Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Debate STV

with 4 comments

Gordon Campbell is getting nervous. While a majority of  the electorate approved electroral reform in BC last time – there was not the Campbell stipulated 60% majority. Just in case anyone wants to talk about this in public, for example political parties who might benefit from a fairer system, he has made that illegal.

Section 29(4) of the Electoral Reform Referendum 2009 Act makes it illegal for political parties to “advertise” their position on STV and the broader subject of electoral reform in general. Elections BC interprets that anything that costs money (eg: website, platform document, handbills, other printed materials, buttons, clothing, stickers, etc..) counts as “advertising”, so therefore this Act makes it illegal for political parties to spend any money on anything with any reference to BC-STV or any other reforms to our electoral system.

Infractions are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to a year in jail. This is an issue of freedom of speech: British Columbians deserve open, informed debate about the BC-STV decision and other important democratic reforms. The Gordon Campbell government is trying to make it impossible for grass-roots political party candidates to participate in the STV debate and voice other criticisms of our democratic institutions. Sign the petition to voice your view!

Written by Stephen Rees

December 11, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Posted in politics

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4 Responses

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  1. The interpretation of the Act isn’t entirely clear to me… I take it the problematic line is 29(4)(b), “Referendum advertising must not form part of political advertising.”? Because 29(4)(a) sounds very sensible (you can’t spend referendum money to support your favourite political party).

    Of course the parties will still be able to make their position clear in debates, etc. Right?

    It does seem like it’s targeting the STV referendum in particular, but it doesn’t really come across as that outrageous… after all, election advertising is always a bit less than completely free speech (due to spending limits, etc).


    December 11, 2008 at 11:33 pm

  2. STV is ripe for “viral” marketing…
    Hopefully it “spreads” before the new law kicks in.


    December 12, 2008 at 6:07 am

  3. from

    M. Nola Western, CA
    Director, Electoral Finance & Corporate Administration

    The Electoral Reform Referendum 2009 Act Regulation was amended yesterday to specifically allow candidates and registered political parties to engage in referendum advertising. Referendum advertising conducted by registered political parties and candidates will be deemed to be election advertising under the Election Act and so subject the applicable expenses limits under that Act.

    Therefore, registered political parties and candidates may conduct referendum advertising in conjunction with their election advertising. Such advertising would include campaign literature, signs, and websites. They may also publicly express their opinions on STV, make speeches promoting or opposing STV and discuss STV in interviews published by bona fide periodicals and on television and radio. Parties and candidates may also make referendum contributions to registered opponent or proponent groups.

    I trust this addresses your concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need additional information.


    December 12, 2008 at 7:45 pm

  4. Deabate STV wrote

    Thank you for participating in the online petition at

    We just found out that on Thursday, the BC Liberal government decided to change the Electoral Reform Referendum 2009 Act Regulation (what a name!) to allow political parties to communicate about the BC-STV referendum and other electoral reforms. What shocked me the most personally was that it was Elections BC, supposedly the pillar of democracy in British Columbia, that was silencing political parties about the referendum it was running. I still think that Elections BC is operating under a cynical and archaic concept of communication in the public sphere where anything that costs a cent counts as “advertizing”. Free speech takes time, and since life is finite, there is an inalienable cost to free speech. We pay phone bills, internet bills, and photocopies cost money.

    Anyway, thanks so much: we could not have done this without you.

    Stephen Rees

    December 13, 2008 at 10:57 am

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