The robocall rules

Liberal MP Frank Valeriote acknowledges his campaign sent out a robocall during the last election that didn’t identify the Liberal party as the source. Reports differ as to whether or not that constitutes a violation of the Elections Act (Mr. Valeriote claims Elections Canada told him it wasn’t). Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher have a timeline of events in Guelph.

Meanwhile, Richard Ciano—a principal at Campaign Research, the firm linked to controversial calls in Irwin Cotler’s riding—frets that the innocent robocall is being unfairly maligned by the current scandal. Setting aside Mr. Ciano’s theory that this is an NDP-Liberal plot to keep the Conservatives from campaigning—the NDP have shown themselves to be rather enthusiastic robocallers—there is something to be said for differentiating between robocalls and what is alleged to have occurred during the last election. However bothersome, the automated call is a perfectly legitimate form of political campaigning, like a candidate knocking on your door or a party running television advertisements. In the case of Guelph and several other ridings, what is alleged is that voters were misled about the location of their polling stations for the purposes of obstructing their ability to vote. And that, if done consciously and purposefully, could rise to the level of election fraud. That phone calls might have been used to carry out fraud is ultimately secondary.

Put another way, Adscam wasn’t about an inherent failing in the advertising industry, it was about corruption. The robocall scandal isn’t about robocalls. It’s about an allegation that the public’s right to vote was interfered with.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.