B.C.'s pre-election gag law struck down again

The B.C. Court of Appeal has once again struck down an attempt by the provincial government to limit pre-election advertising.

In 2008 the B.C. Liberal government imposed limits on how much can be spent on advertising by non-political parties in the 60 days before a provincial election campaign officially begins, and during the 28 days of the official campaign.

Those limits were challenged by a coalition of labour unions who eventually won when the law was struck down by the courts in 2009.

This past spring, the government amended the law with a shorter 40-day period of restricted spending before the official start of the campaign.

But the government's efforts were shot down again Thursday, when the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled the issue of how long the limits were in effect was beside the point.

Instead the court said the problem is that "advertising" has too broad a definition and therefore the law is a violation of the Charter of Rights.

NDP Attorney General Critic Leonard Krog called the government's actions on the matter a waste of time and money.

"I think the sad thing is, you know, we wasted legislative time and a lot of draft timing and arguably a lot of money trying to do this when the government had been told previously by the court what they are trying to do here simply will not fly," said Krog.

But B.C.'s Attorney General Shirley Bond responded that attempting to ensure fairness was not a waste of time or effort.

"In fact there was a recognition that this is an important discussion, so any time that we are discussing the issue of fairness in the electoral process I think that there is merit in the discussion," said Bond.

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