Summary Investigation Report on Robocalls

Executive Summary

1. During the course of the 41st federal general election, held from March 26 to May 2, 2011, the Commissioner of Canada Elections (the Commissioner) received approximately 100 complaints from electors who reported receiving nuisance telephone calls or calls providing them with incorrect poll location information. This number included complaints in Guelph concerning incorrect poll location calls, which are the subject of a separate investigation.

2. Beginning April 29, 2011, individual returning officersFootnote 1 for some electoral districts also reported receiving a limited number of elector complaints of calls providing incorrect poll location information. At the time, returning officers dealt with these instances as errors, taking the matter up directly with individual local campaigns or through Field Readiness and Event Management at Elections Canada.Footnote 2

3. The Commissioner initiated an investigation into allegations of nuisance calls and calls providing incorrect poll locations, other than those already under investigation in Guelph, to determine whether there was enough evidence to cause him to believe, based on reasonable grounds, that one or more persons committed an offence or offences under the Canada Elections Act (the Act).

4. After February 23, 2012, when media reports began describing the Commissioner's investigation in Guelph, numerous additional complaints of inappropriate calls to electors were received. Complainants recalled both automated and live calls, all of which have since become known as "robocalls." Some complainants reported calls from persons claiming to be calling from Elections Canada, advising that their poll location had changed. Others complained of calls that were allegedly rude, made at late hours or involved personation.

5. The investigation was extensive, but certain factual elements could not be uncovered. In some cases, investigators were able to confirm that complainants received a political call but found no additional evidence of its content. In most cases, no evidence was found to confirm whether or not a complainant was called.

6. From the investigation, it is clear that the current elector discontent about political calling arose in large part from the decision made by a number of national and local campaigns to provide electors with information on their specific poll locations during get-out-the-vote (GOTV) calls. Elections Canada is the only authoritative source of information on poll locations.

7. Ultimately, investigators have been able to determine that incorrect poll locations were provided to some electors, and that some nuisance calls occurred. However, the evidence does not establish that calls were made a) with the intention of preventing or attempting to prevent an elector from voting, or b) for the purpose of inducing an elector by some pretence or contrivance to vote or not vote, or to vote or not vote for a particular candidate. This proof of intent is necessary for the Commissioner to consider recommending to the Director of Public Prosecutions that a prosecution under the Act be initiated. As a result, the Commissioner found insufficient grounds to recommend that any charges be laid.

8. It is useful to note, moreover, that the data gathered in the investigation does not lend support to the existence of a conspiracy or conspiracies to interfere with the voting process (see, for example, sections 1.3 and 4.3).

Footnote 1 Returning officers are the individuals responsible for the administration of the electoral process in each of the 308 electoral districts across Canada.

Footnote 2 The Field Readiness and Event Management unit is responsible for the administration of an electoral event.

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