Appendix 3: Fundamamental jurisprudence

AuthorGregory Tardi
[  ]
 3
National Citizens’ Coalition Inc v Canada (Attorney General), 1984 CanLII
1181 (AB QB)
: Limitation of election expenses by third parties
: Restrictions on Charter rights of individuals need to be bal-
anced with the interests of society
is was the f‌irst instance, following the incorporation of the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms into the constitutional fabric of Canada,
that a fundamental issue of election law was placed before the judiciary
for adjudication. It was also the f‌irst of a string of cases in which the
regime of election expenses underwent judicial scrutiny. At stake in this
case was section .() of the Canada Elections Act, which stated that for
the entire duration of an election campaign, anyone other than a candi-
date or their ocial agent, or the registered agent of a registered party,
who incurred election expenses, was guilty of an oence. e Court
traced the history of Canadian election expenses law back to the s,
when the provisions against bribery, treating, and conveying voters to
the polls were f‌irst enacted on the basis of the British example. Following
[  ]
a number of more modern reports on the issue of election expenses in
the age of costly television advertising, drafted over the previous two
decades, the obvious purpose of the provision was to prevent the pur-
chase of electoral results by those with deep pockets who favoured one
side or the other in an election. In addition, the Court was drawn to look
at the American example, where spending restrictions were said to be
limitations on freedom of expression.
e Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench considered the case as a matter
of weighing the individual citizen’s right to freedom of expression in
relation to the benef‌its to society arising from what it styled an eective
system for the election of Members of Parliament. Its characterization
was as follows: “A limitation to the fundamental freedom of expression
should be assessed on the basis that if it is not permitted then harm
will be caused to other values in society. is requires, as has been said,
a balancing of the respective interests of society and of the individual.
e Queen’s Bench took a rather libertarian view of the law in f‌ind-
ing that the Attorney General of Canada had not made out a case for
limiting the section (b) freedom of expression. It found inconsistency
with the Charter and, in line with the then early development of Charter
jurisprudence, simply went on to state that it was not up to the court to
get involved with rewriting the law. Along with the provision limiting
election expenses, the court also invalidated section , which would
have required advertisements to be signed.
is case had a far more profound eect throughout Canada than
what the court might have anticipated. Although, as a Queen’s Bench
decision, it was technically applicable only within Alberta, given the
obvious imminence of a general election and the absence of opportunity
to amend the Act, the Attorney General and the Chief Electoral Ocer
decided that the subject provisions would not be applied anywhere in
Canada. e election was in fact held on September , . e Progres-
sive Conservative Party took full advantage of the ruling and, with its
help, went on to an overwhelming victory at the polls. is became the
f‌irst in a long string of cases on election expenses.
1 1984 CanLII 1181 (AB QB) at para 54.
[  ]
Fundamental Jurisprudence
Dixon v British Columbia (Attorney General) (1989), 59 DLR (4th) 247 (BCSC)
: Determination of electoral districts
: Equality of representation
Dixon has several characteristics that render it important. Following the
adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in , this was
the f‌irst among a series of cases of national importance that dealt with
the Charter’s Democratic Rights provisions, and in particular the develop-
ment of the meaning of the right to vote. In addition, this was the f‌irst
of a number of cases on the right to vote in which the principal author
was Beverley McLachlin, then Chief Justice of the British Columbia
Supreme Court and eventually Chief Justice of Canada.
is case originated from the fact that the provincial electoral re distri-
bution scheme adopted by British Columbia in  included electoral
districts that were seriously disproportionate to each other. In addition
to having dierent base calculations for mainland and Vancouver Island
electoral districts, dierentiations based on the metropolitan, suburban,
urban-rural, urban-coastal, or remote categorization of each district were
incorporated into the statutorily mandated electoral map. e result was
that electoral districts had great dierences in their population of vot-
ers, meaning that voters in dierent parts of the province had dierent
voting strength.
Dixon applied for an order to invalidate the legislation establishing
the province’s electoral districts. Some of the issues at stake were decided
in a f‌irst hearing before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. e
decision reported here was the principal one. As this was the f‌irst judi-
cial interpretation of the issue, the court was called upon to decide f‌irst
whether the Charter applied to the electoral boundaries regime made
under the Constitution Act of British Columbia. e court held that although
this Act is exclusively within provincial jurisdiction under Canada’s 
constitutional scheme, provincial exercise of legislative authority is not
beyond Charter scrutiny and section ()(b) of the Charter does govern
this case. In other words, the court could conduct its examination of the
issue brought to it.
2 Dixon v BC (AG), 1986 CanLII 770 (BC SC).
3 Now Section 19, the
subject provision is now repealed.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT