North·NWT Votes 2019

Ad placed by union violated election rules, Elections NWT says

The Union of Northern Workers, the N.W.T.’s biggest labour union, ran an ad in two newspapers which violated new rules around election advertising, says chief electoral officer.

Union of Northern Workers failed to register as third party advertiser, chief electoral officer says

A file photo of Union of Northern Workers president Todd Parsons at a press conference in February announcing the union's plan to strike. Parsons says he was surprised the union was not in compliance with election rules over the advertisement. (Walter Strong/CBC)

An ad the N.W.T.'s biggest labour union ran in two local newspapers last week violated new rules around election advertising, says the Northwest Territories' chief electoral officer.

The two-page ad ran in News North and the Yellowknifer. In it, the Union of Northern Workers identified how each incumbent MLA running for re-election on Oct. 1 voted on a motion in February urging the government to enter binding arbitration to reach a new collective agreement. At that time, negotiations had been dragging on between the two sides, with the union threatening to strike.

Asked if the ad violated new rules around election advertising by third parties (people or organizations other than candidates), chief electoral officer Nicole Latour responded, "Yes it does, in my view."

The new rules require any individual or organization, other than candidates and their campaigns, spending $500 or more on election advertising, to register with Elections NWT as a third party advertiser.

Latour said the union did not register.

"I received a complaint from a citizen this morning," said Latour on Monday, who noted that the Elections and Plebiscites Act gives her the authority to investigate election violations even without a complaint.

This advertisement, by the Union of Northern Workers, ran in two local newspapers last week. The ad violated new election advertising rules, says the chief electoral officer.

Latour said she has advised the union to "cease and desist" all election advertising until it registers as a third party advertiser.

Latour would not comment on whether the union will be charged for the violation.

Union of Northern Workers president Todd Parsons was unavailable for an interview on Monday, but sent an email to CBC.

"I had instructed staff to ensure that we were registered and in compliance with the Act. I was surprised to be notified by Elections NWT that we were not in compliance and we are immediately working to correct this error."

Parsons said the union intends to do more advertising during the territorial election.

Nicole Latour, the N.W.T.'s chief electoral officer, says she has advised the union to 'cease and desist' all election advertising until it registers as a third party advertiser. (John Last/CBC)

Poor use of union dues: member

The complaint to Elections NWT was made by Brad Enge. He is what's known as a "Rand" member of the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) — someone who has not signed a union card but pays dues and has the protections and benefits the union provides.

"It's hard to get people to run for public office and I vehemently disagree with the union spending union dues to oppose people who decide to run," said Enge. He said the union has far more financial resources at its disposal than most candidates.

"I didn't see a resolution or a request from the UNW to its membership to be able to spend the amount of money they can spend."

According to the Elections and Plebiscites Act, the limit a registered third party can spend on advertising is $57,000.

Enge also said he checked Hansard, the official record of what's said in the legislature, and the ad, which included brief quotes summarizing each MLAs' position on binding arbitration, misrepresented some candidates' views.

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