Elections Canada Suggests Severe Action on Misleading Political Robocalls

The Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, has recommended the Parliament to refurbish the Canada’s elections law to avert any misleading telephone calls by including tougher punishments and giving additional powers to investigators. The recommendation was directly aimed at the calls received in Guelph, Ont., on the 2011 election day.

Mayrand alleged that the Parliament shall eliminate all loopholes in the Criminal Code and declare it completely illegal to impersonate an Elections Canada official. He suggested that maximum penalties on conviction of violators of $250,000 in fines and five years in jail. The report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, quoted Mayrand as suggesting that political parties shall develop “codes of conduct” intended to avoid such sort of misleading phone calls reported by more than 1,400 Canadians in 247 ridings in the last election. The report, entitled “Preventing Deceptive Communications with Electors,” also recommends that Elections Canada investigators shall be allowed an additional power to apply to a judge for an order compelling witnesses to provide information during an investigation.

Mayrand’s agency has previously indicated in an earlier report that relatively weak penalties and limits on investigative powers in the current elections law has made it harder to identify who was responsible for the “Pierre Poutine” robocalls in Guelph, Ont., and misleading calls in other ridings. Mayrand stated that “while political parties and candidates must continue to be able to communicate with electors effectively, measures are required to provide basic privacy protections and help prevent deceptive communications.”

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