March 29 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian authorities have expanded an investigation into allegations of improper phone calls to voters in the last federal election, the head of the nation’s monitoring agency said.
Elections Canada is probing more than 800 complaints about inappropriate or fraudulent calls that may have been made during the campaign leading to the May 2 general election, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand told lawmakers today in an appearance before a parliamentary committee. Mayrand didn’t disclose the names of any individuals or parties that may be linked to the investigation.
The probe covers about 200 electoral districts across 10 provinces and one of three territories, Mayrand said. There are 308 districts represented in the country’s House of Commons.
The complaints allege that callers either misrepresented themselves as Elections Canada officials or members of a political party, Mayrand said, adding that some of the calls were automated. Some callers falsely informed voters of a change in the location of polling stations, while others attempted to harass voters, he said.
To “deliberately misdirect electors and interfere with their vote” is a “serious offense” under the country’s constitution and election law, he said. “It not only denies a fundamental right of affected electors, it also diminishes our democratic institutions and the rights of all Canadians.”
The so-called “robocall” issue has recently dominated debate in the country’s parliament. Opposition lawmakers have said that the governing Conservative Party was behind the automated calls.
The opposition says the tactic prevented some of their supporters from voting in the election that gave the Conservatives a majority of seats in the House of Commons after five years of minority rule.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Feb. 29 that the Conservative Party “absolutely, definitively” had no role in the calls.
Mayrand said almost 40,000 people have contacted Elections Canada about the calls. In a statement March 15, he said about 31,000 Canadians had contacted the agency and more than 700 complaints had been made about specific allegations of improper or fraudulent calls.
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