A shocking truth

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In the last few weeks, there have been two separate but important steps forward in the case of fraudulent robocalls used to mislead voters in the last federal election.

One was the laying of a charge against Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona, whose lawyer promptly released a statement saying that Sona was hardly in a position to have either the resources or access necessary to have launched the robo- campaign.

The second, somewhat quieter step, was the release by Elections Canada of a report calling for urgent elections legislation to allow the agency to stop any future robocalls abuse, saying, in part, "Both the measures and the recommendations are based on the view that, first and foremost, the focus must be on preventing this kind of conduct from occurring. ... The ability to do so is essential to preserving confidence in electoral democracy and can only be achieved with the appropriate legislative tools."

The report argued for strengthened elections legislation, broader powers and heftier penalties - it also argues that existing privacy legislation should be extended to political parties, so that the masses of information they collect on voters are at least as stringently protected and limited as records kept by direct marketers.

And buried deep inside is this absolutely chilling nugget: "(In) the case of the Guelph investigation into misleading robocalls, the publicly available court records show that at least three individuals believed to have key information refused to speak with investigators. The inability to compel testimony has been one of the most significant obstacles to effective enforcement of the Act."

That's right: despite all of the Conservatives' talk about getting to the bottom of the Robocalls issue, several people involved in the case simply refused to co-operate or be interviewed. And there's absolutely nothing Elections Canada can do about that.

The agency's recommendation on that front is pretty clear: "In order to make the enforcement of the Canada Elections Act more effective, it is recommended that the Commissioner of Canada Elections be given the power to apply to a judge for an order to compel any person to provide information that is relevant to an investigation."

And it's not open season, either: "Prior to obtaining such an order, the commissioner would have to satisfy a judge, on the basis of affidavit evidence, that an investigation is taking place and that the person to be examined has or is likely to have information that is directly relevant to the investigation. In all cases, information so obtained could not be used in support of a prosecution against the person who was required to provide it, except where the person has intentionally provided misleading evidence."

It is probably alarming to a good number of Canadians to realize that, in a case like the robocalls issue, individuals involved can simply walk away from dealing with investigators looking into significant election tampering.

If nothing else changes, that certainly should. Protecting the democratic process is too important to be sidelined by self-serving silence.


Organizations: Elections Canada, Conservatives

Geographic location: Guelph, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Cyril Rogers
    April 10, 2013 - 11:27

    Mr. Power, you are absolutely correct that we have become so apathetic that politicians will use our apathy to push ahead with any agenda they think will pass the smell test. I have ranted for years that we need real electoral reform and need the ability to recall politicians and parties when they take actions that are clearly not in the best interests of their citizens as a whole. Whether you agree or disagree with me on that point, Muskrat Falls is, in my opinion, the most blatant example of such tyranny. The government's "justification" for this project is a sham but they are trying to cover up the details by imposing legislation like Bill 29 and removing any regulatory oversight from the PUB. To put it simply....this is a crippling financial and fiscal decision that cannot be undone...and at this juncture, we have no way to stop it. Kicking the PC's out in 2015 will not do it as, by then, it will be too late. It will be forever to our shame if we allow this administration to continue on this path!

  • crista
    April 10, 2013 - 07:41

    that is putting it mildly???? someones calls it working around the law???? to suit your needs????

  • Ed Power
    April 09, 2013 - 20:01

    Only two comments on the attempt by devious political operators to undermine the operation of our political system and the ability of citizens to perform the most basic function in a democracy - the right to cast a vote. Amazing. Democracy will die, not by war or revolution, but by apathy.

  • david
    April 09, 2013 - 13:20

    Is this any worse than promising people you're going to fix health care, getting their vote, and then letting it continue to spiral into bankruptcy while you give yourself a big pension, increase your own salary, and very quietly jump the queue at the hospital whenever you need it yourself? Is it? Because that's been going on, non-stop, for decades without a peep.

  • saelcove
    April 09, 2013 - 09:58

    robocalls have been used by all parties for the past 30 to 40 years where have you been

    • Fransen
      April 10, 2013 - 16:23

      Saelcove So we should not prosecute crime just because it has been done for years? Second.. the issue isn't robocalls, but voter suppression, and furthermore, I am sure you know it and are just trying to blow it off as insignificant.

    • Michael Kaer
      April 11, 2013 - 11:08

      So Saelcove you are saying it is okay to continue using fraud and voter suppression based on the fact it has been going on for years? I just want make sure I got that correctly. What kind of person are you? You are saying it is perfectly okay for people to commit fraud in order to gain power. You must be one of the trolls for harper that "correct mis-information" on the internet.