Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Robocalls report calls for tougher penalties

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OTTAWA -- Tough penalties for elections-official impersonators, beefier investigative powers and more voter privacy are among the ideas floated Wednesday in a long-awaited Elections Canada report into the robocalls affair.

While the report does not shed light on the identity of the mysterious figure known as "Pierre Poutine," the person behind a rash of misleading calls in ridings across the country, it offers a number of suggestions aimed at preventing a similar episode in future election campaigns.

The report urges the government to create a new Elections Act offence that includes hefty fines of up to $250,000 and five years in prison for anyone caught pretending to represent Elections Canada. "Higher fines would send a message to all Canadians about the importance given by Parliament to maintaining the integrity of the electoral process," the report says.

It also calls for greater powers to compel witnesses to testify and produce documents to investigators. One of the problems Elections Canada encountered during its probe of robocalls in Guelph, Ont., was that at least three people were unwilling to speak to investigators.

"The inability to compel testimony has been one of the most significant obstacles to effective enforcement of the act," the report says.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2013 A16

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