VICTORIA, BC, Oct. 4, 2012 /CNW/ - A B.C. Court of Appeal ruling that the BC Liberal government's election gag law is unconstitutional supports the union's position that the legislation is fundamentally flawed, the B.C. Government Employees' Union (BCGEU) said today. The B.C. Supreme Court recently quashed a $3.2 million fine levied against the BCGEU by Elections BC under advertising provisions of the Elections Act.
"We are pleased with the decision of the Appeals Court in this referral case," said BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "The union has argued that the definition of election advertising is too broad, and that our television ad targeted by Elections BC did not constitute election advertising. This ruling confirms our original position."
A key part of Justice P.D. Lowry's constitutional ruling notes that "the definition of election advertising is overly broad. It captures virtually all political expression regardless of whether such is intended to influence the election, and, as explained, all individuals and organizations are affected even if their election advertising is voluntary."
"The section of the Act that defines election advertising plays a key role in suppressing freedom of expression," said Walker. "Until now, virtually any comment that touches on a public policy issue is defined as election advertising."
Another area that requires amendment includes the penalty section of the Act, which levies fines for third parties at 10 times the amount overspent, and bans the parties from advertising in the following general election campaign. Meanwhile, political parties and candidates are only charged two times the amount overspent, with no ban on future advertising.
"The only option to gain relief from these massive penalties is to go through a costly court process," said Walker. "Elections BC has been granted virtually no discretion under the current Act.
"It seems clear that the legislation was crafted to suppress public participation in our democracy, and the court has spoken clearly on this issue. Any legislation going forward must respect citizens' constitutional right to freedom of expressions."
SOURCE: B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union
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Contact Chris Bradshaw at 604-291-9611 or 604-369-8411.