Changes to law needed before next election to require Elections Canada to enhance pre-election voter registration, have clear rules and better training for election workers, to conduct full public audits after every election, and to disclose all rulings
Thursday, May 2, 2013
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch renewed its call for a public inquiry into Elections Canada following a recent report highlighting major systemic issues with the 2011 federal election. The report adds to the many reasons for a full investigation, and Democracy Watch has already filed a complaint with the federal Information Commissioner because the Commissioner of Canada Elections is hiding its rulings on more than 3,000 complaints it has received since 1997 about violations of the Canada Elections Act.
“The problems revealed by the federal election audit are likely only the tip of the iceberg of problems with past elections and by-elections given that Elections Canada is hiding its rulings on 3,000 complaints it has received since 1997, and so a full public inquiry is clearly needed,” said Tyler Sommers Coordinator of Democracy Watch. “The law can, and must, be changed as soon as possible to prevent problems in the next election by requiring Elections Canada to correct the problems, conduct public audits after each election, and disclose all its past and future rulings on complaints.”
Last March, Democracy Watch requested under the federal Access to Information Act the ruling letters sent to complainants by the Commissioner of Canada Elections for a total of 2,982 complaints people have filed during elections since 1997. Democracy Watch also requested the ruling letters Elections Canada has sent to an unknown number of people who filed complaints in-between elections (the total is unknown because Elections Canada does not disclose any information about complaints it receives in-between elections).
Almost all the other Officers of Parliament — the Auditor General of Canada, the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada, the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, and the Commissioner of Lobbying, are required to disclose final decisions/rulings (under 16.1 or 16.2 of the Access to Information Act). Elections Canada has only had the discretionary right to refuse to disclose rulings since 2007 after the Conservatives weakened the Act by adding section 16.3 (the Ethics Commissioner is the other officer allowed, unfortunately, to make secret rulings).
“The public must see all of Elections Canada’s rulings to know whether it is an effective democracy watchdog or an ineffective lapdog,” said Sommers. “It is also completely contradictory and hypocritical for Elections Canada to commit to disclosing its rulings on every robocall complaint but refuse to disclose its rulings on other complaints.”
In addition to a full public inquiry, Democracy Watch is calling for the following key changes to ensure election laws across Canada are enforced properly and effectively:
- All election agencies must be required to regularly audit donations, spending by parties and candidates, and voting, and to conduct post-election audits after each general and by-election;
- The results of all audits and investigations into complaints or situations must be made public;
- Penalties for violating election laws must be increased to high amounts to discourage violators;
- A greater effort and better system for registering voters prior to the election must be established; and
- Rules around who can vote and how to handle potential voters who do not have proper identification must be clarified and the training process for election officials must be greatly improved.
More than 72,000 messages have been sent by Canadians to key politicians through Democracy Watch’s national letter-writing drive calling for clear requirements to disclose election complaint rulings, and for passage of other key measures for fair elections and strong enforcement.
Democracy Watch has also invited Canadians to send in the rulings they have received from Elections Canada, and will continue to push Elections Canada to disclose all its rulings as the public has a clear right to see the rulings that any law enforcement agency makes on any complaint. If this information is kept secret, it is a recipe for abuse and corruption as it can allow any agency to hide a biased, unfair, discriminatory, ineffective or otherwise improper enforcement record.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Democracy Watch’s Enforce Fair Election Laws Campaign