Electoral Finance Bill Is Threat To Democracy
“Free speech is the very bedrock of our society. It is what makes our entire system of government work. Democracy relies on educated and informed citizens who have thought through the issues before they vote. The Bill’s severe and sweeping restrictions on “third parties” would dangerously weaken democracy,” says Alex Penk, Maxim Institute’s Policy and Research Manager.
“The Bill would restrict anything a third party wanted to say about an issue that a party or a candidate was associated with. But these are the issues that the parties and candidates themselves have decided are most important, and so they should be debated and discussed vigorously. Instead, the Bill would shut down discussion of these issues—it would only allow full and free debate on issues that are not in play.”
“The Bill would impose onerous registration, reporting and auditing requirements on third parties, and even if someone is prepared to go through that process, the Bill does not allow them to spend very much to have their say. The restrictions would apply for an extended period of the year, from 1 January right up to the election. There can be little doubt that much public debate about vital issues such as the environment, education, the media and tax will be stifled.”
“The requirement to report donations is likely to scare donors away from third parties, reducing their ability to have their say. The virtual prohibition of anonymous donations to third parties is uncalled for and would infringe on people’s freedom to support causes they care about. Democracy is all about the people getting involved and having a voice. This Bill completely fails to understand that principle,” says Alex Penk.
“Despite suggestions that the Bill might be significantly altered by the Select Committee, it is so deeply flawed that even a radical re-drafting will be inadequate.”
“Free speech should not be limited in this way. In fact, it should be encouraged. It is deeply concerning that a Bill which is apparently designed to “promote participation by the public in parliamentary democracy” would have exactly the opposite effect.”