Court denies province’s appeal of gag-law ruling

Vivian Luk, The Province

The B.C Court of Appeal has dismissed the province’s appeal of a previous court decision to strike down a law that restricts third-party advertising during a provincial election campaign.

The so-called gag law, or Bill 42, was introduced in May 2008. It was struck down by the B.C. Supreme Court in March 2009 after seven unions, including the B.C. Nurses’ Union and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, took the province to court because the amendment limited their advertisement spending during the three-month period before an election.

Supreme Court Justice Frank Cole ruled the law was unconstitutional because it violated freedom of expression.

B.C.’s attorney-general as well as two union members who had opposed having their dues spent on political advertisements, appealed the decision, but the appeal was rejected on Wednesday…

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, an intervener in the case, disagreed. The gag law would have prevented people from commenting on important issues, such as the Throne Speech and provincial budget, during the period before an election, said BCCLA president Robert Holmes.

“Everyone knows the practical and political consequences of what the government was trying to do here, was to stymie the ability of unions and other organizations that don’t support the current government from engaging in large-scale advertising,” he said….