Skip to comments.Canada grapples with elections in the Internet age
Posted on 01/23/2006 12:51:24 PM PST by NormsRevenge
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A battle over free speech has broken out on the sidelines of Canada's national election campaign with media and federal officials squaring off over the idea that Canada's election laws have become hopelessly outdated in the age of the Internet.
With voters spread out over six times zones, Canada faced the issue of whether publishing or broadcasting Monday's election results from the Atlantic provinces could influence voting decisions and turnout on the Pacific Coast.
Canada bans the reporting of early election results in areas where polls have yet to close, and media outlets have promised to toe the line in posting Monday's results.
But critics say the rule, enacted in 1938 to control radio broadcasts, violates free speech and is unenforceable now that people can post information on the Web for wide distribution.
"Sometimes laws are bad because they are undemocratic and sometimes laws are bad because they are archaic, but section 329 (the ban) manages the stunning achievement of being both undemocratic and archaic at the same time," Gerry Nicholls, of the right-wing National Citizens Coalition, wrote in an editorial.
The ban was lifted for the 2004 election after a trial judge sided with Paul Bryan, a Vancouver, British Columbia-area man who had purposely violated the law in 2000 by posting early results on his Web site.
An appeals court overturned that ruling last year and reinstated the ban. That decision has been appealed to the Supreme Court, but the court will only hear arguments later this year, and it refused a media request to suspend the restriction until then.
Bryan, who was fined C$1,000 ($870) by Elections Canada, which regulates the voting process nationally, has said he will not violate the ban this election because his case is still before the court.
SUPPORTERS SAY IMPACT LIMITED
The ban's supporters say the impact on free speech is limited, since federal election officials changed the closing times of polling stations in 2000, bringing forward the time when stations close in Western Canada.
Voting in Newfoundland ends three hours before it does on the Pacific coast, but historically the biggest concern was that westerners would cast ballots knowing who had won in vote-rich central Canada.
Polling stations in Ontario and Quebec now close just 30 minutes before those in westernmost British Columbia.
Major Canadian media organizations have said they will not post voting results on the Web before the last polling stations close, and satellite television provider Bell ExpressVu plans to block eastern signals from being seen in areas where polls have not closed.
An Elections Canada spokeswoman said the agency's lawyers had yet to say what they would do about the Internet sites of foreign news organizations, but said the agency would likely investigate if any complaints were filed after the election.
Canada's courts already are coming to grips with the issue of foreign news organizations that violate publication bans in high-profile criminal cases, such as that of accused serial killer Robert Pickton.
A judge threatened contempt charges against reporters from U.S. news organizations after information from a Pickton hearing that was covered by a Canadian publication ban was published on the Internet in the United States.
Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin casts his ballot as he votes in Lasalle, Quebec January 23, 2006. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
How dare Canadians get their news from someplace other than a government approved news source?
After the Libs win this election (just barely) there will be some PUNISHMENT to dole out to the citizenry...
Paul Martin = A bleached out Hugo Chavez who speaks French.
Wow, he really bears a strong resemblance to Jaques Chirac in that picture. That's uncanny!
" ... media outlets have promised to toe the line ..." only because the liberals are at risk AND whose line are they towing??? hmmmmmm?????
Please FReepmail me to get on or off this Canada ping list.
Screw the media, just go vote.
Arg. I just listened to Mel Hurtog talk to Neil Cavuto on Fox saying that Canadians weren't anti American, just anti Bush (noting he was as disliked as Madison in 1812). Talk about your five alarm hurl - maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are spoonfed the liberal funded CBC and CNN. Recall Fox only hit Canadian airwaves after Al Jazeera.
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only Canadian who would like to see Bush and Harper roping steer ensemble!
O.K. the Polls are now closed in the Far East (Maritimes) and Mid-East (Quebec & Ontario)-- does anyone know any results ?
In compliance with the legislation -- I promise to squint when I read them.
Oops -- no they're not -- I was thinking of the old rules. Read first -- then post. Du'h.
Click on Election Night Results at this link.
Canada's Conservative party leader Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen Teskey arrive in Calgary, Alberta for election day, Monday, Jan. 23, 2006. (AP PHOTO/CP, Tom Hanson)
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