Calgary

Rebel Media says 'Stop Notley' lawn signs don't violate Alberta election advertising law

Rebel Media says its "Stop Notley" lawn signs are book promotions and therefore exempt from Alberta's election advertising laws.

Voter questioned why Rebel Media isn't listed as a third-party election advertiser

Calgarian Kumar Jain says he was interested in ordering a free "Stop Notley" sign until he realized Rebel Media is not registered as a third-party election advertiser in Alberta. Rebel Media says the sign is legal under Alberta election law. (Submitted)

Rebel Media says its "Stop Notley" lawn signs are book promotions and therefore exempt from Alberta's election advertising laws.

Calgarian Kumar Jain said he's not exactly the biggest fan of NDP Leader Rachel Notley, so when he spotted a sign reading "StopNotley.com," he was eager to order one for himself.

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What he didn't notice until he received an email telling him his lawn sign would soon be ready for pickup was the sign was from Rebel Media.

The sign directs people to a website promoting a book written by Alberta-based Rebel Media contributor and conservative activist Sheila Gunn Reid.

"It looks like election advertising to me. I mean, who sells a book by putting out lawn signs?" Jain said.

Jain said he's not involved with any political party, but was simply concerned to see a sign from a Toronto-based organization while Alberta is in an election campaign.

"Alberta elections should be for Albertans, and, you know, we should not have any outside interference … if they want to participate in our elections, they should register with Elections Alberta, for sure."

In Alberta, election advertising is any advertising done in the period between writs being issued and election day "that takes a position on an issue with which a registered party or registered candidate is associated," according to Elections Alberta.

A third party must register if it plans to spend $1,000 or more on election advertising.

But, Rebel Media founder Ezra Levant says the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act exempts the promotion of books from any election laws.

The act states "the distribution of a book, or the promotion of the sale of a book" is not considered election advertising.

Rebel Media has already received a letter of reprimand from Alberta's election commissioner for not registering as a third-party advertiser. That was in January, on a different issue, before the election.

Election commissioner Lorne Gibson said in a letter sent to Rebel founder Ezra Levant that the company spent thousands on a billboard calling for NDP MLA David Eggen to be fired from his position as education minister.

"I believe that Rebel Media intended to convey a message that opposes a member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly," he wrote.

Levant said the media company has applied for a judicial review of the reprimand, and is challenging the constitutionality of the law itself. 

"It's partisan, and it's tremendous misconduct on the part of the election commissioner," he said.

The Office of the Alberta Election Commissioner works independently from government to investigate and enforce the Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions and Disclosure Act. 

It does not comment on investigations it may or may not be conducting.

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