Was John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” Segment Illegal?

Several Canadian news outlets reported on the legality of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” segment on HBO last week:

Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-olivers-plead-to-canadians-not-to-vote-for-harper-was-illegal/article26870383/

Winnipeg Free Press: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/special/federal-election/national/no-john-olivers-not-going-to-jail-for-opining-on-canadas-election-heres-why-334196481.html

Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/news/federal-election/2015/10/19/john-oliver-flouts-canadian-election-law-to-blast-harper.html

These stories focused on section 331 of the Election Act (Canada), which prohibits persons who do not reside in Canada and who are not citizens or permanent residents from inducing electors to vote or not. The articles cite an Elections Canada spokesperson who notes that sharing an opinion is not considered an inducement, as there is no tangible thing that is being offered. I don’t think that inducements are limited to tangible things, but I agree that the sharing of opinions is not an inducement.

Interestingly, I haven’t seen any analysis of whether Mr. Oliver contravened section 330 of the Act, dealing with the use of a broadcasting station outside Canada. Unlike section 331 which serves a valuable purpose, a prohibition on using broadcasting stations outside Canada to influence (not induce) people to vote or not seems to me as an outdated provision that would be pointless to try to enforce.

I would be interested to see if anyone has looked at whether the segment did contravene section 330 though, just to see whether anyone else thinks it still has a purpose.

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