Stephen Rees's blog

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

Court strikes down bus ad ban

with 2 comments

Globe and Mail

The Supreme Court of Canada has given the green light to political advertising on the sides of transit vehicles, in an important test of free expression.

In an 8-0 ruling this morning, the court said two B.C. mass transit agencies were wrong to refuse political ads the Canadian Federation of Students and a teachers union attempted to purchase in 2004.


The policy was wrong headed. Freedom of speech is much more important than freedom from being offended. Indeed, the whole point about freedom of speech is the support for people to say things with which you fundamentally disagree.

“It is difficult to see how an advertisement on the side of a bus that constitutes political speech might create a safety risk or an unwelcoming environment for transit users,” Madam Justice Marie Deschamps wrote today for the Court.

Of course that means that now we can expect to see transit advertising by the parties than can afford to spend the most. Gordon Campbell’s sickly grin will be plastered all over the transit system at the next election – and probably before that too. The Canadian Federation of Students is going to find that all the available space has been booked and the simple, inoffensive message “Rock the Vote” will still likely be silenced. But that’s politics.

I suspect too that other groups – evangelists and atheists – will want to test out this new ruling as soon as they can. Let freedom reign.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 10, 2009 at 8:23 am

Posted in politics, transit

2 Responses

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  1. The idea of freedom from being offended gets absurd pretty quickly, turning into the freedom from going outside or owning any channel to the outside world (books, tv, radio, newspaper, internet – especially internet).

    Todd Sieling

    July 10, 2009 at 9:50 am

  2. […] Canada, U.S. greenhouse-gas reduction plans in line, Harper says [Vancouver Sun] Court strikes down bus ad [Stephen Rees's […]

    re:place Magazine

    July 11, 2009 at 8:44 am

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