Elections Nova Scotia has announced that it has entered into a compliance agreement with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (the “NSTU“).
According to the notice of compliance agreement, the NSTU published an advertisement during the election campaign that took a position on a policy with which a registered party was associated. This type of election advertising is known as “issue advertising”.
The NSTU did not register with Elections Nova Scotia as a third party election advertiser, did not indicate on the advertisements that they were authorized by the NSTU, and exceeded the $10,000 expense limit for third party election advertising.
In the compliance agreement the NSTU admitted that as a result it had breached sections 275, 277 and 278 of the Elections Act (Nova Scotia).
This compliance agreement highlights the legal issues that arise when third parties conduct “issue advertising” during an election campaign. Such advertising can cause problems for third parties who are either unaware of the election advertising laws, or believe that such laws do not or will not apply to their advertising campaigns.
Whether an advertisement will be considered issue advertising and caught by election advertising laws is not always clear, and depends in each case on the particular facts of the advertisement and the political realities of the relevant election campaign.
If you are planning on conducting political advertising during a campaign, and especially if you do not intend to register as a third party, it would be prudent to discuss the matter with an experienced election lawyer.