It passed third reading in the Legislative Assembly in 2009, but Bill 205: Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure (Third Party Advertising) Amendment Act has yet to be proclaimed into law.
Introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Airdrie-Chestermere PC (and now Wildrose) MLA Rob Anderson in 2009, Bill 205 was a reaction to the “No Plan” advertisements launched by the “Albertans for Change” coalition of unions before the 2008 election, which targeted Premier Ed Stelmach. The ads had little effect on the result of that election, which saw Premier Stelmach’s Tories hold 72 of 83 constituencies, but it did contribute to the longer-term narrative that he may have not had a plan.
Unlike a similar law in British Columbia that limits the amount which third-parties can spend on election campaigns, Alberta’s law would limit the amount that can be contributed to a third-party advertising account which has to be registered with the Chief Electoral Officer.
An account must be opened if a third-party group plans to spend $1000 or more on advertising during the election period. Contribution limits mirror the provincial political party financing, which allows for $15,000 outside of election periods and $30000 during election periods. The yet to be proclaimed legislation does not restrict how much third parties can spend, only how much money individuals can contribute to them, as is the case with political parties.
Crossing all sorts of partisan divides, Mr. Anderson’s Bill 205 was supported by New Democrat MLAs Brian Mason and Rachel Notley, who oppose all third-party financing in election campaigns. The legislation was strongly opposed by then-Wildrose Alliance leadership candidate Danielle Smith and opposition Liberal MLAs. Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang suggested that the legislation could be struck down in the courts for violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald called the piece of legislation “not fair ” and “not balanced.”
Two years later, with a new leader of the Progressive Conservatives (and Premier-designate) being selected in the Fall and a provincial election expected soon after that, it is suspicious that this law has yet to be proclaimed. With the rise of the Wildrose in 2010 (and the plateauing of their support in 2011), it makes this political watcher wonder whether the Tories wanted to keep their third-party options open in case of a tight election.