Commissioner of Canada Elections – Annual Report 2012-2013

III. Complaints and Referrals Received in 2012–2013

Between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013, the Commissioner received 210 referrals from within Elections Canada, and recorded 37 complaints from the public and political entities. This last figure does not include the large number of complaints received in relation to live and automated deceptive phone calls, or "robocalls". Details about the investigations into these matters are discussed below under C: Investigations.

A. Referrals from within Elections Canada

It is worth noting that approximately 30% of the referrals received from PFAD include an allegation that the official agent failed to meet the bank account requirements set out in the legislation, and that approximately 15% of referrals have to do with a premature transfer of goods or funds to a candidate (i.e. the transfer was made before a candidate was formally confirmed). Even though the facts giving rise to these referrals can be (and in some cases are) serious, in the vast majority of cases, they are instances of minor regulatory non-compliance that the criminal justice system is ill-equipped to deal with.

B. Complaints from the public and political entities

Complaints can come from political parties or candidates as well as from any person, group or association. Over the 2012–2013 fiscal year,Footnote 1 the Commissioner recorded 29 complaintsFootnote 2 from the public and 8 from individuals who were clearly identified with political entities. Most of the complaints from individuals clearly identified with political entities concerned political financing provisions of the CEA (e.g. a complaint that a party was in receipt of ineligible contributions).

C. Investigations

One of the major areas of investigative work that continued over the past year concerned alleged live and automated deceptive calls made in 2011 in the days leading to polling day and on polling day. This led to two distinct investigations.

The first investigation involves the robocalls made in the riding of Guelph on election day, which was May 2, 2011. These calls, which purported to be from Elections Canada, informed the recipients of the calls that the location of their polling station had been changed. This information was incorrect. Following a lengthy investigation, the Commissioner referred the file to the DPP and, near the end of the fiscal year, the DPP requested that a charge be laid against one individual for the misleading calls that occurred in Guelph. A charge was laid and the matter is pending before the Ontario Court of Justice. Additional information about what happened in Guelph is available in the Chief Electoral Officer's March 2013 report entitled Preventing Deceptive Communications with Electors.

The second investigation has to do with complaints of inappropriate or misdirecting live or automated calls received by electors in various other parts of the country during the last general election. Most of the complaints related to this investigation were made after news reports concerning the events in Guelph broke in February 2012. Complaints from every province and from two territories alleged that calls misdirecting electors as well as calls of a hectoring or annoying nature (occurring frequently or at inopportune times) had been received from both automated and live callers.

The Commissioner is aiming to finalize this second investigation into deceptive calls before March 31, 2014.

Footnote 1 The number of complaints received from the public increases significantly in any year where a general election is held or when by-elections are held. For example, more than 1,000 complaints were received from the public with respect to the 2011 general election, excluding complaints related to deceptive calls.

Footnote 2 This does not reflect the various communications received from the public that do not actually constitute complaints (e.g. cases where people are looking for information or where they do not raise issues of compliance or enforcement), or where the issues fall outside the scope of the CEA.

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