The election commissioner reports 31,000 complaints

by Aaron Wherry

A statement from the office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

o The Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections confirms that it is investigating complaints received regarding robocalls placed at the 41st general election in 2011.

o Elections Canada has received a high volume of complaints in recent days as a result of MPs and political parties calling on the public to send information to the agency. More than 31,000 contacts have been initiated with Elections Canada by Canadians. Elections Canada is reviewing these and will take action as appropriate.

o The Commissioner of Canada Elections has the authority, during periods of high volume, to contract additional resources or call upon other law enforcement agencies, such as the RCMP, to lend assistance and expertise.

o Like all law enforcement bodies, the Office of the Commissioner generally does not confirm or deny the existence of a complaint or referral, nor does the Commissioner disclose information on the investigations or reviews that he conducts.

The Commissioner’s approach to information disclosure is dictated by three important considerations having to do with the public interest:

1)      The need to protect the presumption of innocence and privacy.

2)      The need for the Office of the Commissioner to carry out its compliance and enforcement responsibilities in a manner that is consistent, effective, impartial and in conformity with applicable law.

3)      The need to maintain public confidence in the fairness of an electoral process carried out in accordance with the Canada Elections Act.

o       Elections Canada will provide a report to Parliament in due course in regards to this matter.




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The election commissioner reports 31,000 complaints


  1.  Elections Canada has received a high volume of complaints in recent days as a result of MPs and political parties calling on the public to send information to the agency. More than 31,000 contacts have been initiated with Elections Canada by Canadians. Elections Canada is reviewing these and will take action as appropriate.

    “Yeah, we know a lot of these are partisan fantasies, and they’ll be going in the trash soon enough. But here’s a big number to make you think we’re taking you seriously!”

    You guys are going to be devastated when this all comes to nothing after so much hype, and it’ll be hilarious.

    • To the extent your comment attempts to create an accurate portrayal, surely you meant when “SOME of this comes to nothing” 

    • AVR, are you Pierre Poutine?

    • This attitude is not helping your side. 

      • Well, I’m not pulling for the Tories here, so much as I’m mocking the opposition and the echo chamber. So…whatever?

        • How effective do you think Dean Del Mastro is on this file?

        • Mocking the echo chamber but somehow neglecting to mock the tories bafflegab. Sure I buy you being an equal opportunity mocker…whatever.

    • Liars everyone.

    • “”Yeah, we know a lot of these are partisan fantasies…”

      Maybe. Heck, I’ll give you 50%. That still leaves over 15,000 individual complaints of electoral fraud. That’s an awful lot of smoke for you to be chuckling that there’s no fire.

      • Oh, it’s more delicious than that.

        The more largely-made-up complaints EC gets, the more diluted actual acts of vote suppression get, comparatively, and the harder they are to prove. The signal-to-noise ratio is now going to be skewing impressively low, thanks to the partisan bandwagon effect.

        To continue your analogy: if there’s a small fire, but its location and size is being hidden by artificial pyrotechnics smoke from a hundred nearby sources, do you think the chances of finding the fire go up or down?

        • Good to know where you stand; right alongside the gulf of cynicism as always…delicious eh!

        • Cause it’s not like we have technology that could easily match up the outgoing robo calls with the reported calls received.  No. EC will be pawing through 30,000 hand written notes – how will they ever sort this out?

        • So wait – what do you think is going to be hilarious (or ‘delicious’): That no election fraud took place? Or that it happened but the perpetrators will never be caught?

          I don’t know which looks worse for you. BTW, how small a “small fire” of election fraud are you comfortable with?

          • About the size as has always occurred, whether accomplished with union goons making unsubtle threats, undead voters, busing the homeless around to multiple polls, or robocalls.

          • It never ceases to amaze me that “this is the way politics has always been done” has somehow become the new conservative mantra.

            I vaguely recall a time when conservatives thought that we should “Demand Better”.

        •  You are suspiciously well-informed about which complaints are valid there, mr. “skeptic”

      • More like 99.9%. Go over the G&M and you just need to read the comments there to see how many people are lodging fake complaints. It’s disgusting.

        • Which article?  These would be easy to discredit – the robo logs will have the times when the calls went out and to where.

          • Here’s a question. A couple, actually. 

            Do you find the find the prospect of fraudulent complaints made out of partisan spite – complaints which can’t be substantiated, and which will both distract and delay from investigating any real and verifiable complaints – more or less concerning than fraudulent robocalls? 

            Would that count as unethical manipulation of the voting process, in your mind, to make false complaints? 

            Is the making of false complaints with the intent to harm the electoral fortunes of another party – to suppress the votes of their supporters, in fact, by demoralizing them – acceptable or not?

          • EC is quick to disregard complaints that have no merit.  In fact they have demonstrated that they are slow to investigate complaints that do have merit. I would not worry about partisan spite factoring into EC’s workload.

            I’m not concerned that a large percentage of fraudulent complaints (about election fraud, aren’t we reaching now?) will hinder the investigations.

            The complaints that can be substantiated will be obvious by the facts they have in common with other non-fraudulent, substantiated complaints.  This set of data will handily lead to much better evidence than the reports of individuals who received questionable calls. It will lead to documents and records that are unarguably factual and cannot be rationalized away or ignored.

            Heads will roll.

          • Are false complaints covered in the Elections Act, because I think the first priority is to track illegal acts.  Now, if you have any evidence of false reporting, you should be reporting it.

  2. It’s good the Commissioner of Canadian Elections is planning to provide a report because in the past the office hasn’t been very transparent about the complaints it receives. The report should include the disposition of every complaint they receive, whether it was investigated or not, and any results/decision/ruling/determination they make. It’s not enough if they determine an election was free and fair, it has to be demonstrably free and fair and the only way we can be sure is if they are completely transparent about complaints and irregularities.

    •  I’d like to add to your sentiment that EC should be required to hand any complaint that alleges non-administrative breaches of the Elections Act immediately and directly to law enforcement.

      And: in their (to date) unsatisfactory report (41st election’s was dated Aug 2011) indicate how many complaints were referred to law enforcement.  No privacy issue or innocence issues in quantitative transparency.  And break that reporting down in the same manner they did for the accessibility complaints.

      An overhaul from top to bottom of this agency is needed as much or more than this investigation into the robo-calls (and now other voting irregularities – voting more than once, ineligible people voting, creating a scene (an official observer at a polling station allegedly) that disrupted the polling station).

  3. Now hear this…

    My vote is up for grabs, to the first party that promises to outlaw ALL robocalling in Canada (for any purpose).

    Signed,
    No I don’t want my frigging debt consolidated.

    • Here’s my proposal: currently political parties are exempt from having to comply with the national do-not-call list.  How about ending that exemption?

      • And requiring companies like rack9 to keep better tabs on registered customers…no more Pierre poutine none sense.

    • john g:

      I think any proposal where you can get both OriginalEmily AND Rick Omen to ‘like’ your comment… you may be on to something.

      • Call Nobel. That Peace prize is all mine baby.

    • Most people don’t realize that robocalling is heavily restricted and that many of the calls they receive are, in fact, illegal. See –
      Automatic Dialing-Announcing Device (ADAD) Rules: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2008/dt2008-6.htm#m4

      If you lodge a complaint, the CRTC is supposed to investigate. I’m sure I saw on their site somewhere that Rogers (owner of Macleans) was itself fined for illegal use of ADADs (though I can’t find it today).

      • I have lodged complaints for do-not-call violations for those telemarketers stupid enough to identify themselves…but most times you can’t tell who is calling. I have VOIP at home with call control, so I’ve blocked all incoming toll free numbers and that’s cut down the phone spam a lot.

  4. Well obviously this is no small thing,  and it’s going to be around for a long time.

    We’ve never had this happen before,  and there are no clear answers….but something has gone badly wrong in our system and we have to fix it.

    No matter where it leads.

  5. The crime bill was passed in the senate last night and is heading back to the House. This government must be prorogued until its legitimacy is confirmed. In light of complaints to Elections Canada regarding irregularities (to put it mildly) in the election that gave the Cons the majority that they have used to limit discussion on important pending legislation, complaints that have now reached the level of 1% of the population (not registered voters, which number less than the total population – children, non-citizens and others being ineligible to vote) the presumption of innocence on the part of the Conservatives cannot safely be given its usual weight.

    Stop this government from running roughshod over our democracy for one more day than they (allegedly) already have.  Or else: get ready for a revolution.  It will be messy.  Canadians are outraged.

    •  Do you mean 1% of the population? 10% would be well over 3 million!

      • Oops… Might have to retract that for a week or two. I share his outrage but people need to take a breath here… Nailing the Tories is probably going to take a while yet.

      •  Thanks. Yes. Corrected. Ooops.

    • The official report on the 41st election (May 2011 election) shows the total number of registered voters (after the election, so final, not initial) as 24,257,592

      The current number of complaints sits at 31,000 (and I would suggest will grow as more people are made aware of the issue… it has only been in the mainstream media for less than 2 weeks at this point).

      A more interesting number is this: the number of ballots cast — 14,823,408.
      So, if we figure the people making complaints are people who cast ballots, 31,000 complaints from that group is more significant. Also, consider that some of the complaints come from returning officers and candidates offices and represent more than one person or one alleged incident.

      I believe EC wording was that they had received 31,000 contacts. We’ll have to wait for them to be more specific to know how many alleged incidents this really represents.

  6. So the LPC and NDP are robocalling Elections Canada now?

    • Sure – thousands of calls from the same number to Elections to Canada wouldn’t get noticed. 

  7. Political parties are involving themselves in the process by encouraging their supporters to file official complaints?

    Unprecendented indeed.  It’s one thing to overhype allegations, its quite another to become involved in their manufacture.

    Query what proportion of complaints are politically motivated exxagerations (or even outright concoctions) arising from the not-so-subtle orders of their political leaders.   We’ve already seen that some of the grievances when scrutinized were nothing more than complaints that robocalls generally were a nuisance, with no actual substance relating to false calls. 

    • What evidence do you have for that? I’m a member of the LPC and I’ve received no encouragement to come forward. Neither have I seen any evidence of collusion or discussion of such on the parties website – liberal.ca. I’m not naive enough to think some people aren’t motivated to come forward for partisan reasons, but what your suggesting is a smear I itself with no corroborating evidence.

      So, put up or shut up bud.

      • I’m on the Liberal email list, I just got an email an hour ago with information on how to submit complaints…

        Personally, I am getting a little uncomfortable with how much is being done on the part of the parties to encourage filing of complaints at this point.  I think there are plenty of tips to go on already, let Elections Canada make some progress on the complaints that are already in before inundating them with further complaints.  Yes, people definitely have the right to continue to file complaints, I just don’t think it’s necessary for the opposition parties to be actively encouraging them.

        •  But it was information about how to submit LEGITIMATE complaints, non?  No party would send out a mass email encouraging false complaints to be lodged.  That would be ridiculous.  Seriously, not even the Cons would do something that stupid that could be so easily discovered.

          • Well yes of course the email was not encouraging false complaints, I’m not insinuating that at all.  What I’m suggesting is at what point does it begin to hinder Elections Canada rather than help them when they are inundated with thousands of complants (31,000 and counting…).

          • What has happened is that EC now has a reason to ask for reinforcements (administrative as well as RCMP staff) which means they can proceed with a wider investigation (which the number of ridings reportedly hit with these issues now indicates is necessary) in a more timely manner.

            They were not taking complaints prior to the polling day especially seriously at all.  The statement reported in CBC’s May 2, 2011 news item on this, attributed to EC’s spokesperson indicated lukewarm interest in these reported violations.

            Hence my call for EC to be investigated and overhauled as well.

          • I disagree – I think Elections Canada needs public pressure on them to take this seriously.  A few complaints at election time didn’t seem to get them engaged.  I was worried they wouldn’t have the resources to handle this size of investigation but now we know they have the authority to spend whatever they have to. 

        • Have to check my emai but I agree with your sentiments…please don’t blow this opp parties, vikileaks already did some damage.Let the process unfold.

          • Go back and read your previous idiotic remark. You were in such a hurry to proclaim the innocence of the Liberals that you did not check your e-mail for the complaint handbook.

            It turns out Chesterton was right. You should apologize.

          • I did check, there was no email waiting for me. I’ve no idea why OM received an email and there’s nothing on the liberal website beyond an encouragement to encourage those with complaints to contact the LPC who will share the info with EC. All of which is available to anyone who visits their website. So, can i expect an apology from you – thought not! 

        • Seeing as many people originally didn’t know what to do when they received the calls, I have no problem with the parties facilitating people. 

    • The Prime Minister has said repeatedly, that anyone with credible evidence should contact Elections Canada.  It has to be a credit to his leadership skills that people are following his directive. 

      • I know — he tells Canadians to bring forward the evidence, and when they do, he glowers and says they’re all Liberals making stuff up.

        I do find it interesting that, despite third party status, the Liberals have been front and centre — not even the NDP leadership race is attracting much attention.  I am not a huge Rae person, but I admire the job he’s doing — and he’s terrific in the HoC.

    • Don’t worry, nobody will be convicted on faked complaints. It’s amazing how little faith the law and order crowd has in our justice system.


    • Political parties are involving themselves in the process by encouraging their supporters to file official complaints? 

      If I’m not mistaken, the Tories are also staunchly in favour of reducing the amount of crime that goes unreported in Canada.

  8. I love that the Tory defence is about how many of the calls went unreported at the time.

    Are the people who have advocated spending money to build new prisons to incarcerate more Canadians based on the notion that unreported crime is going up now seriously arguing that this particular potential crime is no big deal because people were late in reporting it?

    I’m confused.  Is unreported crime a problem that needs to be addressed by the federal government or not???

    • Situational logic. 

    • Good point!

  9. Attention Con spinners – lay off putting down the 31,000 complaints, Dean Del Mastro claims many of the complaints are from Cons complaining about Liberal calls.

  10. Looks like we have all those little “progressives” at leadnow campaigning for people to use their letter set-up on their site to complain – all you do is push ‘send’ – real hard-core activists, lol
     
    leadnow .ca’s objective is to “build an independent community that works together to help set the political agenda, take effective action on important issues, and shift elections.”

    •  Hey. Petitions work. BC got rid of the HST that way (petitioned for a referendum and then voted to abolish it).  Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

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