Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott supports her party’s decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause to restore changes to election finance law.
The clause gives the government the power to override certain laws in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year term. It’s being used to overturn a decision made in the Ontario Superior Court that ruled it is unnecessary to amend the Election Finances Act to extend the pre-election spending restriction to 12 months for third-party advertisers.
“It was actually put in the constitution for a reason – to ensure the judicial system does not exceed what people want,” Scott says about the clause.
“Ontario elections belong to the people,” she says, adding it’s being used to protect the election. Scott says that the Conservatives don’t want elections in Canada to become like the states where there are a “few wealthy elites” that influence elections by donating and advertising, calling that “undemocratic.”
Executive Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association Michael Bryant called the use of the notwithstanding clause a “cravenly self-interested abuse of this extraordinary power.”
“No Ontario Premier has ever invoked this nuclear constitutional option, until this one, who has a rash constitutional tantrum whenever a court dares to enforce Ontarians’ constitutional rights – first with the Toronto election, in 2018, and now the Ontario provincial election,” he continued.
During a campaign, there are rules in place for how to handle campaign finance. Scott explains that she has to publicly declare all donations she gets and there is also a limit on how much can be donated to her during an election cycle. “Under this court decision, there would be no limits, no disclosure, no caps,” she says, talking about third-party advertisers. Scott says she doesn’t want to see billionaires or special interest groups spending “millions” to influence elections and have no rules to follow.
She says using the clause is about ensuring our elections are transparent and fair. “It is not democratic, it is not fair for third parties to have no limits, no disclosure on spending and influencing our election,” Scott adds.
“The notwithstanding clause was designed to be a democratic safety valve, not a brazen power grab to tilt election rules in a government’s favour,” Bryant says.
The next provincial election will be held in June 2022.