“I just read your article and see that you were looking for actual “your money” ad… so here it is,” wrote Sasha Andric in an email April 15th, 2011.
At the time we had no idea who Andric was but learned later his is a volunteer in the Byrne NDP office.
It’s common for political parties to “plant” or pitch stories to the media.
The ad content begged for a satiric treatment with a simple video so we ran it by Campbell Webster, campaign manager for Byrne. Webster’s response was “wink, wink, nudge, nudge we didn’t give it to you but you can do what you like.”
Webster was given a preview of the video before it was published on YouTube and he called it “Hilarious”.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbdRTKj4X8M When the video link was posted on Joe Byrne’s candidate page, Byrne ordered it removed.
Webster called to explain and told us that there were “limits to free speech” such as Nazi hate speech.
Our reply was that satire is a reasonable form of free speech or free expression and that the video was also posted on Mike Currie, Donna Profit and other candidate pages. I also reminded him that the content was their own words and that freedom of expression is something Byrne said he supports.
Within an hour Webster advised us that Byrne had ordered Andric to remove it again.
We had a lengthy discussion with Webster and Byrne. Byrne believes social media is like your living room. He feels it is his responsibility to control the message and the medium. Apparently even Byrne’s own words are not fair speech in his world.
Byrne is of course ill-informed and a novice at politics and the media. Media is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Supreme Court has ruled that the internet and social media are granted the same rights as traditional newspapers, radio and TV.
The restriction on free speech in Canada are generally sedition, that is acts against the state but not political comment, and defamation. Since our video contains the exact words in Byrne’s radio ad it can hardly offend free speech.
Byrne admitted it offended his taste and that was enough.
We’re glad to find out in the last week of the election campaign that a candidate is willing to limit freedom of expression and artistic expression based on his own taste.
This raises the fear that the NDP are truly amateurs at democracy or else wonky left-wing radicals.