Massive opposition to the provincial government’s draconian election spending act amendments, Bill 42, has forced the government to back down—but not by much.
The original bill would have banned advertising beyond a certain spending limit ($150,000 for any organization) for a full 120 days before the election call and during the 28-day election period. In other words, groups and individuals would have been prevented from freely engaging in a free expression of opinion for a full five months—taking in not just the election but the government’s throne speech and the budget.
The Liberal government misjudged public feeling and after being assailed from all quarters, including business and the CanWest media, the government reduced the time period from 120 days to 60 days. While that is an improvement, it is still an unprecedented violation of freedom of expression cynically designed to silence effective criticism of the government. Campbell did not change the spending limit or address the issue of more onerous “proof of residence” requirements for homeless people.
Legal advice obtained by the BCTF and other unions suggests that even with the amendment, the legislation is unconstitutional.
Teachers attending the spring provincial Representative Assembly of the BCTF unanimously endorsed executive recommendations that would see teachers working with other community groups and unions to undertake whatever legal and political actions necessary to restore the right of free speech limited in Bill 42.