Thomson Newspapers Co. et al. v. Canada (Attorney General), (1998) 226 N.R. 1 (SCC)

JudgeIacobucci, Major and Bastarache, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court (Canada)
Case DateMay 29, 1998
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(1998), 226 N.R. 1 (SCC);[1998] ACS no 44;159 DLR (4th) 385;51 CRR (2d) 189;[1998] 1 SCR 877;79 ACWS (3d) 921;226 NR 1;109 OAC 201;[1998] SCJ No 44 (QL);1998 CanLII 829 (SCC);JE 98-1224;38 OR (3d) 735

Thomson Newspapers Co. v. Can. (A.G.) (1998), 226 N.R. 1 (SCC)

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

....................

Temp. Cite: [1998] N.R. TBEd. MY.016

Thomson Newspapers Company Limited doing business as The Globe and Mail, The Evening Telegram, Winnipeg Free Press and Times-Colonist and Southam Inc. (appellants) v. The Attorney General of Canada (respondent) and The Attorney General of British Columbia and The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (intervenors)

(25593)

Indexed As: Thomson Newspapers Co. et al. v. Canada (Attorney General)

Supreme Court of Canada

Lamer, C.J.C., L'Heureux-Dubé,

Sopinka, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin,

Iacobucci, Major and Bastarache, JJ.

May 29, 1998.

Summary:

Section 322.1 of the Canada Elections Act absolutely banned the broadcast, publication or dissemination of the results of a voter's opinion survey for the last three days of an election. Thomson Newspapers applied under rule 14.05(3)(g.1) for a declaration that s. 322.1 violated s. 2(b) (freedom of speech) and s. 3 (right to vote) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Ontario Court (General Division), in a judgment reported 24 O.R.(3d) 109, dis­missed the application. The court held that s. 322.1 violated s. 2(b), but was a reasonable limit prescribed by law under s. 1 of the Charter. The court held that s. 322.1 did not violate s. 3. Thomson appealed.

The Ontario Court of Appeal, in a judg­ment reported 92 O.A.C. 290, dismissed the appeal. Section 322.1 did not violate s. 3. Section 322.1 violated freedom of speech (s. 2(b)), but was a reasonable limit prescribed by law (s. 1). Thomson appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada, Lamer, C.J.C., L'Heureux-Dubé and Gonthier, JJ., dissenting, allowed the appeal. Section 322.1 violated freedom of speech (s. 2(b)) and was not a reasonable limit prescribed by law under s. 1. Accordingly, s. 322.1 was of no force and effect. The majority of the court found it unnecessary to decide whether s. 322.1 violated the right to vote (s. 3), although the minority found that s. 322.1 did not violate s. 3.

Civil Rights - Topic 126

Voting and other democratic rights - Right to vote - Restrictions - Section 322.1 of the Canada Elections Act absolutely banned the broadcast, publication or dis­semination of the results of a voter's opinion survey for the last three days of an election - The objective was to avoid dissemination of potentially deceptive information when there was not adequate time to respond - The Ontario Court of Appeal held that s. 322.1 did not violate the right to vote (Charter, s. 3) - The right to cast an informed vote did not guarantee access throughout each and every day of the election campaign to any and all infor­mation that might be relevant to the exer­cise of the right to vote - The right to cast an informed vote included the right to the information necessary to do so, but a three day publication ban did not violate that right - The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada found it unnecessary to resolve this issue - The court did state that "to constitute an infringement of the right to vote, a restriction on information would have to undermine the guarantee of effec­tive representation" - The minority of the court held that s. 332.1 did not violate s. 3 - See paragraphs 17, 85.

Civil Rights - Topic 1855.1

Freedom of speech or expression - Limita­tions on - Publication ban - Voter opinion surveys - Section 322.1 of the Canada Elections Act absolutely banned the broad­cast, publication or dissemination of the results of a voter's opinion survey for the last three days of an election - The objec­tive was to guard against inaccurate or misleading polls late in a campaign which affected a voter's choice because of a lack of response time - The Supreme Court of Canada held that s. 322.1 violated freedom of speech (Charter, s. 2(b)) and was not a reasonable limit prescribed by law (s. 1) - There was a rational connection between the pressing and substantial objective of s. 322.1 and the statutory scheme - However, s. 322.1 did not minimally impair the Charter right to freedom of expression - The harm the government sought to pre­vent did not affect a large number of voters (i.e., harm not widespread or signifi­cant) - Canadian voters were not a vulner­able group in danger of manipulation or abuse - The government provided no ex­planation for failing to adopt significantly less intrusive measures - Finally, s. 322.1 failed the proportionality test, because the doubtful benefits of a ban were outweighed by the ban's significant and deleterious effects - See paragraphs 20 to 66.

Civil Rights - Topic 8348

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Application - Exceptions - Reasonable limits prescribed by law - [See Civil Rights - Topic 1855.1 ].

Elections - Topic 6006

Offences - General - Publication ban - Voter opinion surveys - [See Civil Rights - Topic 126 and Topic 1855.1 ].

Cases Noticed:

R. v. Butler and McCord, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 452; 134 N.R. 81; 78 Man.R.(2d) 1; 16 W.A.C. 1; 70 C.C.C.(3d) 129; 11 C.R.(4th) 137, dist. [para. 7].

Irwin Toy Ltd. v. Québec (Procureur géné­ral), [1989] 1 S.C.R. 927; 94 N.R. 167; 24 Q.A.C. 2; 58 D.L.R.(4th) 577; 25 C.P.R.(3d) 417, dist. [para. 7].

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Dagenais et al., [1994] 3 S.C.R. 835; 175 N.R. 1; 76 O.A.C. 81; 94 C.C.C.(3d) 289; 120 D.L.R.(4th) 12; 25 C.R.R.(2d) 1, refd to. [para. 15].

Libman v. Quebec (Attorney General), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 569; 218 N.R. 241, dist. [para. 16].

Reference Re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), [1991] 2 S.C.R. 158; 127 N.R. 1; 94 Sask.R. 161; 81 D.L.R.(4th) 16, refd to. [para. 17].

Carter v. Saskatchewan (Attorney General) - see Reference Re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.).

Sauvé v. Canada (Attorney General), [1993] 2 S.C.R. 438; 153 N.R. 242; 64 O.A.C. 124, refd to. [para. 17].

Haig et al. v. Canada; Haig et al. v. Kingsley, [1993] 2 S.C.R. 995; 156 N.R. 81; 105 D.L.R.(4th) 577; 16 C.R.R.(2d) 193, refd to. [para. 17].

Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt Case, Re (1987), Series A No. 113 (Eur. Hum. Rts. Ct.), refd to. [para. 18].

Bowman v. United Kingdom (1996), 22 E.H.R.R.C.D. 13, refd to. [para. 18].

R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 103; 65 N.R. 87; 14 O.A.C. 335; 26 D.L.R.(4th) 200; 50 C.R.(3d) 1; 24 C.C.C.(3d) 321; 19 C.R.R. 308, refd to. [para. 22].

RJR-MacDonald Inc. et Imperial Tobacco Ltd. v. Canada (Procureur général), [1995] 3 S.C.R. 199; 187 N.R. 1, dist. [para. 23].

Attis v. Board of Education of District No. 15 et al., [1996] 1 S.C.R. 825; 195 N.R. 81; 171 N.B.R.(2d) 321; 437 A.P.R. 321, refd to. [para. 25].

Ross v. New Brunswick School District No. 15 - see Attis v. Board of Education of District No. 15 et al.

R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 697; 117 N.R. 1; 114 A.R. 81; 1 C.R.(4th) 129; 77 Alta. L.R.(2d) 193; [1991] 2 W.W.R. 1; 61 C.C.C.(3d) 1; 3 C.R.R.(2d) 193, dist. [para. 25].

Edmonton Journal v. Alberta (Attorney General), [1989] 2 S.C.R. 1326; 102 N.R. 321; 103 A.R. 321; 64 D.L.R.(4th) 577; [1990] 1 W.W.R. 577; 71 Alta. L.R.(2d) 273; 45 C.R.R. 1, refd to. [para. 26].

Royal College of Dental Surgeons (Ont.) et al. v. Rocket and Price, [1990] 2 S.C.R. 232; 111 N.R. 161; 40 O.A.C. 241; 71 D.L.R.(4th) 68, refd to. [para. 26].

Vriend et al. v. Alberta, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 493; 224 N.R. 1; 212 A.R. 237; 168 W.A.C. 237, refd to. [para. 33].

Harvey v. New Brunswick (Attorney Gen­eral) et al., [1996] 2 S.C.R. 876; 201 N.R. 1; 178 N.B.R.(2d) 161; 454 A.P.R. 161, refd to. [para. 44].

R. v. Towne Cinema Theatres Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R. 494; 59 N.R. 101; 61 A.R. 35; 45 C.R.(3d) 1; 18 D.L.R.(4th) 1; 18 C.C.C.(3d) 193, refd to. [para. 50].

Ramsden v. Peterborough (City), [1993] 2 S.C.R. 1084; 156 N.R. 2; 66 O.A.C. 10, refd to. [para. 55].

Chaussure Brown's Inc. et al. v. Québec (Procureur général), [1988] 2 S.C.R. 712; 90 N.R. 84; 19 Q.A.C. 69, refd to. [para. 55].

Ford v. Québec (Procureur général) - see Chaussure Brown's Inc. et al. v. Québec (Procureur général).

R. v. Johnson et al., [1994] 3 S.C.R. 965; 174 N.R. 321; 76 O.A.C. 241; 94 C.C.C.(3d) 385, refd to. [para. 61].

R. v. Laba - see R. v. Johnson et al.

Butler v. Michigan (1957), 352 U.S. 380, refd to. [para. 63].

C.F.R.B. v. Canada (Attorney General)(No. 2), [1973] 3 O.R. 819 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 84].

R. v. Zundel (No. 2), [1992] 2 S.C.R. 731; 140 N.R. 1; 56 O.A.C. 161, refd to. [para. 91].

Dolphin Delivery Ltd. v. Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Local 580, Peterson and Alexander, [1986] 2 S.C.R. 573; 71 N.R. 83; 33 D.L.R.(4th) 174; [1987] 1 W.W.R. 577; 38 C.C.L.T. 184; 25 C.R.R. 321; 87 C.L.L.C. 14,002, refd to. [para. 94].

Somerville v. Canada (Attorney General), [1996] 8 W.W.R. 199; 184 A.R. 241; 122 W.A.C. 241, refd to. [para. 103].

R. v. Videoflicks Ltd. et al., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 713; 71 N.R. 161; 19 O.A.C. 239; 30 C.C.C.(3d) 385; 55 C.R.(3d) 193; 35 D.L.R.(4th) 1; 28 C.R.R. 1, refd to. [para. 117].

Edwards Books and Art Ltd. v. R. - see R. v. Videoflicks Ltd. et al.

R. v. Edwards Books and Art Ltd. - see R. v. Videoflicks Ltd. et al.

McKinney v. University of Guelph et al., [1990] 3 S.C.R. 229; 118 N.R. 1; 45 O.A.C. 1; 76 D.L.R.(4th) 545; 2 C.R.R.(2d) 1, refd to. [para. 119].

Statutes Noticed:

Canada Elections Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-2, sect. 255, sect. 256(1), sect. 322.1 [para. 3].

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982, sect. 1, sect. 2(b), sect. 3 [para. 3].

Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, sect. 126(1) [para. 3].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Ansolabehere, S., and Iyengar, S., Of Horseshoes and Horse Races: Experimen­tal Studies of the Impact of Poll Results on Electoral Behavior, in Political Com­munications (1994), vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 413 to 430 [para. 68].

Cameron, Jamie, The Past, Present and Future of Expressive Freedom under the Charter (1997), 35 Osgoode Hall L.J. 1, p. 66 [para. 60].

Canada, Committee on Election Expenses, Report of (1966), p. 51 [para. 70].

Canada, Hansard, Debates of the Senate, April 29, 1993, p. 3317 [para. 35].

Canada, Privy Council, White Paper on Election Law Reform (1986), generally [para. 39].

Canada, Royal Commission on Electoral Democracy, Reforming Electoral Democracy (1991), vol. 1, pp. 455 [para. 39]; 457 [para. 41]; 458 [para. 39]; 460 [para. 32].

Canada, Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing (1991), Polls and the Media in Canadian Elec­tions: Taking the Pulse, pp. 13, 14 [para. 73].

Canada, Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Issue 41, May 6, 1993, pp. 41:14 to 41:18 [para. 81].

Feasby, C.C.J., Public Opinion Poll Restrictions, Elections, and the Charter (1997), 55(2) U.T. Fac. L. Rev. 241, p. 244 [para. 68].

Herbst, S., Numbered Voices: How Opinion Polling Has Shaped American Politics (1993), p. 166 [para. 68].

Hogg, Peter W., Constitutional Law of Canada (1992 Looseleaf Ed.) (1997 Update, Release 2), vol. 2, p. 35-29 [para. 105].

Hoy, C., Margin of Error: Politics and the Manipulation of Canadian Politics (1989), pp. 39, 40 [para. 68].

Johnston, R., et al., Letting the People Decide: Dynamics of a Canadian Election (1992), p. 200 [para. 73].

Lachapelle Study - see Canada, Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing (1991), Polls and the Media in Canadian Elections: Taking the Pulse.

Lortie Commission Report - see Canada, Royal Commission on Electoral Democracy, Reforming Electoral Democracy.

McAllister, I., and Studlar, D.T., Band­wagon, Underdog or Projection? Opinion Polls and Electoral Choice in Britain, 1979-1987, Journal of Politics, vol. 53, No. 3, Aug. 1991, p. 736 [para. 73].

Counsel:

W. Ian C. Binnie, Q.C., and Michael Bryant, for the appellants;

Roslyn J. Levine, Q.C., and Gail Sinclair, for the respondent;

Joseph A. Arvay, Q.C., for the intervenor, Attorney General of British Columbia;

Sydney L. Goldenberg and Stephen L. McCammon, for the intervenor, Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Solicitors of Record:

McCarthy Tétrault, Toronto, Ontario, for the appellants;

Attorney General of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, for the respondent;

Arvay Finlay, Victoria, British Columbia, for the intervenor, Attorney General of British Columbia;

Sydney L. Goldenberg, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervenor, Canadian Civil Liber­ties Association.

This appeal was heard on October 9, 1997, before Lamer, C.J.C., L'Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka*, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin, Iacobucci, Major and Bastarache, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

On May 29, 1998, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada was delivered in both official languages and the following opinions were filed:

Bastarache, J. (Cory, McLachlin, Iacobucci and Major, JJ., concurring) - see paragraphs 1 to 66;

Gonthier, J. (Lamer, C.J.C., and L'Heureux-Dubé, J., concurring), dis­senting - see paragraphs 67 to 130.

*Sopinka, J., did not participate in the judgment.

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