Nunavut candidates say campaign blackout rules are excessive
Candidates complain one-day website, social media ban may breach Charter
RANKIN INLET — At least two Nunavut election candidates aren’t happy about an email they got from the territory’s chief returning office Oct. 25, warning them that their campaign websites and social media accounts must be taken offline by noon on Sunday, the day before the Oct.28 territorial election.
The office of Nunavut’s chief returning officer said that candidates must shut down campaign websites or social media accounts by noon on Oct. 27, according to the Nunavut Election Act.
Section 255 of the act prohibits the broadcast of any information “in favour of or on behalf of a candidate or against a candidate” in that period before election day.
“Broadcast” is defined as television, radio — and the internet.
But Anne Crawford, who is running in the riding of Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, says taking down such information is not only impossible, but puts voters at a disadvantage.
“Voters rely on this material to make… decisions,” Crawford said in a post on her campaign Twitter account.
She and Iqaluit-Tasiluk candidate Patterk Netser have objected to Elections Nunavut.
In a tweet, Crawford, a lawyer, suggested these provisions in Nunavut’s election law may be in breach of the Charter of Rights.
“Canadian constitution freedom of expression trumps the Act,” Crawford said in her tweet.
But Sandy Kusugak, Nunavut’s chief returning officer, said the regulations are there in writing.
“We don’t monitor this stuff,” Kusugak said, “but the promotional aspect of the website has to go down.”
That means candidates can just take down certain pages on their website, and leave a page with polling information.
“It is under the scope of what’s considered broadcasting,” she said.
“Using the intent to broadcast something in the day leading up to election day is an offence under the election act.”
That does not affect information about candidates included in online news articles, Kusugak said, but does affect candidates’ ads.
In the case of Nunatsiaq News, the newspaper is required to remove all candidates’ ads from its website by Sunday, Oct. 27, at noon.
In a tweet, Crawford said about half of Nunavut’s candidates have a Facebook campaign page; a third have websites while a much smaller group have Twitter accounts or LinkedIn pages.
Crawford said that section 255 of the Nunavut Elections Act should only apply to new material, but added that she hasn’t received a response from the office of the chief returning officer.
Kusugak said candidates could keep the same Twitter account and change the accounts handle or user name, but it’s unclear if old tweets, which live indefinitely on the internet, would be covered under the election law.
Kusugak admits this is new territory for Elections Nunavut — few if any candidates used social media to campaign in the territory’s 2008 elections.
“This is the first time it’s come up,” she said.