Selley: Climate change fracas exposes ridiculous third-party spending rules

By Chris Selley, Ottawa Citizen, August 21, 2019

Many Canadians have been understandably flummoxed, with gusts to outraged, by news that Elections Canada has warned organizations advocating for more forceful action against climate change that they may have to register as “third parties” for the upcoming election, and be subject to limits on advertising expenditures during the campaign. “The climate crisis is objectively real — a fact,” is the common refrain. “Why is Elections Canada cracking down on facts?”

The warning reportedly comes in response to Maxime Bernier’s new People’s Party, whose platform rejects “climate change alarmism.” But it’s tough to say climate change wouldn’t have been an election issue otherwise: The Liberals accuse the Conservatives of denialism, the Conservatives accuse the Liberals of killing jobs, and the New Democrats and Greens assail the Liberals’ and Conservatives’ failure to meet identical emissions targets. And the Elections Act is crystal clear on the question of “issue advertising” (as opposed to “partisan advertising,” which advocates for a party or candidate). Registration and reporting rules kick in for anyone “taking a position on an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated,” and who wants to spend more than $500 advertising that position.

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