OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is set to indicate today whether it will hear an appeal of a ruling that struck down third-party election advertising rules in Ontario.
The law in question added more onerous restrictions to the amounts that third parties, such as unions and special interest groups, are allowed to spend in the lead up to an election, and the Court of Appeal for Ontario found it unconstitutional.
Before 2021, third parties were allowed to spend up to $600,000 on advertising in the six months before an election call, but that year the government stretched that restricted spending period to one year, while not increasing the amount.
The Progressive Conservative government argued the extended restriction was necessary to protect elections from outside influence, but critics said it amounted to the government trying to silence criticism ahead of the 2022 provincial election.
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The law was found unconstitutional on free speech grounds, so the government reintroduced the provisions using the notwithstanding clause to guard against constitutional challenges, but several third party groups challenged the reintroduced provisions under a different section of the Charter.
The Appeal Court struck down that new law on the basis of violating a voter’s right to meaningful participation in the electoral process, which isn’t subject to the notwithstanding clause, and gave the government one year to create new, Charter-compliant legislation but the government sought an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
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