Voter calls, process top election watchdog's priorities
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand appears as a witness at a Commons house affairs committee in Ottawa on Thursday, March 29, 2012 to discuss allegations of wrong-dong during the 41st General Election. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Tuesday, May 29, 2012 11:21PM EDT
With the number of complaints related to misleading election calls spilling past 1,100, Canada's elections watchdog says it's time to reevaluate procedure and strengthen accountability.
Part of Elections Canada's strategy may include regulating the phone calls that voters receive during political campaigns, says Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand said Tuesday.
Appearing before a Commons committee, Mayrand said that Elections Canada is shifting its priorities in light of incidents such as the ongoing "robocalls" scandal and a court ruling overturning election results in a Toronto riding.
With those events in mind, Mayrand said the agency will be training elections officials to ensure that procedural requirements are carried out correctly during the next election.
He noted that Elections Canada has received more than 1,100 complaints from voters who claim they received calls directing them to incorrect or nonexistent voting stations last spring. That's roughly 300 more complaints since March, according to Mayrand's count.
In a bid to tackle the issue, Mayrand said his next report to the Commons committee will suggest improvements to the Canada Elections Act, specifically related to how political parties communicate with voters during campaign season.
Among other issues, the report will address whether phone calls with voters -- whether they're live or automated -- need to be regulated, he said.
However, that report isn't expected until the end of the fiscal year.
Mayrand also took aim at the overturned election results in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre, where Conservative MP Ted Opitz maintains he won his seat fair and square.
Opitz recently announced that he is appealing the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The situation has spurred Elections Canada to review the voter registration process and how effective the agency is in ensuring procedure is followed, said Mayrand.
Given that the agency's budget is being cut eight per cent, Mayrand conceded that the elections watchdog has been forced to delay other plans and focus on its highest priorities.
Currently, he said, doing a thorough review of election procedure is high on the agency.
With the next general election scheduled to take place in October 2015, Mayrand said Elections Canada is working to modernize the electoral process before the nation's next federal vote.