Environmental groups can still talk climate change during election, says Canada's chief electoral officer

Posted In: News Date:Aug 21st, 2019

Canada's chief electoral officer issued a public statement today assuring environmental organizations that they're free to promote action to fight climate change during the fall federal election without falling afoul of the Canada Elections Act.

"The act does not prevent individuals or groups from talking about issues or publishing information," Stéphane Perrault said.

Perrault issued the statement after a number of media outlets reported on an Elections Canada training session offered to various groups earlier this summer on how to stay on the right side of the law during the election.

According to reports, charities said that trainers from Elections Canada suggested that because Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People's Party of Canada, has expressed doubts about the role of human activity in climate change, any group that promotes action to fight climate change in paid advertising would be seen by Elections Canada as engaging in partisan advertising.

In fact, they would be engaging in issue advertising — which is not considered partisan but still requires the group or person paying for the advertising to register as a third party with Elections Canada.

The reports led some to think there had been a change in the law restricting freedom of speech for advocacy groups — such as environmental organizations, human rights groups and pro-pipeline associations — during the writ period. As Perrault said Tuesday, that's not the case; these rules have existed for 20 years.