New Brunswick’s political parties have been brought up to speed on rules and regulations surrounding the upcoming election and while some changes are coming into effect, this time around, it’s likely that more will be instituted after the dust settles.
Elections NB held an information session on Wednesday inviting all six registered provincial parties to learn everything they need to know ahead of the election in seven months’ time.
“There’s a lot of little details in what you can do to advertise and what you can’t do and they’re evolving,” said Chris Smissaert, New Brunswick’s Green Party candidate for Fredericton North.
Smissaert attended the session and said it helped provide some clarity for him despite being involved in campaigns since 2010.
That is almost to be expected as much of what was written eight years ago, and prior to that, has been modified or updated, including rules for social media.
“We have friends but we also have ‘Facebook friends’ which we might not know at all,” he explained. “Friend might be a stretch.”
“It’s nice to know that these activities on Facebook can be legitimate and legal and we’re not doing anything nefarious just by sharing.”
Online candidates will still be permitted to post on their own Facebook pages even during the advertising blackout period which begins the Sunday before the election and continues during the polling period.
What they can’t do is use promoted posts during that time.
“Social media is kind of the wild west of political financing,” said People’s Alliance of New Brunswick Leader Kris Austin. “There are all kinds of questions surrounding that, how you use social media, the internet in terms of promotional videos and that sort of thing. We’ve got to get out of the ’70s and get into the new age we’re in.”
“I think it’s up to government to try to simplify this process,” he said.
Elections NB Chief Electoral Officer Kim Poffenroth will be in that role for her first provincial election, having previous experience in municipal byelections.
She said one of the biggest changes has to do with how much an individual can contribute to any political party in the calendar year.
“The limit has been reduced from $6,000 to $3,000 for an annual contribution limit,” she said of the rule change brought in several months back. “Also, contributions from corporations and trade unions have been eliminated.”
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Poffenroth indicated certain rules have been in place for many years that might have been designed with different scenarios than are seen today. Smaller polling stations meant a rule barring advertisements within 30 metres of the main entrances on election day might’ve fit the bill in the past. However, with much larger facilities like arenas being used now, such a rule seems less effective.
Once the election is completed, Elections NB will report to the government their findings and recommendations, who can then make the changes they see fit for the next time voters take to the polls.
“Our job at Elections New Brunswick is to enforce the rules that are in place. It’s the legislative assembly that actually established what those rules are,” she explained. “Our job is to make sure the rules that are in place are followed.”