Many, many complaints to Elections Canada, not just a few

The agency has been inundated with 31,000 "contacts" on the bogus calls issue

In the government’s highly improvizational response to the fraudulent phone calls story, one of the least persuasive elements (and that’s saying something) is the claim that very few complaints were actually raised during last spring’s election.

Just yesterday in the House during Question Period, the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary, Dean Del Mastro, said this: “We know that Elections Canada received 30 complaints nationally. That is what the report of the Chief Electoral Officer says and now some nine months later we have the NDP coming forward with new complaints and new evidence. It is all nonsense.”

Del Mastro apparently plucked the notion of just 30 complaints, not from a report from the Chief Electoral Officer at all, but from a Global News story. And Global—working not from an authoritative single report, but from many records of incidents logged by Elections Canada—found 30 cases involving complaints about bogus poll location changes.

The actual report from Elections Canada on the work it did during last spring’s campaign said it fielded 1,003 complaints deemed substantial enough to require an individual response. (Many more were judged not to require that sort of attention.) Obviously, most of those complaints didn’t involve confusion about dubious poll location changes. In fact, 30 in that one category strikes me as quite a lot.

And today Elections Canada tells us that since the story of bogus calls in Guelph broke last week, it has been inundated with 31,000 “contacts” on the issue. Fortunately, the agency has authority to hire extra staff and bring in other enforcement bodies (notably the RCMP) to handle this flood of information.

There’s a lot of confusion around this story, but the sheer scale of it hardly seems too small to justify a lot of concerned attention. It will be interesting to see if the Conservatives will drop that dismissive line of defence.

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