The federal government will likely miss its own deadline to introduce legislation to crack down on voter suppression by forcing telecommunications companies and their clients to register during an election, but some experts say registration wouldn’t be much help anyways.
“As so often is true about elections laws, they sound great on paper but when it comes to either enforcement or even just evasion, it’s quite a simple matter even to get around them,” said Robert MacDermid, elections expert and political science professor at York University.
When the robocalls scandal broke last winter, Elections Canada faced more than 700 complaints and 31,000 contacts about allegations that voters in as many as 18 federal ridings had received automated phone calls on election day last year purporting to be from the electoral agency and falsely telling voters their polling stations had been moved.
The Council of Canadians has launched a court challenge to overturn the results of the 2011 election in seven of those ridings: Don Valley East and Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario; Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba; Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Sask., Vancouver Island North, B.C., and Yukon. On July 19, the Council of Canadians’ court challenge survived an attempt from the Conservative Party to have it thrown out of court and is going forward in Federal Court. All seven ridings are represented by Conservatives.
Another case of contested election results, in the Ontario riding of Etobicoke Centre, is expected to be resolved with a Supreme Court ruling as early as this week. Canada’s highest court convened in a special summer session this month to hear evidence that clerical errors by Elections Canada staff may have allowed ineligible people to vote in the riding, changing the election’s outcome. MORE