Unions upset over plans to restrict election campaign spending

Political scientist Lydia Miljan says a precedent for Ontario's proposed legislation was set by the federal government when it brought in similar rules.
Brian Hogan, president of the Windsor District and Labour Council, says limiting third-party advertising in provincial elections will silence unions around Ontario.

The president of the local labour council says workers will be silenced, if the provincial government moves ahead with its plan to restrict election campaign advertising.

The Ontario Liberals want to ban corporations and unions from donating money or guaranteeing loans to parties and candidates, while limiting donations by individuals.

Brian Hogan, president of the Windsor District and Labour Council, says third-party groups need to be able to communicate their message.

"I think just flat out saying no advertising is unfair, it's not fair for the citizens not to hear from these groups," said Hogan, who is also president of the local Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association chapter representing high school teachers. 

"We need the nurses association to say what the hospital looks like. The Teachers' union can tell us what the classroom looks like."

Precedent already set

Political scientist Lydia Miljan said the federal government has already set a precedent for the proposed legislation.

Though this latest bid was crafted by the Ontario Liberals, she predicts the change in third-party advertising might hurt the party in the next election.

"This is a government that really benefited from those in the last several election campaigns with the union third-party advertisements really attacking the conservatives," Miljan said. "If that's pulled back, it should make for a very interesting election campaign coming up."

Miljan doesn't buy the argument that unions won't have a voice, if they are not allowed to advertise during an election campaign, suggesting unions and corporations could still lobby political parties through other methods, such as public rallies.

The provincial government plans to hold public consultations this summer, including four weeks of public hearings across the province.