Ironically, the campaign is exactly the kind of thing that would be outlawed if Bill 81 passes
EDMONTON – Alberta’s largest worker advocacy group, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), has launched a digital campaign designed to raise awareness about how the UCP’s Bill 81, which is currently being debated in the Legislature, would undermine democracy.
As the media and Opposition have pointed out, Bill 81 would create a mechanism for parties to get around contributions caps, thus making a mockery of UCP claims that the Bill is about “getting big money out of politics.”
But it would also prohibit civil society groups – including unions, but not limited to them – from spending money on campaigns that criticize the government.
“Ironically, the campaign that we’re launching today would be illegal if Bill 81 was already in place,” says AFL president Gil McGowan.
“The other big irony is that, in the context of the UCP’s upcoming AGM, Premier Kenney is now claiming that there’s nothing illegal about right-wing third-party advertising groups getting involved in politics – at exactly the same time that he’s ramming a bill through the Legislature that will make it illegal for other third-party advertising entities – including unions and other civil society groups – to get involved in politics.”
McGowan says Albertans should pay attention to what’s happening with Bill 81 because it’s not just about muzzling unions, and it’s not just about election advertising.
“This has been characterized by the UCP as a Bill that stops the AFL from buying election ads. We understand that a lot of people really don’t care about us being targeted,” says McGowan.
“But the truth is that the Bill goes way beyond unions and way beyond election ads. It basically says that any group that wants to spend more than $1,000 on a campaign that criticizes government policies has to register with the government itself and will be subject to all sorts of restrictions. These groups may even have their application to run campaigns denied if they their criticisms are too pointed or if they have a history of criticizing the government in the past. This is authoritarian stuff and has no place in a real democracy.”
The AFL digital campaign to stop Bill 81 will start running on Facebook later today. McGowan urges Albertans to sign up to and send letters of protest to their MLAs. “If you don’t want to live in a province where dissent is suppressed, join us and speak out now, before it’s too late.”
Director of Communications, AFL