01/13/2012 11:21 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Government to repeal law on sending election results before polls close

OTTAWA - Web-wise election junkies who share early election results won't be lawbreakers any more, if Parliament approves a new government proposal.

The federal government is preparing to change the Canada Elections Act to repeal a section that forbids the transmission of election results before polls close in a particular region.

Tim Uppal, minister for democratic reform, says the law has no place in an online world.

The 70-year-old law was designed to keep western Canadians from hearing about early returns from the East before their own polls had closed.

Uppal says today's system of staggered voting hours means the vast majority of polls close at the same time across the country.

He says repeal is simply a recognition that times have changed.

"Our government is committed to bringing Canadian elections into the 21st century by getting rid of this dated and unenforceable law," Uppal wrote in a tweet.

"Canadians should have the freedom to communicate about election results without fear of penalization."

Elections Canada supports repeal of the law, which is almost impossible to enforce in an Internet world.

After the 2000 election, the law was challenged in court. The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 2003, but that was reversed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007.

The high court, however, said Parliament was free to change the law.

"Within constitutional bounds, policy preferences of this sort remain the prerogative of Parliament, not of the courts," the decision said.

Last summer, in his formal report on the May federal election, chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand said it was time to abandon this section.

"The growing use of social media puts in question not only the practical enforceability of the rule, but also its very intelligibility and usefulness in a world where the distinction between private communication and public transmission is quickly eroding," he wrote.

"The time has come for Parliament to consider revoking the current rule."

Uppal agreed: "We're in the 21st century. The ban, which was enacted in 1938, does not make sense."