Elections Canada deems talk of climate change to be a partisan issue

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Elections Canada has declared any campaigning or talk of climate change in relation to the upcoming federal elections is a partisan issue that is off limits for political parties. This means environmental groups can’t produce ads that describe global warming as a real crisis borne of human behaviour.

Maxime Bernier, leader of the nascent People’s Party of Canada and an outspoken climate-change denier, was responding on Twitter to the agency’s warning that ads that discuss the legitimacy of the phenomenon including paid social media placements could be considered partisan simply because of the position of the People’s Party.

In a word, Bernier summed up Elections Canada’s position as “absurd.”

“The law should only regulate real partisan advertising, which is when there is mention of a candidate or party by name,” he said.

The Canada Elections Act does indeed restrict any third-party advertising. During the pre-writ period before the campaign officially begins, the law only affects advertising that specifically mentions a candidate or party, which the Act calls “partisan” advertising. As soon as the writ drops, the restrictions also apply to advertising that takes a position on an issue a party or a candidate has given, as well as those that mention a party or candidate by name. This is referred to in the Act as “election advertising”.

Once the costs of such ads hit $500, the third party must register with Elections Canada, produce records and financial reports and limit the amount of advertising it undertakes.

Elections Canada does not know in advance what issues might come up during the campaign, Gauthier added, but said if a party or candidate takes a position on something, any organization that advertises or does work on that issue will need to make sure they comply with the law. For example, an association promoting the benefits of forestry jobs could find its ads offside if a party suddenly makes forestry jobs a campaign issue, she warned.

Several organizations are now in the process of either withdrawing or modifying any advertising during the writ period that may discuss the scope of climate change, even though it doesn’t mention any party or politician by name. It is a tricky situation for left-leaning politicians who are inclined to talk their position on climate change, a topic very popular among millennial voters. -CINEWS

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