Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand wants Parliament to overhaul Canada’s elections law to prevent deceptive telephone calls by adding stiffer penalties and giving new powers to investigators. In a recommendation aimed directly at the calls received in Guelph, Ont., on the 2011 election day, Mayrand says Parliament should close a loophole in the Criminal Code and make it illegal to impersonate an Elections Canada official. He advises maximum penalties on conviction of violators of $250,000 in fines and five years in jail. In a report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, Mayrand suggests that political parties develop “codes of conduct” aimed at preventing the kind of misleading phone calls reported by more than 1,400 Canadians in 247 ridings in the last election. The report, entitled “Preventing Deceptive Communications with Electors,” also recommends that Elections Canada investigators be given a new power to apply to a judge for an order compelling witnesses to provide information during an investigation.
Mayrand’s agency has hinted in the past that comparatively weak penalties and limits on investigative powers in the current elections law have made it harder to track down who was responsible for the “Pierre Poutine” robocalls in Guelph, Ont., and misleading calls in other ridings.
“While political parties and candidates must continue to be able to communicate with electors effectively, measures are required to provide basic privacy protections and help prevent deceptive communications,” Mayrand writes.