BC Third Party Election Advertising Registration Requirement Upheld

The requirement for third parties to register in BC if they sponsor election advertising was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in a ruling released yesterday: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/CA/15/01/2015BCCA0172.htm

The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (“BCFIPA“) had challenged the constitutionality of section 239 of the Election Act (British Columbia), which requires third parties who want to sponsor election advertising to register with Elections BC, regardless of how much they spend on election advertising.

The challenge was limited to sponsors who spend less than $500 on election advertising, as that is the threshold for when a sponsor must file a financing report with Elections BC.

BCFIPA’s main argument was that for sponsors who spend less that $500 on election advertising, the negative impacts of this registration requirement outweighed any beneficial effects it might have on transparency and openness in the electoral process. In a 2-1 decision, the Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the trial judge that the “insubstantial burden” that the registration requirement placed on third parties meant that it “f[ell] within the ‘zone of discretion’ that should be accorded to the Legislature in promoting equality of participation and influence among the proponents of political views”.

This case was the latest challenge to the third party election advertising laws in British Columbia. These cases have produced a wealth of advocacy and discussion on how the Constitution affects the balancing of the egalitarian and libertarian models of election financing in Canada. On the whole, the egalitarian model has been upheld and most of the provisions that close “loopholes” that would allow money to have an unchecked influence on elections have been upheld.

What this case means is that even if a third party (which includes individuals) conducts election advertising (as defined by the Election Act), they must register with Elections BC, regardless of how much or how little they spend.

The registration process is quite simple but if you have any questions about the registration process or any other election advertising requirement please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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