Elections Canada Press Conference, Ottawa, April 2, 1997.

Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Jean-Pierre Kingsley


In terms of the elections results, there really is only one issue in terms of Internet, and that is the results from Atlantic Canada, the 31 ridings in Atlantic Canada. Because in terms of the staggered hours, the effect is such that for all the other provinces except Atlantic Canada, the results only start to come out when the polls shut down in British Columbia at seven o'clock B.C. time. So for the 31 ridings, the statute is clear; you cannot disseminate the results by any means. Of course, the question then becomes, from what I've read in the newspapers and elsewhere, well, are you going to have a special police force policing this? Well, it's not going to be any different from telephone conversations. We do not police those. If someone wants to post on Internet on an individualized basis to a particular person that he knows, it's the same as telephone communications as far as we're concerned.

But if it were a broadcast media that were posting it on its Internet site, then we will have to look at that should there be a complaint. Because this is what drives enforcement in Canada. Elections Canada does not issue police permits to a whole slew of Canadians to police the process. We rely on Canadians, we rely on political parties, and we rely on candidates. And I'll tell you, all three do a very good job, and they do report what they consider to be infractions. Infractions are referred to the commissioner of Canada Elections who alone makes the determination whether to prosecute or not without any reference to a political authority. And that's how that aspect, in terms of election results, would be handled.

It must be remembered that one of the reasons why the recommendation was made about staggering hours was the very fact that it's becoming very, very difficult to police international communications. And therefore, it was thought that the way to handle it was, if the results should become known from 31 ridings it would not have the same impact as if the results were known to B.C. or Alberta electors from the majority of other ridings.

So that ambivalence will continue to prevail, but we're not going to be hiring people to police this thing. This is not what's foreseen at all.

And the last really concerns opinion polls and surveys. As you know, there's a court judgement upholding the ban for the 72 hours before the end of polling day. That ban was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal. But they are covered, this ban is covered, on Internet. Because the law reads differently than the blackout. It talks about broadcast, it talks about published, it talks about disseminate, and Internet is such a means. Not in terms of broadcasting, it's not a broadcast undertaking in terms of the Broadcast Act of Canada. But in terms of the other it fits that description. So that ban will continue to apply. And the same logic that I applied in terms of whether it's an individual Canadian doing it on his own, or her own, or whether it's a firm doing it and publicizing that face, will, of course, be taking into consideration when complaints are filed.

Q: A brief supplementary on the issue of advertising. What happens if an individual likes a particular candidate or party and sets up a Web site asking people to vote for that party? Are you going to charge that expense to the party as advertising?
KINGSLEY: Well, the answer is only if the party is aware that is going on in its stead. Moreover, any advertising must have the name of the official agent, if it's being done on behalf of a party or a candidate, with the knowledge of the candidate or the party.

If it is a third party, someone or some group that is not a political party, registered under the Canada Elections Act for purposes of the election, it must also carry the name of the person sponsoring the ad, or the name of the organization sponsoring the ad, because it must be remembered that as in 1988 and in 1993, the limits that were imposed on third parties, spending limits, have been ruled unconstitutional, so that as with those elections, there is no limit concerning third party intervention. And that included advertising, of course. But it must carry the name of the organization or the sponsor of those ads, and if it is done with the knowledge of a candidate or a party then that becomes something else in terms of the Elections Act and its reportable as an expense. And how it impacts on the limits on expenditures which are imposed by law.