Will Netizens be allowed to have any
impact on the Canadian Election?


[ See also: EFC Press Release (22may97) -- The Latest Internet Censor: Elections Canada ]

According to Elections Canada, and Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, ...

(1) It is illegal to publish political advertisements anonymously. That is, all advertisements must indicate the author or sponsor and his political affiliations.

(2) Any `third party' political advertising brought to the attention of a political party's `official agent' must be counted towards their campaign spending limit, even if they played no official role in the creation of the advertisement.

(3) Although early election results will be broadcast locally in Halifax, it is illegal to publish them in a way that people in Vancouver could get access to them before their polls close.

These regulations include web pages on the Internet, as long as they qualify as advertisements by `directly endorsing or criticizing a particular candidate or political party'.

The campaign spending limit seems to create the bizarre possibility of a mischievous, deep-pocketed individual or group being able to effectively silence a political party by creating poor-quality advertising on their behalf.

Elections Canada isn't worried about the difficulty in policing any of this on the Net because, according to Kingsley, ``Canadians watch each other like hawks''.

Anonymous Political Advertising on the Web

259.2 (1) Every person who sponsors or conducts advertising without identifying the name of the sponsor and indicating that it was authorized by that sponsor is guilty of an offence.
There are currently 52 mirror sites, of the "Vote Green!" web page at various locations in 14 countries around the world. There are also 11 mirror sites of the "Vote NDP!" web page in Canada and the USA. If you know of any other anonymous political web pages, please notify us at efc-web@efc.ca

[Canada] [Germany] [Australia] [United Kingdom]
[Belgium] [Austria] [Sweden] [Denmark]
[Norway] [Spain] [Italy] [France]
[The Netherlands] [United States] . . . . . .

Publication Ban:
Political Opinion Surveys on the Web

Broadcasting, publishing, etc.
322.1 No person shall broadcast, publish, or disseminate the results of an opinion survey respecting how electors will vote at an election or respecting an election issue that would permit the identification of a political party or candidate from midnight the Friday before polling day until the close of all polling stations.

You may be interested in reading a Press Release issued by Politics Canada, June 4, 1997, and the subsequent letter he received from Elections Canada.

A number of other opinion surveys remained on the Internet and available to interested Canadians, despite the publication ban.

During the eve of the federal election, early election results were readily available to Canadians on the Internet through Internet Relay Chat (IRC), on the #election channel.

Background Information:

Letter from Commissioner of Canada Elections (sent: 05may97, received: 09may97)
Commissioner Raymond Landry instructs the apparent author of the ``Vote Green!'' web page to comply with the Act.

Letter from Commissioner of Canada Elections (sent: 16may97, received: 23may97)
Commissioner Raymond Landry instructs the Online Direct that runs the ``Poll Direct'' web site to comply with the Act.

excerpt from Elections Canada press conference (02apr97)
When Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, talks about the Internet, it isn't clear he appreciates the distinctions between chat, e-mail, usenet news, and web pages. Read this transcript to get his view on how Elections Canada should regulate political advertising on the web.

Canada Elections Act
If you have the patience, the entire text of the legislation is available.

Alberta Court of Appeal Decision
Sections 213(1), 259.1(1), and 259.1(2) were recently found to be unconstitutional because they place unreasonable limits on freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to an informed vote.

Usenet News discussion:
Should anonymous political web pages be illegal?
can.infohighway, 06may97, (David Jones)

Newspaper articles:
Elections Canada silences a Green Party webmaster
Ottawa Citizen, 31may97, (Alison Uncles)

`Absurd, elitist' legal ban means all polls now secret
Ottawa Citizen, 31may97, (Chris Cobb)

Affront to rights or much ado about nothing?
Globe & Mail, 30may97, (André Picard)

Scofflaws in cyberspace
Globe & Mail, 30may97

Web Battle in Canada
Netizen, 28may97, (Ashley Craddock)

Canadian election law prompts web-site battle
Wired News, 27may97, (Ashley Craddock)

Breaking the Election Canada's polling ban
Convergence, 26may97, (Theresa Ebden)

Elections Canada getting needled for Internet ignorance
Hamilton Spectator, 26may97, (Andrew Dreschel)

Elections Canada censors political discourse on the Net
Convergence, 24may97, (David Jones)

Elections Canada censorship is Pick of the Week
Yahoo! Canada, 23may97

So what if polls influence vote
Hamilton Spectator, 20may97, (Andrew Dreschel)

Treize sites miroirs de la page interdite par Élections Canada
Chroniques de Cyberie, 19may97, (Jean-Pierre Cloutier)

Élections Canada sévit sur Internet
Chroniques de Cyberie, 15may97, (Jean-Pierre Cloutier)

No, Canada : Obscure Canadian law blocks free speech on web
Netly News, 13may97, (Declan McCullagh)

Internet political ads run into legal blocks
Globe & Mail, 08may97, (Mary Gooderham)

Policing the Internet During the Campaign is Futile
Hill Times, 28apr97, (Kady O'Malley)