The federal Conservative Party says it stands vindicated by Canada’s top elections watchdog after a three-year probe failed to produce evidence of a deliberate or widespread conspiracy to suppress votes through the use of automated or live robocalls in May 2011. However opposition critics say Yves Côté’s conclusion does not clear the governing party and only highlights the need for more investigative powers for the Commissioner of Canada Elections. Côté released a report Thursday after an exhaustive investigation into “deceptive communications,” or robocalls, that occurred across Canada in the last federal election and directed voters to the wrong poll station. The commissioner said that beyond the riding of Guelph — where a separate investigation is ongoing and one Conservative staffer, Michael Sona, has been charged — the complaints were “thinly scattered” across the country and no pattern or deliberate attempt to mislead voters could be determined.
Côté said investigators were stymied by an inability to compel the production of documents and timely testimony, by inconsistent record-keeping of political telemarketing companies and telephone servers, as well as by technological hurdles with political parties using voice-over-Internet services that make it impossible to track calls to their original source.
All parties use automated or live telephone calls to identify voter support during campaigns and to get out their voters on Election Day. Such calls are legal and loosely regulated by the CRTC. But Côté’s probe found only the Conservative party made calls giving polling station locations despite the party’s admission it knew locations could change, and Elections Canada’s clear warning not to do so.