The following is an article I wrote on the day of the 2011 Canadian election that still rings true today. Robo-calling, slick tricks and pushing the envelope of legality, compliments of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives:
In an interview this morning with Bill Good on CKNW in Vancouver, Stephen Harper openly campaigned for the Conservative Party of Canada, asking listeners to “vote Conservative” in defiance of Elections Canada rules and regulations that state no campaigning may be done during the media blackout on election day.
During the interview Stephen Harper contravened the Elections Canada Act by stating that “It is certain that I will vote, and I encourage all other people to vote, and I encourage people to do the same as me and vote Conservative.”
The host of the CKNW call in radio show, Bill Good, was quick to reply to listeners that “We encourage you to vote too, but we encourage you to vote whichever way you feel is appropriate.”
Sections 480 to 499 of the Elections Canada Act detail prohibited activities by candidates during the imposed media blackout on election day in Canada
Sections 480 to 499 of the Canada Elections Act list the offence provisions, categorized according to whether intent is required, and the burden of proof required to prosecute them. Offences include:
- illegally attempting to influence the vote of an elector or the results of an election
- illegally hampering or delaying the electoral process
- contravening the limits and obligations set out for contributions and expenses, including circumventing, attempting to circumvent or colluding in circumventing the rules for ineligible contributors, for concealing a contributor’s identity and for exceeding contribution limits
- contravening the limits and obligations set out for third party election advertising
- publishing the results of an election opinion poll during the blackout period or without the accompanying information required by the Act
- election advertising during the blackout period
- prematurely publishing election results
- partisan action by an election officer
- using personal information from a voters list or from the National Register of Electors for unauthorized purposes
- acting as an officer of a registered political party while knowing that the party does not include participating in public affairs among its essential objectives
- as a party leader, certifying a declaration or report while knowing that the document contains false or misleading information
- accepting or soliciting contributions for a political entity while representing to the contributor that part or all of the contribution could be transferred to some person or entity other than the registered party, candidate, leadership contestant or electoral district association
- failure to register (referendum committee)
This breach of the Elections Canada Act also comes on the heels of alleged voter fraud in swing ridings at risk of losing Conservative control, as voters are being telephoned in these sensitive ridings and falsely being informed that their polling stations have been changed. In some cases voters have been sent as far as one hour away from where they are supposed to be voting by these fraudulent calls.
The Canadian Headlines Examiner on Examiner.com said that “Reports are coming in from key swing ridings in Ontario and other provinces that voters are being called at home with false information that their voting locations have changed, and in some instances sending voters an hour in the wrong direction” in regards to the voter tampering reports.
If found guilty of breaching the Elections Canada Act, Stephen Harper could face one or all of the following penalties as stipulated by Elections Canada.
If a judge finds a person guilty of an offence, the person may receive a fine or a period of imprisonment, or both. Under section 501 of the Act, the Court may also impose additional penalties, such as:
- performing community service
- performing the obligation that gave rise to the offence
- compensating for damages, or any other reasonable measure the Court considers appropriate
- a fine of up to five times the election advertising expenses limit exceeded by a third party
- with respect to certain offences, the deregistration of a party and liquidation of its assets, and the liquidation of the assets of the party’s registered associations
Complaints and reports regarding this breach of the Elections Canada Act may be reported to the Commissioner of Canada Elections by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.