Ads do not break electoral laws, doctors' group says
The Alberta Medical Association believes ads placed last week in seven newspapers do not run afoul of the province's electoral laws, which limit third-party advertising during election campaigns.
The ads titled "Health care needs your voice" and "Just how sick is Alberta's health care system?" prompted Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim to demand the AMA "cease and desist" and register as a third party for the purposes of political advertising.
"As a non-partisan organization ... we were both surprised by, and disappointed with, this action," said AMA president Dr. Linda Slocombe in a letter to members on Monday.
In a letter Monday, a lawyer for the AMA told Fjeldheim that the group, which represents Alberta physicians, believes that the ads "do not constitute politicial advertising ... as the ads are not run for the purpose of promoting or opposing any registered party or the election of a registered candidate, and do not take a position with which any registered party or candidate is associated."
The ads, he argues, are a "legitimate expression of free speech."
The organization also has no plans to register with the chief electoral officer.
"The AMA did not register — and does not intend to register — because our view is that our four ads are not political advertising as described in the legislation," Slocombe wrote.
The AMA's board of directors will hold a conference call this week to decide what they will do next.
The new laws, which came into effect in 2010, place a $30,000 cap on political advertising by third parties.