Group seeks details of voting complaints

Says Elections Canada withholding specifics

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OTTAWA -- A democracy watchdog group is demanding Elections Canada make public the details of more than 2,200 complaints it's received on the last four federal elections.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/11/2011 (3927 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — A democracy watchdog group is demanding Elections Canada make public the details of more than 2,200 complaints it’s received on the last four federal elections.

On Tuesday, Democracy Watch released an analysis of reports on the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011 federal elections and found 4,211 complaints were received by Elections Canada. Of that number, 10 resulted in convictions (under the Elections Act, which are reported on the Elections Canada website) and 43 resulted in compliance agreements to resolve the problem without prosecuting in court.

A summary of 1,872 complaints received about accessibility in the 2011 election was released in August, along with a summary of two specific complaints that received media attention during the 2011 campaign. (One was interference at an advance poll in Guelph, Ont., and another was a radio interview during the pre-election day blackout period.)

CP ‘There is no way to know whether they are enforcing the law fairly and properly. Maybe they’re doing a great job, but prove it’— Duff Conacher, of Democracy Watch

However, Duff Conacher from Democracy Watch found details of the remaining 2,284 complaints are completely absent, including what the complaints were and how — or even if — they were resolved.

“There is no way to know whether they are enforcing the law fairly and properly,” said Conacher. “Maybe they’re doing a great job, but prove it.”

Conacher said Elections Canada, and all of the government’s watchdogs, should have charts on their websites detailing when a complaint is received, what the complaint is, who investigated it and when and how it was resolved. Only then can Canadians trust its election watchdog is actually watching the election.

Last February, Elections Canada CEO Marc Mayrand was one of seven officers of Parliament who wrote to parliamentary committees urging stronger oversight of government watchdogs to make sure they were doing their jobs properly, Conacher said.

That call came in the wake of the scandal surrounding public-sector integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet. An audit of her office found that out of 228 complaints received by her office, Ouimet only investigated five of them and no wrongdoing was ever uncovered. Ouimet quit in Oct. 2010 after the audit.

Conacher said the irony is Ouimet actually had the best reporting of what she did do. She was criticized because her reports showed she didn’t end up doing her job, said Conacher.

When asked for comment on Democracy Watch’s allegations Tuesday, an Elections Canada spokesman provided a copy of the 2011 election report.

The report says the 1,003 complaints were dealt with in a timely manner by verifying the complaint, contacting parties to correct the situation or educating parties on the requirements of the Elections Act. Most complaints involved election advertising, unsolicited phone calls, election signs and automated telephone messages.

The report notes the agency was still investigating complaints about premature reporting of election results by major media before all the polls had closed, crank calls discouraging voting or falsely claiming a polling station had moved, and an employer’s obligation to allow employees time off from work to vote.

There is no information about how many complaints are still being investigated or if any have been resolved since the report was released in August.

Conacher said Canada’s MPs are also negligent in not demanding more information from parliamentary officers when they appear before MPs at committees.

“They get these reports,” he said. “They either don’t care or they don’t read them.”

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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