; we don't consume less, we don't drive less etc, etc.

    A lot of voters, when asked, will say that the BQ is not a separatist party. The BQ is merely another federalist party, most or at least some would say.

    Yet, the BQ and its leader will tell you that the BQ is a separatist party.

    Often, certain voters and certain members of the media will compare the BQ with the now extinct Reform Party.

    Yet, the two parties could not be more different from each other; the BQ wants out and the Reform Party slogan was – the West wants in!

    I don't know, but it seems to me that the human brain is undergoing some major changes. It seems to me that in a lot of these cases, the one side of the brain is not in contact somehow with the other side of the brain, thereby allowing the possibility for humans to be capable of lying to the self. And that would be a most interesting change in human development, would it not???

  92. Let's have a look at how the public is capable of lying:

    Most of us say we are very concerned about the environment.

    Yet, very few of us have made actual changes to our life styles to protect the pollution of the environment; we don't consume less, we don't drive less etc, etc.

    A lot of voters, when asked, will say that the BQ is not a separatist party. The BQ is merely another federalist party, most or at least some would say.

    Yet, the BQ and its leader will tell you that the BQ is a separatist party.

    Often, certain voters and certain members of the media will compare the BQ with the now extinct Reform Party.

    Yet, the two parties could not be more different from each other; the BQ wants out and the Reform Party slogan was – the West wants in!

    I don't know, but it seems to me that the human brain is undergoing some major changes. It seems to me that in a lot of these cases, the one side of the brain is not in contact somehow with the other side of the brain, thereby allowing the possibility for humans to be capable of lying to the self. And that would be a most interesting change in human development, would it not???

    • I doubt that it is, as you seem to be suggesting, a new development in the human brain. The self is already a fiction of the brain, so it is hardly surprising when all sorts of new lies start springing out.

      And yet… and yet the human mind is capable of grasping truth (by which I mean discerning a physical law of the universe) as evidenced by immortal Kepler's work on the orbit of Mars where he physically demonstrated the elliptical nature of its orbit, and thereby proving the heliocentric nature of the solar system (where as Galileo was only able to advocate but not prove.)

      • Trying to address "the self being a fiction of the brain" I will leave aside for now; such dialogue would require more space than is available now.

        The Kepler – Galileo comparison is an interesting one.

        However, there most definitely is a distinction to be made between lying to others or lying to the self and knowing it, or being aware of it, and what I would consider to be a new human development, namely lying to the self in that one part of the brain would not be aware that the other side of the brain is lying. In other words: when being aware of lying, the two parts of the brain would be in communication with one another in order to bring about such awareness, whereas the lying to the self would require a sort of absence of awareness.

        And awareness ultimately centers around the particular functions of the brain hemispheres.

        • Compartmentalization of the self into discreet parts is a well established phenomenon. When you consider that essentially the same model of wetware is responsible for generating all of the different people that we meet, then you begin to see the power at our disposal. There are even wetwares with more than one personality in them! (Wonderfully parodied in Being John Malcovich.) Of course this involves a species of amnesia, even when we are talking about people that are not experiencing pathology of the personality.

          Rudolf Steiner, for all his many faults, did author a wonderful image when he described the eye as the organ most resembling lifelessness, yet it is our primary way of experiencing. It is more so with the brain. It has to be forgetful to function. It must forget itself so that the self can exist (very awkward sentance).

          • But forgetting the self is not a compartimentalization of the self, if that's what you are trying to combine here.

            In fact, I would argue that the compartimentalization of the self and the self existing by means of forgetting about the self are two opposite modes of being; the first being perhaps a sign of not being able to reach for that self, and the latter by being able to reach for the self by forgetting about the self.

            Being the self is by being uncompartimentalized, as being one with all, being as self with all. A compartimentalization can not accomplish being one with all, as all. One being one with all is impossible to achieve, the compartimentalization is as result, as default mode perhaps.

            Interesting discussion.

            (I have no idea what you mean by wetware??)

  93. Civilization consists of covering up for the short comings of other people and then covering up that we are covering up. I call this hypocratism. Hypocratism is the realization that we live in a sea of lies. No, the lie and ourselves are the same thing. There isn't any difference between our life and the lie.

    Please note that this is not a cynical position. Quite the contrary. It is the recognition of the distorting effects of local sympathy. Local sympathy* is is a side effect** of the physical structure of the human nervous system. One hopes that in the face of stubborn resistance, as one faces in dealing with politics which has so resisted reform, that a desire to plumb the depths of the problem will be eventually stimulated.

    Do you not see that the reformer and the object of his desire to reform are subject and mirror? Mr. Mulroney wasn't chiding Mr. Turner for making patronage appointments. He was chiding him for making the wrong patronage appointments. Oh, and because Mr. M experienced and extreme dissociation between seeing Mr. T in the position where Mr. M saw himself as the only rightful occupant.

    * Local sympathy might also be called outlooker consciousness, which is to organize the world from one's centre or, in more pathological instances, as if one was the centre of the world.
    ** Side effect might more effectively replaced with persistent delusion (non-pejorative)

  94. Civilization consists of covering up for the short comings of other people and then covering up that we are covering up. I call this hypocratism. Hypocratism is the realization that we live in a sea of lies. No, the lie and ourselves are the same thing. There isn't any difference between our life and the lie.

    Please note that this is not a cynical position. Quite the contrary. It is the recognition of the distorting effects of local sympathy. Local sympathy* is is a side effect** of the physical structure of the human nervous system. One hopes that in the face of stubborn resistance, as one faces in dealing with politics which has so resisted reform, that a desire to plumb the depths of the problem will be eventually stimulated.

    Do you not see that the reformer and the object of his desire to reform are subject and mirror? Mr. Mulroney wasn't chiding Mr. Turner for making patronage appointments. He was chiding him for making the wrong patronage appointments. Oh, and because Mr. M experienced and extreme dissociation between seeing Mr. T in the position where Mr. M saw himself as the only rightful occupant.

    * Local sympathy might also be called outlooker consciousness, which is to organize the world from one's centre or, in more pathological instances, as if one was the centre of the world.
    ** Side effect might more effectively replaced with persistent delusion (non-pejorative)

    • The covering up you refer to only need to take place if the self is unwilling, or incapable of being honest. For if one is capable of being honest, then the covering up (either of self short comings or the shortcomings of others) are not needed. But being honest is most difficult because being honest means one has to be able to be honest with the self first and foremost. And what is most difficult is to be honest with the self.

      If one is honest with the self, one understands that the self is capable of imperfection; the self does not always act in consistent ways. And as soon as one is capable of telling the self that such imperfection exists within the self, than the self will come to the realization that imperfections exists in others as well. Thereby, the covering up of shortcomings is no longer needed, not if the self understands honesty about the self.

      • It actually has very little to do with honesty. Honesty is a species of morality. Morality, as per Confucian tradition, is the end stage of cultural decadence.*

        One can not be honest with the self. The self is the self, delusion or not. Your construction implies duality, which is compartmentalization.

        The covering up of the covering up is an extremely persistent result of human consciousness. Many of the great expressions of genius are blithely unaware of it going on. Even the most developed expressions of Jen/humanness work with it and not against it.

        * Sorry, next to last stage of cultural decadence.

        • I think we see things differently.

          I believe that the state of honesty is the most difficult for human beings to achieve. And that morality is not something only human perse, but is and must be in relation to that which is universal; I'm thinking more Kant than Confucius.

          And also, the human consciousness is in direct relation to universal laws; not just specifically human. It's just that within humans we experience such universals in a human way.

          • If you take up the concept of 'promise' for instance, (something Coyne mentions in his article above), we could say, of course, that the 'promise' is regarded in the Confucian way by being the 'gentlemen's' way.

            And it is true and it is said that it is the gentlemen's way to keep a promise.

            But if we go deeper into Kant's thinking, we arrive at something much more fundamental, namely the interaction with 'das ding an sich'. The 'promise' is 'das ding an sich' in that the 'promise' itself is. But the 'promise' can only be as 'is', or can only be as 'das ding an sich' if the 'promise' is in existence.

            And how can the promise be in existence? By coming back to the self. For if the promise is not kept to others, then the promise will not be kept in return. Thereby, the 'promise' is not in existence and cannot be 'das ding an sich'.

            And if the 'promise' does not exist, then the gentlemen's way of keeping a promise does not exist either.

          • And we could even go further in that:

            if we were to conclude that indeed the 'promise' does not exist, then it begs the question if the 'gentleman' could exist, if the being of gentlemen is contingent on there being a 'promise' possible.

            Perhaps politics is no gentlemen's sport after all. And I will leave it at that!

            :)

  95. I doubt that it is, as you seem to be suggesting, a new development in the human brain. The self is already a fiction of the brain, so it is hardly surprising when all sorts of new lies start springing out.

    And yet… and yet the human mind is capable of grasping truth (by which I mean discerning a physical law of the universe) as evidenced by immortal Kepler's work on the orbit of Mars where he physically demonstrated the elliptical nature of its orbit, and thereby proving the heliocentric nature of the solar system (where as Galileo was only able to advocate but not prove.)

  96. Trying to address "the self being a fiction of the brain" I will leave aside for now; such dialogue would require more space than is available now.

    The Kepler – Galileo comparison is an interesting one.

    However, there most definitely is a distinction to be made between lying to others or lying to the self and knowing it, or being aware of it, and what I would consider to be a new human development, namely lying to the self in that one part of the brain would not be aware that the other side of the brain is lying. In other words: when being aware of lying, the two parts of the brain would be in communication with one another in order to bring about such awareness, whereas the lying to the self would require a sort of absence of awareness.

    And awareness ultimately centers around the particular functions of the brain hemispheres.

  97. The covering up you refer to only need to take place if the self is unwilling, or incapable of being honest. For if one is capable of being honest, then the covering up (either of self short comings or the shortcomings of others) are not needed. But being honest is most difficult because being honest means one has to be able to be honest with the self first and foremost. And what is most difficult is to be honest with the self.

    If one is honest with the self, one understands that the self is capable of imperfection; the self does not always act in consistent ways. And as soon as one is capable of telling the self that such imperfection exists within the self, than the self will come to the realization that imperfections exists in others as well. Thereby, the covering up of shortcomings is no longer needed, not if the self understands honesty about the self.

  98. Compartmentalization of the self into discreet parts is a well established phenomenon. When you consider that essentially the same model of wetware is responsible for generating all of the different people that we meet, then you begin to see the power at our disposal. There are even wetwares with more than one personality in them! (Wonderfully parodied in Being John Malcovich.) Of course this involves a species of amnesia, even when we are talking about people that are not experiencing pathology of the personality.

    Rudolf Steiner, for all his many faults, did author a wonderful image when he described the eye as the organ most resembling lifelessness, yet it is our primary way of experiencing. It is more so with the brain. It has to be forgetful to function. It must forget itself so that the self can exist (very awkward sentance).

  99. It actually has very little to do with honesty. Honesty is a species of morality. Morality, as per Confucian tradition, is the end stage of cultural decadence.*

    One can not be honest with the self. The self is the self, delusion or not. Your construction implies duality, which is compartmentalization.

    The covering up of the covering up is an extremely persistent result of human consciousness. Many of the great expressions of genius are blithely unaware of it going on. Even the most developed expressions of Jen/humanness work with it and not against it.

    * Sorry, next to last stage of cultural decadence.

  100. But forgetting the self is not a compartimentalization of the self, if that's what you are trying to combine here.

    In fact, I would argue that the compartimentalization of the self and the self existing by means of forgetting about the self are two opposite modes of being; the first being perhaps a sign of not being able to reach for that self, and the latter by being able to reach for the self by forgetting about the self.

    Being the self is by being uncompartimentalized, as being one with all, being as self with all. A compartimentalization can not accomplish being one with all, as all. One being one with all is impossible to achieve, the compartimentalization is as result, as default mode perhaps.

    Interesting discussion.

    (I have no idea what you mean by wetware??)

  101. I think we see things differently.

    I believe that the state of honesty is the most difficult for human beings to achieve. And that morality is not something only human perse, but is and must be in relation to that which is universal; I'm thinking more Kant than Confucius.

    And also, the human consciousness is in direct relation to universal laws; not just specifically human. It's just that within humans we experience such universals in a human way.

  102. I am still waiting to hear about policies that matter in the long haul. The government that we elect in May will be responsible for the Columbia River Treaty..you know..just one of those important issues that impacts power production, land use and let's not forget..our water.

  103. I am still waiting to hear about policies that matter in the long haul. The government that we elect in May will be responsible for the Columbia River Treaty..you know..just one of those important issues that impacts power production, land use and let's not forget..our water.

  104. If you take up the concept of 'promise' for instance, (something Coyne mentions in his article above), we could say, of course, that the 'promise' is regarded in the Confucian way by being the 'gentlemen's' way.

    And it is true and it is said that it is the gentlemen's way to keep a promise.

    But if we go deeper into Kant's thinking, we arrive at something much more fundamental, namely the interaction with 'das ding an sich'. The 'promise' is 'das ding an sich' in that the 'promise' itself is. But the 'promise' can only be as 'is', or can only be as 'das ding an sich' if the 'promise' is in existence.

    And how can the promise be in existence? By coming back to the self. For if the promise is not kept to others, then the promise will not be kept in return. Thereby, the 'promise' is not in existence and cannot be 'das ding an sich'.

    And if the 'promise' does not exist, then the gentlemen's way of keeping a promise does not exist either.

  105. And we could even go further in that:

    if we were to conclude that indeed the 'promise' does not exist, then it begs the question if the 'gentleman' could exist, if the being of gentlemen is contingent on there being a 'promise' possible.

    Perhaps politics is no gentlemen's sport after all. And I will leave it at that!

    :)

  106. Actually, he once endorsed a proposal for a simplified tax return, several years back, that was simply brilliant. An income tax return on a postcard. I long for it, every April.
    http://www.macleans.ca/canada/opinions/article.js

  107. Actually, he once endorsed a proposal for a simplified tax return, several years back, that was simply brilliant. An income tax return on a postcard. I long for it, every April.
    http://www.macleans.ca/canada/opinions/article.js

  108. It's almost like he wanted to demonstrate right off the bat, on the very first day, that all his lofty rhetoric was just that, and that he was just as bad as all the other politicians before him.

  109. There are promises that they should have been able to keep. No one was holding a gun to his head when he appointed Fortier to the Senate and cabinet in direct contradiction of his pledge.

  110. I think he was forgotten.

  111. You made a statement, were asked a simple question to produce the Ontario budget that had Harris/Flaherty in a deficit and you can't? I am shocked, look up cognitive dissonance.

  112. The Canadian media is so biased in favor of the left that the whole concept of media telling us the truth is laughable. Why not just admit your political slant? The left strategy sessions which is what is our media puts out today, is an insult to people's intelligence. Maclean's at least attempted to show both sides of the political spectrum except, ironically, the last two issues. Be brave Maclean's: show your journalistic integrity.

  113. The Canadian media is so biased in favor of the left that the whole concept of media telling us the truth is laughable. Why not just admit your political slant? The left strategy sessions which is what is our media puts out today, is an insult to people's intelligence. Maclean's at least attempted to show both sides of the political spectrum except, ironically, the last two issues. Be brave Maclean's: show your journalistic integrity.

  114. Peter, that is a wonderful rebuke. Andrew is in charge. Where's some opposing views for the so-called humor of Wherry and the hissy blogging Ms. O'Malley.

  115. Peter, that is a wonderful rebuke. Andrew is in charge. Where's some opposing views for the so-called humor of Wherry and the hissy blogging Ms. O'Malley.

  116. Hey Mr. Andrew Coyne, I'm still steamed about the CBC's Vote Compass. When will you have something to say abut this attempt at election manipulation? It's not the right thing to do during an election campaign.

  117. Hey Mr. Andrew Coyne, I'm still steamed about the CBC's Vote Compass. When will you have something to say abut this attempt at election manipulation? It's not the right thing to do during an election campaign.

  118. The complaints and the review process and the "fines" would be so charged with partisanship as to be useless immediately, Andrew.

    But THE PEOPLE have the right to be sufficiently outraged (or not) at a broken promise. The power rests with the people. Recall legislation is the way to go.

    If, say, twenty percent of the number of votes cast to elect the current MP (in the particular riding) sign for a recall vote, the riding must hold one. If fifty-percent-plus-one of votes cast approve of the recall, the MP is fired, the seat is vacant, and a by-election is required.

    If sufficient ridings manage to vacate sufficient MPs so that a majority falls to a minority, or a minority more easily loses confidence, so be it.

  119. The complaints and the review process and the "fines" would be so charged with partisanship as to be useless immediately, Andrew.

    But THE PEOPLE have the right to be sufficiently outraged (or not) at a broken promise. The power rests with the people. Recall legislation is the way to go.

    If, say, twenty percent of the number of votes cast to elect the current MP (in the particular riding) sign for a recall vote, the riding must hold one. If fifty-percent-plus-one of votes cast approve of the recall, the MP is fired, the seat is vacant, and a by-election is required.

    If sufficient ridings manage to vacate sufficient MPs so that a majority falls to a minority, or a minority more easily loses confidence, so be it.

    • I now see Harvey Mushman beat me to this. So I shall get in line behind Harvey.

  120. I now see Harvey Mushman beat me to this. So I shall get in line behind Harvey.

  121. Thank you Andrew Coyne. Your article only reinforced my feelings towards elections. As a young voter my outlook on politics is very jaded by growing up in a time where politicians have been known to say whatever is needed to come to power and go back on their promises. It seems that no matter which party you vote for there isn't a platform that won't eventually end up aligning with another party's values. With that in mind, when I hear from the media that only 37% of youth 18-24 voted last election, i ask what's the big surprise? If Macleans wants to do an interesting poll next issue ask people if they think voting for one party over the other will make a difference in the kind of government that runs this country?

  122. Thank you Andrew Coyne. Your article only reinforced my feelings towards elections. As a young voter my outlook on politics is very jaded by growing up in a time where politicians have been known to say whatever is needed to come to power and go back on their promises. It seems that no matter which party you vote for there isn't a platform that won't eventually end up aligning with another party's values. With that in mind, when I hear from the media that only 37% of youth 18-24 voted last election, i ask what's the big surprise? If Macleans wants to do an interesting poll next issue ask people if they think voting for one party over the other will make a difference in the kind of government that runs this country?

  123. Has anyone seen Andrew Coyne to comment on Vote Compass or is that topic to risky for him.

  124. Has anyone seen Andrew Coyne to comment on Vote Compass or is that topic to risky for him.

  125. Andrew Coyne, can you direct me to your opinion on Vote Compass? Have I missed it? I don't always agree with you but I have to concede that you often put a lot of effort into your articles.

  126. Andrew Coyne, can you direct me to your opinion on Vote Compass? Have I missed it? I don't always agree with you but I have to concede that you often put a lot of effort into your articles.

  127. Mr Coyne, you gave numerous examples of lies but nothing about the rare politicians who told the truth and lost. I am thiking about Kim Campbell and Stephane Dion. The blame rests partly on us the voters and partly on the journalists who ridicule the honest politicians.

  128. Mr Coyne, you gave numerous examples of lies but nothing about the rare politicians who told the truth and lost. I am thiking about Kim Campbell and Stephane Dion. The blame rests partly on us the voters and partly on the journalists who ridicule the honest politicians.

  129. How come journalists do not list political performances. But instead progosticate innuendo. 1) How about evaluating cost of promises; – eg F-35 jet purchase has been around since 1997 and two parties/govn's have proceeded to the point where we have now expended $278 million – cancellation means we lose this investment, and then we purchase later at more costs? GST – if Chretien had cancelled how large would the current deficit be? Interesting!! he promised no Helicopters and kept his promise – cost $700million loss. 2) magnitude of promise and consequence – Harpers senate appointments vs removing the GST? Comparable if broken? Harper is on record – an elected senate but parliament and the provinces are not cooperating…and if he did not fill SENATE positions now then he as PM/CPC party looses senate power. 3)promises being affected by fluid issues eg 1st nations and consultation and separatists issues in Quebec that can affect implemenation…and oops votes(?)
    4) promised and implemented legislation for "balanced budgets", could not be achieved, repealed the "law? really this is fruity republic stuff…these are all about the democratic deficit …lets hope for a better system, reporting and reasoning.

  130. How come journalists do not list political performances. But instead progosticate innuendo. 1) How about evaluating cost of promises; – eg F-35 jet purchase has been around since 1997 and two parties/govn's have proceeded to the point where we have now expended $278 million – cancellation means we lose this investment, and then we purchase later at more costs? GST – if Chretien had cancelled how large would the current deficit be? Interesting!! he promised no Helicopters and kept his promise – cost $700million loss. 2) magnitude of promise and consequence – Harpers senate appointments vs removing the GST? Comparable if broken? Harper is on record – an elected senate but parliament and the provinces are not cooperating…and if he did not fill SENATE positions now then he as PM/CPC party looses senate power. 3)promises being affected by fluid issues eg 1st nations and consultation and separatists issues in Quebec that can affect implemenation…and oops votes(?)
    4) promised and implemented legislation for "balanced budgets", could not be achieved, repealed the "law? really this is fruity republic stuff…these are all about the democratic deficit …lets hope for a better system, reporting and reasoning.

  131. Misrepresentation, spin and lies occur at the municipal level as well. In my community, Lantzville this occured and the writers in the local paper were complicit in it.