Elections B.C. is reviewing flyers sent out by two federal NDP MPs during the recent provincial election to see if alleged unregistered election advertising took place.
The office, which administers provincial elections and byelections, confirmed it received one complaint about flyers being distributed New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen, who represents the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding, and another about New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson, who represents the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding.
Andrew Watson, Elections B.C. spokesperson, said the office is “following up with those involved and working to determine if election advertising was conducted.”
“If election advertising was conducted, the sponsors will be required to register with to register with Elections BC and file a financial disclosure report report by August 8, 2017,” Watson wrote in an email.
The flyer mailed by Cullen talks about jobs and household debt. It says instead of taking action on good jobs, “the government is telling people to settle for less.”
It also says it is unacceptable that Canada’s finance minister told Canadians to get used to part-time, low-paid precarious work.
The top of the flyer said, “It’s time to make life more affordable.” B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan has used “Making your life more affordable” as one of his policy headlines.
Neither of the flyers from the two MPs mentions John Horgan or the B.C. provincial election.
A B.C. Liberals spokesperson confirmed that they brought the flyers to Elections B.C.’s attention.
According to Watson, when election advertising conducted by an unregistered sponsor to brought to Elections B.C.’s attention, the first step is to contact the sponsor and tell them they need to comply with the election advertising provisions
It is an offence to conduct election advertising during the campaign period without being registered. Under the B.C. Election Act, if an individual or organization commits an election advertising offence, they are liable to a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not longer than one year.
In a letter to the lawyer for Elections B.C. and the province’s chief electoral officer, Marie-Sophie Gauthier, legal counsel for the House of Commons, said there is no “legal basis for the complaint.”
“Because of the federalism and separation of powers in Canada, I respectfully submit that the Legislature of BC does not have the legislative competence to take away, alter or control how a federal Member of Parliament carries out his or her parliamentary functions or uses the resources provided for these parliamentary functions…” Gauthier wrote.
She also wrote Cullen’s flyer is federal in nature and the mailing of the flyer to his constituents is not election advertising. In the letter, Gauthier said while federal MPs cannot conduct or sponsor election advertising under B.C.’s Election Act, the limitation does not extend to an MPs regular communications with constituents as part of parliamentary functions or the promotion of federal issues and policy.
Gauthier wrote that Cullen sent his request to print the flyer to the House of Commons’ printing and mailing service on March 31 after Bill C-44 was tabled in the House of Commons but before the B.C. provincial election campaign period started.
“Although it is possible the mailing was distributed by Canada Post to Mr. Cullen’s constituents during the B.C. election after the election period began, this is because Canada Post requires 12 to 20 days for complete distribution in the constituency of Skeena-Bulkley Valley and it was not possible to intercept the distribution of mail by Canada Post,” Gautheir wrote.
B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan may become the next premier in British Columbia if Premier Christy Clark loses a confidence vote. The B.C. Liberals won 43 seats in the last election, with the NDP getting 41 and the B.C. Green Party three. The B.C. NDP and Green Party have signed an agreement, where the B.C. Green Party will support the NDP in a minority legislature.
Together to the two parties have a combined 44 seats.