The provincial government seems intent on making the practice of democracy ever more difficult, if not impossible, leading up to the municipal election in November and the May provincial vote. It has passed two pieces of legislation, Bills 7 and 42, which put severe restrictions on what unions and citizen organizations can do to publicize their issues.
Bill 7 will force any group involved in a municipal or school board election to jump through bureaucratic hoops. They will have to have a separate bank account, name a financial agent, and file a financial disclosure statement with the municipality. There is no time limit on the rule (for example 30 days before the election) so anything a group does in the three years between elections is covered.
Bill 42 is even more antidemocratic and clearly aimed at the BCTF and its locals. Organizations will be limited to spending $150,000 in total for advertising in any provincial election campaign. The maximum for an individual riding is $3,000. That means that the BCTF and all its teacher locals combined will be restricted to spending $150,000.
Even more offensive are the new, broad definition of advertising and the length of the period during which the law applies—120 days before the writ is dropped. So for five months (including the actual election period), no organization will be allowed to engage in a public interest advertising campaign that exceeds the spending limit either in support of a party or potential candidate or that “takes a position on an issue with which a registered political party or candidate is associated.”
In the last election, the BCTF spent $1.5 million in advertising in one of the most effective campaigns ever run by a union—making education a key issue in the vote. The Liberal government is determined that it won’t happen again—reversing its long-held position on such laws just to silence its critics.
The BC Federation of Labour and the BCTF are looking at a number of possible responses to Bill 42 including a constitutional challenge regarding the violation of freedom of expression.