The BC Election Act makes something as simple as putting a handwritten sign in your window during the election period without registering with the authorities an offense, which could result in a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. FIPA submitted that the restrictions on 3rd party election advertising and the registration requirements for 3rd party election advertisers in the BC Election Act are an unjustified violation of the right to free expression guaranteed by section 2(b) of the Charter. We sought to change the legislation so that anyone with expenditures below $500 is exempted from s. 239 of the Election Act, as they are under other Canadian election laws.
Last year, a BC Supreme Court judge ruled that although these third party spending provisions did violate the right to freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the violation was not ‘trivial or insubstantial’ as claimed by the government, it could be justified under section 1 of the Charter. FIPA took the case to the BC Court of Appeal. In 2015, the BC Court of Appeal issued a 2-1 ruling upholding the BC Supreme Court’s decision. The Application for Leave at the Supreme Court of Canada is the next step in the process. FIPA would like to thank lawyers Sean Hern and Alison Latimer of Farris Vaughan for their extensive pro bono work on this case.