B.C. appeal court upholds election gag law ruling
B.C.'s Court of Appeal agrees the government has no right to impose advertising restrictions outside a 28-day election period.
The high court panel on Wednesday upheld a B.C. Supreme court ruling that says it's unconstitutional to impose a 60-day limit on third-party advertising before a provincial election campaign begins.
"The effect of the ... legislation overshoots its overall objective of electoral fairness," ruling judge Catherine Ryan wrote.
B.C. Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert called the decision a victory for free and open debate.
"Government should be encouraging that and instead, they tried to stifle it," said Lambert.
"Well, that legislation has now been struck down in our appeal court here in B.C. It's a good victory for good citizens, it's a good victory for the province and for Canada."
B.C.'s Attorney General issued a statement later Wednesday saying the government is exploring its options.
"Today, the B.C. Court of Appeal rendered an important decision," Shirley Bond said in the release. "We will now take the time necessary to study the decision closely and determine what, if any, next steps will be taken."
Bond added that, "Spending restrictions by third parties during the [28-day election] period will continue to be limited."
B.C. could try to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.
7 unions fought so-called gag law
Nurses Union president Debra McPherson said it's time the provincial government admit defeat on the legislation.
McPherson said the original law stopped her union from advertising during a period when the legislature was sitting and when the throne speech and budget were presented.
"They cannot stop us from reacting to decisions they're making in the legislature," she said.
Seven unions, including the B.C. Teachers' Federation, successfully fought what they called a gag law that prevented them from speaking out about important issues.
Because of the fixed election date, the government had concerns there might be a spending "free-for-all" in the days preceding the campaign, and acted on recommendations of the B.C.'s chief electoral officer on election advertising.
The legislation limited third-party election advertising to $3,000 in a single district and $150,000 province-wide for two months before the May fixed election date.
With files from The Canadian Press