Nova Scotia

Election bill won't include 3rd party controls

The Nova Scotia government has introduced a bill to modernize the law that governs elections, but the changes do not include restricting third party involvement in campaigns.

The Nova Scotia government has introduced a bill to modernize the law that governs elections, but the changes do not include restricting third party involvement in campaigns.

A third party is a person or group that is participating in an election through advertising or advocacy.

The bill comes in spite of the province's top elections official's recommendation that controls should be placed on what unions, lobby groups and other interested parties do during election campaigns.

"I think that third party controls mean that individuals are aware of what's going on behind the scenes, because it's recognized generally that a third party can influence how voters vote," said Christine McCulloch, Nova Scotia's Chief Electoral Officer.

McCulloch is hoping the bill is changed to reflect her recommendations before it becomes law.

She recommends that third parties need to register with her office, and that limits be placed on what they can spend on election-related expenses.

Justice Minister Ross Landry said the government needs more information on the impact of the changes before it will consider restricting third party involvement in campaigns.

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie said it's a mistake not to include third parties.

"We have significant restrictions on those who are active participants in the political process like political parties, which I support," he said.

"But there is no limit in the bill for third party advertising, whether they are unions, corporations or whatever. The fact of the matter is they are playing a greater and greater role in the election itself."

Baillie said the reason the NDP isn't ready to act is because unions are pro-NDP and without limits, labour groups can continue to spend money or work on campaigns designed to help the party remain in power.

Liberal MLA Michel Samson said he isn't surprised by the NDP's reluctance to change that part of the law.

"They do not support it because I believe it will allow, as we saw in the last election, for their union friends to continue to send out information to Nova Scotian households encouraging them to support NDP candidates, and encouraging them to support the NDP party," he said.

"And these expenses will not be counted against the expenses of the NDP which, like all political parties, has a limit on how much they can spend during elections."

Samson said limits should be imposed to ensure all parties have a level playing field during elections.

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