"All I Know Is What I Read In The Papers" - Will Rogers

There have been many criteria over the past few centuries that measured
one's political clout and influence: divine right, property, money, and
acquaintances. In the twentieth century, particularly the past two decades, the
political power to influence others resides in information: the more information
you have and the more you know how to use it, the more potential influence you
People rely on the media for their information, as it is the most easily
accessible, efficient, and passive way of acquiring knowledge. Unfortunately,
the media is not completely reliable as it can and has been manipulated by
politicians, their parties, and their governments. This makes the media a
powerful weapon as politicians use it to effect voters political choices through
advertising, change popular opinion on issues of state, and debasing political
campaigns through smear tactics.

"You can make a candidate someone they aren't. You can protect them
from someone they are, or make them more of what they are".-Senator Norm

"An election is like a one day sale…the product (candidate) in a sale
(campaign) is only available a few hours on one day".(2)

The main goal one hopes to achieve by advertising something is to make
it marketable so people will purchase it. Since what a politician hopes to
ultimately do is persuade people to vote for, or buy, their political platform,
they would be foolish to not take advantage of the captive and passive audience
of the advertising mass media. Unfortunately politicians and their management
take advantage of this medium to manipulate voters' choices. Two cases of
advertising manipulation on voters was during the Canadian National Referendum
of 1992 and the Quebec Referendum of 1995. During the National Referendum of
1992 over the Charlottetown Accord "three hours of free broadcast time was made
available during prime time on every radio and television network that met the
statutory criteria"(3) according to the Referendum Act. The act also states
that "half (of the time) is allocated to the ‘Yes' and half to the ‘No' side"(4).
This allotment of advertising time did not take into account the print
advertisement that was plastered all over the daily and weekly news periodicals
calling for people to vote for their side. In the Toronto Star all the month
of October the "Yes" campaign, fronted by Brian Mulroney, took out ads that had
powerful bylines printed in bold type like this one of October 17: "Vote Yes
for Canada's Future"(5). This statement is an attempt to manipulate not only
the voter who will take the time to read the reasons in smaller print, but also
the voter who only glances through the paper as their attention is caught, even
if it is only for a second, to the bold type and the powerful finality of the
These are examples of direct use of advertisement to sway voters'
decisions. There is a more indirect method as well where politicians use the
news media to try to convey their message and hope the news will air or print it.
During the National Referendum campaign the "No" side relied on this factor
more than the "Yes" side did. In a Globe and Mail article before the vote, the
reporter regurgitated what Judy Rebick had said about the "Yes" side being "top-
heavy with politicians, government types, and opinion leaders"(6), and how the
public respects the "No" side as it is "something that comes from the
Similar to the National Referendum, the Quebec Referendum also followed
the same guidelines set out by the Referendum Act concerning media advertising
allotment. The only difference was that the advertisement was localized to
Quebec only. As with the 1992 Referendum the local periodicals in Quebec were
littered with advertisements for votes: in Quebec's French-language newspapers
"the federal government took out full-page ads"(8) which stated "in huge bold
letters…NUMBERS DON'T LIE and goes on to explain how Quebec…will receive 31 per
cent of all federal transfer payments"(10). This ad was meant to persuade
Quebec citizens to vote no as Canada is very generous to them.
Politicians in Quebec also took advantage of the indirect media
advertising when they recited political rhetoric to reporters hoping it will be

Pierre Paradis , Liberal House Leader, said the poll numbers
suggest that the No side's message that separation is the real
issue is getting through to the public. "The more the stakes
become clear…the more people will be inclined to say No"(11).

This statement by the Liberal House leader works just as well