The Hamilton Spectator
Saturday, May 31, 1997
page A2

We don't like it, but we'll respect the law

by Kirk LaPointe

We are two days away from the vote to determine our country's political future, but today's paper is strikingly different in one respect from previous election-eve papers: no mention of the polls.

The Canada Elections Act was revised during this session of Parliament and it won't permit communication of new or recent poll standings as of midnight last night. We can cite surges in the campaign and allude to who considers themselves frontrunners, but we can't mention any such momentum or standing in the context of public-opinion research that might support it.

The reason for the law is to leave polls out of the last-minute deliberations by the voter. It is felt that polls unduly influence the decision on election day.

Naturally, we at the Hamilton Spectator disagree. Yesterday, we carried an enormous poll from our Southam News service. Today, we are prevented from telling you what it said, but its significance made our front page and carried over onto other pages. We didn't carry it yesterday to thumb our nose at the law but to give our readers the last possible bit of information about public sentiment as they consider how they might make their choice.

We belive the public is brighter than some lawmakers might believe. Since the campaign began, we have turned over at least two pages each day to election coverage, principally on such issues as national unity, the economy, health care, and matters of crime and safety. We have profiled each of our region's ridings and given considerable space to local campaigning, striving for fairness in reflecting the base of support of the political parties and their candidates.

We think our readers have figured out what to do and aren't going to be swayed by information about other public opinions. We quarreled with the lawmakers as the bill web through Parliament: Our parent company has since tried to challenge it in court and remains in court to appeal it. Our belief is that it infringes on our right of expression.

But because we haven't yet been successful, we will, obviously, respect the law and refrain today from carrying direct references to public opinion polls that only 24 hours earlier we were trumpeting. Even supporters of the law have to admit this is a rather absurd situation.


Copyright © 1997 by The Hamilton Spectator. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.