DEMOCRACY WATCH CALLS ON FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO APPEAL THIRD PARTY POLITICAL SPENDING COURT DECISION
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch called on the federal government to appeal yesterday's 2-1 split decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal that struck down parts of the federal Elections Act restricting and requiring disclosure of spending by so-called "third parties" (non-political parties) during election campaign periods.
The case, called Stephen J. Harper v. Attorney General of Canada, was heard by the Alberta Court of Appeal last May. Democracy Watch intervened at the hearing in support of the restrictions and disclosure requirements.
"The restrictions allow political expression by third party interest groups while also helping to equalize the opportunity citizens have to express themselves by preventing the wealthiest sectors of society from using major advertising campaigns to dominate debates on issues during elections" said Democracy Watch Board Member Aaron Freeman, "Equal opportunity to influence election debates is consistent with the democratic principle of one-person, one-vote."
The federal Liberals promised in 1993 to pass effective limits and disclosure requirements on third party interest group spending, and the measures are supported by Democracy Watch's nation-wide Money in Politics Coalition made up of 50 citizen groups whose membership totals more than 2 million Canadians.
"Disclosure of all sources of money in politics is needed to prevent wealthy private interests from secretly driving issue debates in the direction of their own interests," said Freeman.
The spending limits and disclosure requirements were added to the Canada Elections Act in amendments passed in June 2000. The limits restrict advertising spending by third parties during an election period to a national total of $150,000, and no more than $3,000 of the total amount may be spent in any riding promoting or opposing the election of one or more candidates. Third parties that spend more than $500 were required to register and disclose the sources of their spending.
The federal government has 60 days to seek leave to appeal the Alberta court's decision from the Supreme Court of Canada.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Aaron Freeman, Board member
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Democracy Watch's Money in Politics Campaign