Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Election Gag Law

I am not really happy with this law, as of tomorrow there will be strict limits on what third party groups can spend on the provincial election. I am mainly bothered by any restriction on freedom of speech, even paid freedom of speech.

On the other hand I believe that only those eligible to vote in elections should be allowed to take part in the election. Last time I checked, no businesses or unions or industry lobby groups or environmental groups can vote in the election. It is not the role of these groups to take part as groups in the election. The election is for the citizens of BC and for no one else.

I would stop all non-citizens third party paid advertising during the election campaign but have no restriction on individual citizens.

One implication of my view is that landed immigrants would not be allowed to donate to the election campaigns or work for a candidate. I think that is only right, if someone is not yet a Canadian, or has not yet chosen to become a Canadian, they have no business taking part in the election.

The length of the restriction is too long in my opinion and not restrictive enough on third parties that are not eligible to vote. The law allows a group to spend $150 000 province wide and $3000 in each riding - that is a total of $405 000 total. Ten public sector unions could cooperate and spend $4 000 000. Ten businesses could cooperate and spend $4 000 000. It still remains too easy for non-voters to spend money to influence the election.

Also, if used well and not in a ham-fisted sort of way that the public sector unions have normally done, $405 000 goes a very, very long way, especially with new media. 1.4 million adults in BC have facebook accounts. In 2005 1.762 million people voted. The odds of someone voting in the 2009 election in BC having a facebook account is very, very high. A smart third party campaign would focus on social networking where $405 000 will go incredibly far.

The $405 000 that groups can spend is more than 50% of what will be spent by either side in the referendum campaign. Realistically Yes and No on STV will end up spending around $700 000 each.

So, the restrictions are too broad but at the same time not strict enough.
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