Discussion Paper: Issues Arising from Improper Telecommunications with Electors
The purpose of this discussion paper is to foster discussion on the issues arising from alleged improper communications received by electors in the days leading up to polling day and on polling day, May 2, 2011.
The paper reviews briefly the allegations and complaints received and steps taken to deal with these complaints. It sets out the operational and legal framework of a general election and identifies other rules applicable outside the strict context of the Canada Elections Act (CEA). It enumerates a number of challenges that investigators faced and examines potential legislative or regulatory changes that could assist in preventing similar conduct or facilitate enforcement. The changes identified in this paper are set out strictly for discussion purposes at this time. More work is required before the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) is in a position to make any recommendations on this issue to Parliament. The comments and suggestions received will assist in the development of balanced and better-informed recommendations to Parliament.
While communication technologies have a potential for abuse, their benefits to the democratic process should not be ignored.
Values and principles that should guide the discussion on this issue are the fundamental right of all electors to vote in a federal election, the right and need for political parties and candidates to communicate with electors, the privacy rights of electors, and the need for all stakeholders to preserve the integrity of the electoral process.
Means must be found to prevent practices such as those discussed in this paper from being repeated. These practices undermine the electoral process to the detriment of all participants. In this regard, however, it is important to keep in mind that legislative measures alone cannot prevent improper conduct from taking place. All participants in the electoral process have a responsibility to act in a manner that respects and promotes democratic values and the rule of law.