OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the federal Conservatives to introduce the bill to ban false election robocalls and strengthen election law enforcement that they promised to introduce by the end of September under a resolution passed unanimously last March by federal politicians.
Democracy Watch’s national letter-writing and petition drive has resulted in more than 56,000 messages being sent to politicians across Canada calling on them to pass effective laws to stop election fraud robocalls, and to strengthen enforcement of election laws.
To their credit, 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 rejected Bill C-424 on Wednesday (Nov. 21).
Also to their credit, the federal NDP introduced private member Bill C-453 on October 17th, sponsored by Democratic Reform Critic MP Craig Scott, that would, if enacted, make changes to prohibit false robocalls during federal elections and strengthen enforcement in ways that match most of Democracy Watch’s recommended changes.
The Alberta Conservative government has also introduced Bill 7 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.
In contrast, the federal Conservatives continue to fail to introduce their promised bill.
“Canadians have heard the federal Conservatives talk the talk about concerns over false election robocalls and weak enforcement of election laws, but the Conservatives continue to fail to walk the walk and introduce a bill to ban false robocalls and strengthen enforcement,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator for Democracy Watch. “Clearly the Conservatives and politicians in the provinces and territories need to be pushed and so Democracy Watch will continue its letter-writing drive that makes it easy for people across the country to call on key politicians across Canada to make the changes needed to clean up and ensure our elections are fair.”
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 is investigating the false robocalls from the 2011 federal election, but there are serious questions about its enforcement.
Elections Canada has failed 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. It 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.