Saturday was a good day for local democracy in B.C. As one person noted online: "First time in my life I've had to wait to vote in a local election....What the hell is going on?" What was going on was that voters were coming out of the woodwork by the thousands in towns and cities across B.C. and it seems that those who skipped 2011 had one thing on their mind this time.
Enbridge's ad spend on the Kitimat vote so far is more than three times what the company would be allowed to spend in an electoral district during a provincial election. During a provincial election or initiative vote, Elections BC restricts how much companies and other third-party advertisers can spend -- but no such rules apply to the April 12 plebiscite.
British Columbians, both voters and politicians, who care about democracy need to start talking about electoral reform again. A minority of voters elected a B.C. Liberal majority government. Here's one way Legislature can one day be reflective of the people you see on the streets of every city, town and village across the province.
While the effect of Election BC's ad on next week's election remains debatable, one thing's clear. Its message echoes NDP and/or Green Party rhetoric, and therefore, counters the candidacy of many BC Liberal and/or Conservative candidates, particularly in ridings outside Vancouver. Anyone interested in democracy should be concerned about that.
Faulty advertising rules caused extensive problems for small spenders such as non-profit and charity groups during the 2009 B.C. election. The rules led to widespread confusion, wasted resources, anxiety and, most dangerously, self-censorship among organizations that spent little or nothing on election advertising. The government should have (and could have) fixed this situation when it was amending the law this spring, but chose not to.