BC Liberals want you to Just Shut Up

New election advertising stifles free speech in five months before May 2009 provincial election

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HEU has joined a number of other B.C. public-sector unions in their call on the Liberal government to withdraw legislation that severely restricts public-interest advertising and communication in the five months leading up to the May 2009 provincial election.

Bill 42, the Election Amendment Act, would eliminate the kind of information campaigns about hospital closures and service cuts launched by HEU in the lead up to the 2005 provincial election.

Bill 42 also puts at risk HEU’s ability to speak out on a range of issues that directly affect the union’s 43,000 members. Critical health care concerns such as staff shortages, workplace occupational health and safety, contracting out, and bargaining could all be subject to rigid “third party advertising” restrictions in the full five months before an election.

Bill 42 changes the definition of third party advertising to include “an advertising message that promotes or opposes, directly or indirectly, a registered political party… including an advertising message that takes a position on an issue with which a registered political party or candidate is associated.”

The legislation also limits any spending on public-interest communication for a full five months before the election. Public advocacy organizations, environmental groups, unions and others will have their ability to buy advertising limited to $150,000 in total from December of this year until election day in May 2009.

HEU spent about $549,000 on election advertising during the official election period in 2005.

Critics, including the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and political columnists, have called this legislation an attack on democracy and the ability of public-interest groups to inform British Columbians about important issues facing our province, such as health care privatization, climate change, child care, public power, education and more.

Bill 42 has also come under fire for failing to limit political campaign donations, for increasing campaign spending amounts and for bringing in new voter ID requirements that disadvantage low-income and homeless people in our communities.

Download copies of the full-page ads (ad one, ad two) placed by HEU and other unions in selected B.C. papers May 15.

Speak out against Bill 42 and learn more at http://www.justshutupbc.com/.

Watch HEU’s award-winning ad “Closed” here.