I approved this message

It seemed sincere when a candidate had to approve a message delivered to the public. One could argue there was an element of accountability.

In 1993 when Jean Chretien ran in his first national election, the Tories launched an attack ad against his physical appearance.

We remember that occasion well because of the reaction on the letters page of this publication. While negative advertising has been proven to work, there are lines which shouldn’t be crossed. No one can help how they look and certainly picking on a deformity is totally off-side.

Here we are a quarter century later and dirty tricks and stunts remain part of the game. Arguably it is becoming a more scientific approach for negative advertising. Unfortunately, rather than a party, leader or a campaign team remaining accountable for messages transmitted, they can hide safely behind a third-party or internet-based presence.

It’s much like the super-PACs in the States where organizations can campaign with few restrictions – as long as they remain at arms-length from the actual candidate. There have been numerous examples in Canada where unions spend money advertising against Conservatives.

In the last provincial election in Ontario, texting became a more commonplace way to reach people. Plenty of people we know received texts from parties they weren’t involved with, nor ever had approached. In the digital world it is quite easy to buy or highjack a list for partisan gains.

Much was made of “bots” in the 2016 American election. Foreign actors and ambitious politicians deployed these robots to deliver messages and counter political activities. The depth of activity was actually frightening, causing many to wonder where we are headed.

The point is, misusing technology creates an environment of plausible deniability where leaders are saved harmless and immune from being held accountable.

Without an understanding of fair play and good rules, the damage is done and we can think of no benefit to a system that operates like that.

Next person in line

Although waiting in a checkout line at a store can be a drag, we do it all the time.

Automated checkout technology is nothing new. For years now, shoppers have had the chance to scan and make their purchases.

Curiously, clerks clearly trained to encourage customers to use the scanners don’t seem to understand the statement being made when people choose to stick with a live cashier.

Apart from preferring the value of customer service at the final step in the transaction, some of us don’t wish to encourage head office to yank yet another cashier and replace another worker’s job.

We remain puzzled by the number of patrons, often adorned with a lanyard and name badge for a government office, who happily skip the lineup and head for a scanner. Perhaps their union hasn’t spelled out details on this quiet war against workers – or perhaps worse – they truly don’t care about other people and their struggles.