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No excuse for federal Conservatives to be seven months overdue with anti-robocall law

Alberta passed new law quickly last fall; federal Liberals and NDP have introduced bills (both opposed by the Conservatives); and Elections Canada has proposed changes

More than 68,000 messages sent in letter-writing drive for robocall law – inquiry into weak election law enforcement also needed

Friday, April 19, 2013

OTTAWA – Today, as Democracy Watch’s online counter shows, the federal Conservatives have now violated for seven months Parliament’s deadline for introducing a bill to restrict election fraud robocalls and strengthen election law enforcement, including delaying the bill again this week.  More than 68,000 messages have been sent through Democracy Watch’s robocall law letter-writing drive – and Democracy Watch called on the Conservatives to end their negligence and introduce the bill next week.

Democracy Watch also called for a public inquiry into Elections Canada’s weak and secretive enforcement of the elections law going back 15 years (See details below).

The Conservatives ongoing excuses for delaying the robocall bill are ridiculous given that:

  • the federal Liberals introduced private member Bill C-424 last May to increase fines for false robocalls and other fraudulent attempts to sway voters from $2,000-$5,000 up to $20,000 to $50,000 (the Conservatives killed the bill on Nov. 21);
  • the federal NDP introduced private member Bill C-453 last October to prohibit false robocalls during federal elections and strengthen enforcement (the Conservatives have blocked the bill from moving forward);
  • the Alberta Conservative government has introduced and passed Bill 7 last Nov.-Dec. which, among other changes, requires the sponsor of any robocall to clearly identify themselves and their contact phone number and political party affiliation in the call (s. 46 changed s. 134 of the province’s Election Act), and;
  • Elections Canada proposed changes three weeks ago to ban fraud robocalls.

“The federal Conservatives are being dangerously undemocratic and negligent in failing to comply with the unanimous resolution to ban election fraud robocalls,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.

The House of Commons passed a resolution unanimously last March setting a deadline of the end of September for the Conservatives to introduce the bill.

Democracy Watch is calling for a law that:

  • requires anyone who transmits an election-related robocall to confirm the identity of the person or organization who makes or pays for the call, and;
  • establishes a mandatory penalty for anyone who wins an election through election fraud of the loss of their seat and a ban on running in another election for at least five years.

False robocalls were received by tens of thousands of voters in more than 230 ridings during the spring 2011 federal election, and were also used to mislead voters in some provincial elections

Measures to make false robocalls illegal and essentially impossible will help, but there are also enforcement problems.  Elections Canada and the Director of Public Prosecutions have charged one person for false robocalls from the 2011 federal election, but there are serious questions about Elections Canada’s enforcement over the past 15 years.

Elections Canada has refused to disclose the rulings it has made on more than 2,000 complaints it received from 1997 to 2010, and more than 1,000 complaints it received during the 2011 federal election.  Democracy Watch has filed a complaint with the federal Information Commissioner about Elections Canada’s excessive secrecy.  Elections Canada has also recently made some very questionable rulings.

Elections Canada must be required to disclose every ruling it makes to ensure that it proves it is enforcing the law fairly and properly (and election agencies across Canada must also be required to disclose all their rulings)

Democracy Watch is calling on Canadians to send a letter and to sign the petition that both call not only on federal politicians to introduce and pass a law to stop false election robocalls and strengthen enforcement, but also for politicians in every province and territory to pass similar laws that apply to their provincial, territorial and municipal elections.

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Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch

Tel: 613-241-5179

Email: [email protected]


Text of March 2012 House of Commons Resolution

The  March 2012 resolution that passed the House of Commons unanimously was introduced by New Democrat MP David Christopherson, and it committed the Conservative government to make three changes to the Elections Canada Act by Sept. 12, 2012:

  • Give Elections Canada stronger investigative powers, including the ability to force political parties to provide supporting documents for their expenses;
  • Require all telecommunication companies that provide voter contact services during a general election to register with Elections Canada, and;
  • Make telecommunication companies identify and verify the identity of election clients.

Democracy Watch’s Stop Election Fraud Robocalls Campaign