Elections Canada confirms 'robocalls' investigation
Published Friday, March 2, 2012 9:52PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:37AM EDT
Elections Canada has confirmed it has launched an investigation into so-called "robocalls" used during the 2011 federal election after receiving a high volume of complaints.
The agency has received more than 31,000 contacts after MPs and political parties called on the public in recent weeks to send it information regarding the recorded messages, it said in release Friday.
The volume of responses is so high Elections Canada said it has the authority to call in additional resources such as the RCMP, the release stated.
"It's huge … I was not expecting this number," Canada's former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley told CTV's Power Play Friday.
"To me it signals that there was something going on that was not only major, but widespread," he said, but cautioned against "speculation" about who's responsible until the investigation is complete.
Elections Canada typically doesn't confirm nor deny a complaint or ongoing investigation unless it meets a certain criteria, such as the "need to maintain public confidence in the fairness of an electoral process" as set out in the Canada Elections Act.
The agency will provide a report to Parliament, but didn't set a deadline.
Kingsley said Elections Canada typically received between 500 and 1,000 calls from voters during any given election while he was with the agency.
He said the probe into the "robocall" scandal sends a strong message.
"What I got was Elections Canada telling us: ‘We're in charge.' That was what I was hearing, what I was reading between the lines," he said.
Anyone found criminally responsible for fraudulent, misleading calls on election day could face up to five years in prison, Kingsley said.
Political finger-pointing continued in Ottawa Friday, with opposition parties accusing the Conservatives of orchestrating the calls. The Tories, on the other hand, attempted to link the Liberals to an American speed-dialling company, but that counter-offensive fell short of the mark in Parliament Thursday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary secretary, MP Dean Del Mastro, reiterated on Power Play that his party ran a "clean and ethical campaign" in the last election.
NDP MP Pat Martin scoffed at Del Mastro's remarks, accusing the Tories of trying to cover up wrongdoing.