Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Truth About the Rules on Climate Ads in the Canadian Federal Election

Elections Canada reviewed ad rules which have significant implications for the promotion of climate action during the forthcoming federal election. This clarification was in response to reports that Elections Canada had told environmental groups that they could not run ads about climate change. An August 20th Elections Canada statement indicates that environmental and other groups are free to address climate change. Stéphane Perrault Canada's Chief Electoral Officer issued the public statement in the wake of media reports that seemed to misunderstand the prohibitions against promoting climate action during an election campaign.  The confusion stems from misunderstanding "partisan advertising" and "issue advertising" (see Canada Elections Act).

Partisan advertising is described as anything that promotes or opposes a political party, nomination contestant, candidate or party leader during the pre-election period which started on June 30. As explained by Elections Canada this only applies to "activities or ads that specifically identify a candidate or party".

There are also prohibitions against issue advertising, even if there is no mention of a party or a candidate. Issue advertising involves paid advertising that takes a position associated with a particular party whether or not it cites that party or candidate by name. This prohibition applies only to the election period which starts 36 days before the election which is scheduled to take place two months from today (October 21, 2019).

Perrault made it clear that "[Canada's Election Act] does not prevent individuals or groups from talking about issues or publishing information." There are no restrictions preventing environmental groups from promoting climate action and the science associated with it as long as they do it through email, text messages, online, door to door canvassing or media interview.

Those deemed to be issue advertisers have spending limits of $511,700 and they are required to register as a third party with Elections Canada. However, as Perrault pointed out this is not new as these rules have been in place for two decades.

Issue ad restrictions apply only to paid advertising immediately prior to an election. Organizations are free to spend as much as they like promoting climate awareness and action during the pre-election period as long as they do not mention a political party or candidate by name.

For more information go to Elections Canada

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