The Liberals want to end fake news, but who decides what that is?

If you’re singing the fake news blues, the federal government wants you to believe it has the answer.

My Loonie Politics column this week tackles the announcement made by a panel of cabinet ministers laying out how the Justin Trudeau’s government plans to safeguard this year’s federal election.

You can read the full column here if you’re a Loonie Politics subscriber. (If not, use promo code ‘Lawton’ for a discounted subscription.)

Here’s an excerpt:

Canada’s long-awaited answer to foreign interference in elections has arrived, but it seems to create an opening for domestic meddling — by the government itself.

With nine months to go until this year’s federal election, a team of ministers from Justin Trudeau’s cabinet announced this week a “sweeping series” of measures aimed to safeguard Canadian democracy.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally I don’t know, but a glaring question remains after the government reiterated its commitment to purging misinformation from social media sites: who decides what misinformation really is?

Facts are black and white, but interpretations of them aren’t always so clear, especially when politics is concerned.

Most people would agree social media companies should spike content posted by Russian bots falsely linking politicians with criminality.  But what about content that isn’t as easy to parse?

Such as a claim that a carbon tax is nothing but a cash grab.  Or a study critical of the government’s track record on economics.  Or someone saying the Liberals have been dishonest about their balanced budget plans (or lack thereof.)

These all sound like critiques that fall within the boundaries of civilized debate, but they share something in common: all were called “fake news” by high-ranking government officials.

Voters in Canada must be citizens. So why don’t they need to prove it?

If you live in the province of Ontario, you had the chance to go to the polls a few days ago in your municipality’s civic election. For eligible voters, it’s a great chance to participate in democracy. Unfortunately, it also is for ineligible voters, as I was reminded of by numerous firsthand accounts from people who cast ballots despite not being lawfully able to do so.

I extrapolate on it in my latest Loonie Politics column, which you can read here if you’re a subscriber. If you aren’t a subscriber, consider joining using the promo code Lawton, which gives you a discount. Here’s a little teaser:

No citizenship?  No problem.

Such was the reality for voters across Ontario in the province’s municipal elections this week.  With a slight amendment.  You need to be a citizen to vote — you just don’t need to prove it.  It’s a glaring oversight that everyone knows about, but no one in power seems to care about.

I saw it firsthand in an election in 2011, when I had to add myself to the voter’s list at the polling station for some reason and was surprised I didn’t have to prove that I was actually eligible to vote.  (I was and still am, for what it’s worth.)

Despite changes to the voting systems at various levels of government, this loophole hasn’t been closed in the last seven years.  It’s time to fix that.

While it’s never sat right with me, I didn’t realize how widespread the issue was until I was asked about voting eligibility last week by an acquaintance of mine active in the Chinese community.  She is a Canadian citizen, as are many of the people in her networks.  But many of them are permanent residents, who are not allowed to vote in even municipal elections.

Like many ethnic communities, the Chinese community is becoming more politically engaged and connected.  Several of these permanent residents were eager to vote, and were reportedly getting conflicting information about whether or not they could.  At least one such person, my contact said, voted after being told by a poll clerk that citizenship wasn’t required.