Campaigns/Elections

Worthless Canadian Initiative

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Paula Simons on Canada's election-night gag order:

Here in the U.S., by contrast, full disclosure is the name of the game.

Back in 1938, when radio was king, Canada's election law was amended to include a ban on the "premature transmission" of electoral results across time zones. The idea was to prevent radio broadcasts of election results in Eastern Canada from influencing voter behaviour in the West.

The law, frankly, was always patronizing and paternalistic. There has never been any evidence that voting patterns in the West were, or would be, influenced by results from the East. Even if they were, why should the government deny voters in the West the opportunity to cast their ballots in the most informed way possible?…

The law is even more absurd today, when our country is in the middle of an interactive social media revolution, and when more and more readers get their news not from hard copy "newspapers" but from 24-hour live news sites.

You only have to look back to 2008, when we had our last federal election, to grasp how remarkably our media ecosystem has altered in just 2 1/2 years. [The law] has been rendered obsolete by new forms of mass communication, forms of media that could hardly have been imagined in 1938.

Realistically, Elections Canada cannot possibly enforce a nationwide ban on premature tweeting or blogging or Facebooking of election results. It's the equivalent of King Canute commanding the sea to go back.

Nonetheless, John Enright, who speaks for Elections Canada, says his agency has no choice but to administer the law as written. Citizens are allowed to phone or text friends, or send private e-mails. But posting to a Facebook wall, to a webpage or to Twitter will be considered a violation.

Don't think he means it? A decade ago, the Vancouver-based blogger Paul Bryan was fined $1,000 for prematurely posting some vote totals. "He fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds, with major media outlets from across the country joining his battle," Simons writes. "It did no good. In 2007, by a vote of 5-4, the court upheld Bryan's conviction."

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  1. You are right dude that is pretty worthless. Wow.

    http://www.total-privacy.int.tc

    1. Even the bots disrepect them the Canadians.

  2. Interesting, if someone outside of Canada posted results on a Canadian’s Twitter or Facebook

    1. Oops, I got distracted by a ball of yarn.

      1. I’m going to eat your owl.

  3. I post the results on my blog every year, but no one notices.

    1. Someone owes me an owls.

  4. Hey, I’m a worthless Canadian too!

  5. Once upon a time courts were supposed to judge legislation against the supreme law (constitution).
    Now the courts’ function is to defend legislation against constitutional challenges.

    Rule of law has been replaced with rule of man.

    1. The Canadian Constitution basically is nothing more than a division of powers between the Feds and the Provinces. Sort of a formalized turf agreement among the thieves.

      There are some citizen rights, but there is this handy little “notwithstanding clause” that allows the government to do what it wants anyways.

      In the US, the government and courts have to find ways to get around the constitutional protections. In Canada, the constitution just lets them do it.

      1. Amazingly enough, the “notwithstanding” clause is used very sparingly by provincial governments.

        If memory serves me correctly its been used twice, by the province of Quebec to curtail English language rights, and by the province of Alberta I think.

        1. Ultimately any law or constitution in any jurisdiction is subject to a “notwithstanding clause”: “…unless whoever it is decides to break this law.” Human laws don’t enforce themselves.

  6. It’s illegal to post election results, but what about fake election results?

    1. We have fake elections.

  7. It is a stupid law.

    However, I detest Canadian politics so much that I simply do not listen to the news, visit a Canadian website, or read a Canadian paper until at least two days after an election, so it doesn’t bother me.

    And now for a little special pleading: Matt, please do not post anything about the current Canadian election campaign. I might vomit on my screen if you did.

    1. I’ll drink to that!

  8. You’re going to have to distinguish this from all the other worthless Canadian initiatives for us to pay attention.

  9. How can a country that gave us Trailer Park Boys also produce that law?

  10. “The idea was to prevent radio broadcasts of election results in Eastern Canada from influencing voter behaviour in the West.”
    “A decade ago, the Vancouver-based blogger Paul Bryan was fined $1,000 for prematurely posting some vote totals.”

    How did the guy in the West know about the vote totals in the East? I mean, they have a law!!

  11. I nominate Reason to do real-time posting of Canadian results.

    1. I second that nomination.

    2. agreed

  12. Really, what info could he have posted? The results of the maple syrup referrendum? Whether the beaver was the national animal?

    1. Heh heh heh. He said “beaver”.

  13. Seemingly the Canadian government is immune from this law, since they are the ones announcing the election results before the election is over, and the media is simply forwarding that information.

  14. Poor old King Canute, his story always flipped on its head. The moral of the story is not that he thought, in his pride, that he could command the tides. He was demonstrating to his flattering court that he was just a man; that there are things even a king cannot do. It’s a lesson in personal humility, a lesson many of our current leaders could learn.

  15. In Australia it used to be (might still be, don’t know) that news organizations could not run stories on an election for the 72 hours PRECEDING the poll. While that’s stupid, it also banned election commercials (still wrong, but much more pleasing to the mental health).

  16. Man, I made a sticker just like that ? “I farted”? in the style of the red “I voted” stickers for the last election. I’m serious. Did you guys swipe?

  17. Angus has a good point, why doesn’t the Canadian government simply not release precinct results until all precinct results are in? Problem solves and it doesn’t violate individual rights.

    1. Actually, they did something like that by making the poll closing times different in each time zone.

      In the Atlantic time zone, they close around 9:30 while the polls in BC close around 7:00. There is still a window where votes are being counted in the East before the polls close in the West, but the eastern ridings are often still undecided before the BC polls close.

  18. In Alberta, at 8:00 PM when polls close, Peter Mansbridge comes on the CBC to tell us that the results are a Conservative Minority.
    Quebec and Ontario is when the election is ultimately decided.

  19. I’ve got an open offer to friends of mine who live east of BC to send me results, which I will post on Facebook and live tweet. The law is an ass.

    Pierre

  20. The only case that I know of where eastern voting may have influenced a western election was in Oregon, where Rep. Al Ullman (D), then-Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, very narrowly lost his seat in 1980. The TV networks called the Presidential election for Ronald Reagan around 6pm Pacific Time and (anecdotally) quite a few Democratic voters abandoned their spots in the polling place lines, or didn’t bother to go vote at all.

  21. Uland,
    Back in the 90s I was an engineer at a printer manufacturer when color printer were still pretty rare — we printed “I Farted” stickers just like the real ones and tricked a LOT of people into wearing them.

    About the issue raised by the article — not sure it should be dismissed so easily, as major networks in 2000 calling FL for Gore too soon when the panhandle (on Central time and much more conservative) was still voting led to the recount crap. Which of course led to BDS long before Iraq. A few more hundred, or thousand, votes for a larger margin might have spared the country a fair amount of trauma.

    On a further tangent I clearly remember my disgust with the media when they tried to artificially turn Ohio into the Florida of 2004 (Bush vs Kerry) — they deliberatley dragged their feet most of the night on calling OH for Bush, when much earlier in the evening they had readily called Pennsylvania for Kerry, where his lead was smaller than Bushes in OH, IIRC in both absolute and percentage terms.

  22. lly turn Ohio into the Florida of 2004 (Bush

  23. lly turn Ohio into the Florida of 2004 (Bushlost his seat in 1980. The TV networks called the Presidential election for Ronald Reagan around 6pm Pacific T

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