In a decision on June 8th, The Ontario Superior Court of Justice struck down various restrictions to third party political advertising previously introduced by the current government under Bill 254.
As discussed at the May Board meeting, Bill 254 (Protecting Ontario Elections Act, 2021), which received royal ascent in early May, made several important changes to the Election Finances Act (EFA). Chief among those changes were the lengthening of the non-election period from 6 to 12 months, restricting issue-based advertising and advocacy, broadening of the definition of what constitutes collusion and new and onerous reporting requirements for third party organizations such as trade unions.
Following a constitutional court challenge mounted by Working Families (a not-for-profit organization with roots in the labour movement) and supported by three major education unions (ETFO, OECTA and OSSTF), Justice Edward Morgan of The Ontario Superior Court of Justice announced their decision yesterday nullifying, effective immediately, key provisions of the government’s Bill 254 due to violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The changes based on Justice Morgan’s ruling include:
- Removal of pre-election period spending limits. Spending limits for the election period (the period after the writ drop) remain intact;
- Limiting the definition of political advertising to election-oriented communications only;
- Removal of all interim reporting requirements to Elections Ontario. The requirement for a final report following the election remains intact;
- Removal of most of the new anti-collusion and deemed contribution rules.
It’s important to note that there may be further changes in the upcoming weeks and months, as the Government may seek to appeal the Court’s decision or introduce new legislation. We will keep you posted of any further updates.
You can read a copy of the court’s decision here: https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2021/2021onsc4076/2021onsc4076.pdf
Jenny J.H. Ahn
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA)
Cell: (437) 855-4614
17 Isabella Street
Toronto, ON Canada M4Y 1M7