OPINION – Chief Electoral Officer’s Statement on Bill 9, Local Elections Statutes Amendment Act

Victoria – The Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman has issued the statement below in response to the introduction of Bill 9, the Local Elections Statutes Amendment Act, 2021. The Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly on March 3.

Chief Electoral Officer’s statement:

“Following the 2018 General Local Elections, my office made several recommendations for legislative change to improve transparency and compliance in local election campaign financing and election advertising. These recommendations included requiring elector organizations to register with my office and file annual financial reports, lengthening the pre-campaign period in which third party advertising is regulated, and providing my office with additional tools to ensure compliance with campaign financing rules, including administrative monetary penalties.

“I am pleased to see that some of these recommendations are being brought forward for legislators to consider. They are aimed at improving transparency in local elections, and my office’s ability to ensure compliance with the campaign financing and advertising rules.

“In addition to the recommendations being acted upon in Bill 9, I also encourage legislators to consider other recommendations made by my office in 2019 and 2020.

“In 2019 I recommended providing my office with general Order making authority under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA). This authority would give my office greater ability to ensure administrative fairness, appropriate to achieve the purposes of the Act, when responding to exceptional circumstances that are not anticipated by LECFA. The Chief Electoral Officer has such authority for provincial elections under the Election Act.

“In 2020, I made a number of recommendations related to cyber threats to electoral integrity. These cyber threats include disinformation about the electoral process and anonymous online election advertising. While these threats have not been widely observed in provincial or local elections in B.C., the risks they pose to our electoral process are real. I encourage legislators to consider these recommendations in the context of local elections, to ensure that the legislation governing election advertising at the local level can effectively address these concerns.

“I am observing the progress of this Bill with interest and look forward to following further debate in the legislature on these proposed changes.”

Links:

·       Ministry of Municipal Affairs – Legislation strengthens transparency, modernizes local election financing

·       Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the 2018 General Local Elections – October 20, 2018

·       Digital Communications, Disinformation and Democracy: Recommendations for Legislative Change – May 2020

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