Elections Canada falling down on electoral fraud: Democracy Watch
BY JEFF DAVIS, POSTMEDIA NEWS FEBRUARY 28, 2012 5:51 PM
OTTAWA -- Elections Canada is failing in its mandate to thwart electoral scams and publicly hold fraudsters to account, the Ottawa-based advocacy group Democracy Watch said Tuesday, as the robocall scandal continued to shake the Harper government's majority mandate.
"Here we are 144 years since Canada became a so-called democracy and no one can tell whether Elections Canada is enforcing the federal election law fairly and properly because it has kept secret its investigations and rulings on more than 2,280 complaints since 2004," said spokesman Tyler Sommers.
The Harper government scrambled to keep pace with the burgeoning scandal during Tuesday's question period, after Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen unveiled new details of the election calls that had been routed through RackNine, a Tory-linked firm.
A total of 1,334 complaints were filed with Elections Canada in the 2004, 2006, and 2008 federal elections, according to the agency's post-poll reports. Concerning the 2011 election alone, however, Elections Canada received 1,872 complaints about accessibility problems, 2,956 emails complaining of voting rule confusion in the Guelph area, and 1,003 complaints about other issues.
Among the activities flagged by Elections Canada in the 2011 election are "unsolicited telephone calls," "automated telephone messages" and "crank calls." Elections Canada provided no particulars on how it responded to these acts, or whether anyone has been investigated.
Citing the Sentencing Digest, Democracy Watch says only 10 Canadians have been convicted of electoral crimes since 2004, which it calls a "dangerously weak enforcement record."
Elections Canada has received 30 separate complaints from voters regarding misleading phone calls during the 2011 election telling them the location of their polling station had changed, according to Global News -- which indicates the misleading calls were widespread. The information is contained in a 371-page document from the agency that includes all complaints received during the 2011 election campaign.
The robocall scandal is becoming so serious, says former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, that some Tory MPs could be thrown from office and made to contest their closely contested seats in byelections.
Kingsley said judges might crack down on any attempts at voter suppression -- even to the extent of imposing jail sentences, a punishment that hasn't been meted out in Canada in more than 100 years. He said the right to vote is sacrosanct, and that judges may consider expanding the maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and five years' imprisonment for violating it.
"Since we're attacking constitutional rights of individual electors, the judge could easily be convinced to consider seriously imposing a jail sentence," he said. "We've never seen anything on this scale."
In some ridings, where candidates lost by margins as slim as 18 or 26 votes, Kingsley said the results could be thrown out altogether, and the voting redone in byelections.