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Of all the lies she’s told in her political career, Danielle Smith’s latest might be the biggest yet. After insisting it was the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) that “asked for us to do a pause” on renewable energy development last year, it turns out the AESO’s CEO was actually opposed to it all along. In an email that came to light through a freedom-of-information request from The Narwhal’s Drew Anderson, AESO CEO Mike Law indicated that he was “not supportive” of the idea. “A ‘closed for business’ message to renewables will be reputationally very challenging for the province,” he wrote.

This is already having a number of potential negative outcomes for Alberta, from the independence of its supposedly independent electricity market operator to the damage this decision is doing to investment in the province. This week alone, TransAlta announced the cancellation of its 300-megawatt Riplinger wind farm in Cardston because of the new provincial regulations and put three additional renewable energy projects on hold.

Sady, this probably won’t negatively impact Smith’s popularity. We’ve come to expect our elected officials will lie to us, and they’ve been more than happy to live up — or down — to that standard. When Pierre Poilievre and his Conservative MPs tell bald-faced lies, whether it’s about the carbon tax or the treatment of drugs in B.C. (they’ve been decriminalized, not “legalized”), most of us — journalists and non-Conservative MPs included — have almost become accustomed to them by now.

In fairness, the same holds true for the lies being told by those on the other side of the House of Commons, even if they happen with far less frequency. We’re all increasingly numb to the cost of these lies, big and small, and the corrosive impact they have on our political discourse and the decisions that flow from it.

This isn’t unique to Canada, of course. Politicians lie everywhere. But at least one politician is willing to do something about it. Adam Price, a Welsh parliamentarian and former leader of the centre-left Plaid Cymru party, recently tabled an amendment to that country’s broader election reform act proposing that it be made illegal for an elected official or candidate to “wilfully mislead the parliament or the public.” Opinions, beliefs, and other non-factual statements would be exempt from this proposed law that has the support of Wales’ Liberal Democrats and Tories.

This isn’t Price’s first rodeo here. He became famous for trying to impeach former British prime minister Tony Blair for lying about the Iraq war, and he clearly still believes in the importance of politicians telling the truth. “If a doctor lies, they are struck off,” he told CBC’s As It Happens. “If a lawyer lies, they are disbarred. And yet we seem to have tolerated a democratic culture where politicians can lie with impunity. Well, that's got to stop.”

Donald Trump’s arrival on the political scene in 2016, and his well-documented status as the world’s most voracious liar, created a permission structure for other aspiring liars to test their own limits. So, too, has the decline of conventional media and the rise of a right-wing information ecosystem that holds the truth in nearly as much contempt as the journalists who try to inform it. And while those trends are most visible in American politics, where everything (including the lies and the liars) is bigger, they can clearly be seen in ours as well.

It’s entirely possible such a law would fail to pass constitutional muster in Canada, although, if Poilievre is willing to pre-emptively invoke the charter, then maybe Justin Trudeau could do the same here. But maybe as a first step, his government could establish an officer of Parliament charged with cataloging lying offences and identifying the politicians responsible for them. If former Toronto Star reporter and U.S. fact checker extraordinaire Daniel Dale is looking for an opportunity to return home, this might be the perfect job for him.

The cynics will surely suggest that this wouldn’t have any meaningful impact on our political discourse, much less the natural inclination of politicians to bend the truth of any given situation to their advantage. They might be right. But at a moment where misinformation is more widespread than ever, and where democratic institutions are increasingly coming under attack, we at least ought to have the courage to find out.

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It's a worthy goal, though I wonder if the blame ought not be shared with the public who, too often, doesn't wish to hear the truth? Witness the fate of climate crisis mitigation measures.

"We’ve come to expect our elected officials will lie to us, and they’ve been more than happy to live up — or down — to that standard."

"Come to expect" or "what we want to hear" (or what is inevitable when the alternative verbiage is what we don't want to hear)? How often are reports of tiny positive steps in making human existence more sustainable hyperbolized into "we are saved!" declarations, even within CNO reportage?

How old is the tale of The Emperor's New Clothes?

That said, the continuing slow death (or is it a possible resurgence?) of the free press and the rise of the monopolized, internet-facilitated "free market of ideas" doesn't bode well.

It seems to be more "what people want to hear" than what is true or factual. Just look at the dumpster fires in social media, disinformation, misinformation, conspiracy theories and users tend to be too lazy to fact check anything. The anti-Trudeau crowd is a good example of the garbage they believe is true than real facts.

Good points.

And yet, people's inherent nature presumably hasn't changed in the last few decades, they presumably don't enjoy being fooled noticeably more or less than they did in the 70s, but the level of lying has increased a lot. Something about the way society and our information environment are structured has to be different. There's the technology shift, there's the inequality shift, there's the increased media concentration, but there are other things too, like the demise of the old US "fairness doctrine", without which Fox News probably couldn't exist.

The biggest lie in politics is calling themselves ''THE HONORABLE MEMBER'' from yadda yadda.....

You truly have to specify to be accurate though.
Under the current, dangerous political circumstances, anyone who still identifies as a conservative does indeed make a mockery of the term "honourable member," bringing only the derogatory sense of the latter to mind; this DOES all feel very male-propelled.
A mockery because it is THEIR side, and their side alone that has enabled Trumpism, i.e. outright, bold-faced LYING at the highest level of government, and in SUCH a persistent, unprecedented fashion that new, mitigating terms have sprung up to rationalize the behaviour of the heretofore excessively exalted and always exceptional "President of the United States of America," terms like "misinformation, disinformation, alternative facts, mis-speaking, and one of the first ones, fake news."
So with the help of the wildly destructive internet and the surprisingly easily discredited media (who knew it was so easy to completely discredit what we used to think were unassailably noble institutions) not only these new terms but the behaviour behind them have APPARENTLY become "normalized," as Max points out.
In addition, there's the always underlying sports/gamer motif that gets so many men up in the morning "winning the day" (everyone loves a winner, right?) because portions of the previously disengaged electorate have sniffed not just the usual horse race, but a real revolution, i.e. a fight that has their name on it like never before. It took them all the way to the insanity of the Jan. 6th insurrection.
But in this ongoing melee, far more advanced in the U.S., the attempt to casually marginalize and relegate women to their usual position may well be what ruins all the fun, as usual, which is why they have to be controlled.
But it's their job; someone has to be the adult in the room.

If you removed liars from politics you would have no politicians. Maybe remove big money from politics instead, especially from dirty energy, to eliminate lying and corruption from politics entirely.

I wish there was a legal contract system in place with elected government personnel. They are expected to manage a nation's affairs as best as they can. But, unlike managers in a company or public bureaucracy, they don't have the oversight of an owner or board chair.

It would be so much easier to have a board manage the nation instead of lying politicians who often have no outside skills beyond party hackery. I believe the ideology of political parties and private money has a lot to do with that.

Agree, but our Conservative leaders are moving in the opposite direction, more money, more influence and more bought politicians

And you need to police up the media, which slants headlines and chooses adjectives to sell newspapers rather than to reflect the truth of the articles they write. A recent example: Capital gains 'tax increase'. This is actually a tax break, i.e. a loophole, that allows people to pay less tax if money is gained by selling assets. To be exact, 50% was tax free. Yet the media focus is exclusively on how unfair it is to a person who is asked to include more of this wealth in regular income - like the majority of us with jobs. Have you seen any headlines that say "Liberals close tax loophole"? No? Thought not.

Removing big money from politics is very important, for sure. But while politics always have motivations to lie, they didn't always do it, because there used to be consequences when they got caught. So they would fudge a lot; they would lie by omission, they would gloss over the truth, they would say things that were technically true but misleading, and they would answer tough questions by instead answering some other question that wasn't asked.

All that stuff is bad, but when they can get away with actual direct lies, I think we've seen that stuff gets a lot worse.

Trump and Boris Johnson have had an absolutely corrosive effect on truth in politics. The public may not have particularly trusted politicians before them, but they did expect them to not flat out lie to them. Trump and Johnson barely had a passing acquaintance with the truth.

Trump and Boris Johnson have had an absolutely corrosive effect on truth in politics. The public may not have particularly trusted politicians before them, but they did expect them to not flat out lie to them. Trump and Johnson barely had a passing acquaintance with the truth.

Everyday, Conservative politicians live up to their reputation as liars, gaslighters and taking words out of context. Unfortunately my fellow Canadians blame Trudeau for the Conservative sins. And accept the piles of misinformation and lies we are subjected to! What is going on? Canada is far from broken, maybe bent a bit but not broken. And what's next for Poilievre, Ford, Smith, Moe, and Higgs. Politicians in general and all parties need retraining in civility, communications and lessons on who they are really working for. Compromise is essential as our present free market economic and social systems have failed. BUT the above politicians are committed to giving us increased doses of this failed system. Privatization, fewer regs and less government are the reasons we are having problems. Combine that with political lies and nowhere to go but down

For sure we ned a law that prevents elected politicians and publicly appointed politicians for spreading misinformation. Perhaps if such a law was even proposed, or a register of untruths made public, it might crb the blatant and dangerous lies being spread.

Poilieve and Smith have taken lying to new levels of outright on purpose dishonesty. Pretty sad when one cannot believe anything either says.