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Backbench Tory blames Elections Canada for robo-calls

Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott speaks in the House of Commons in May, 2006.

FRED CHARTRAND/Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

A Conservative backbencher is suggesting Elections Canada may be to blame for the robocalls affair.

"I suspect that at the end of the day, if Elections Canada has the resources to do a proper investigation, they'll find they're themselves significantly responsible," Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott said in a statement.

"That tech issues with marrying [Elections Canada]lists to available, electronic phone lists is part of the problem, and in a few instances there may have been malfeasance by one party or the other."

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Mr. Vellacott says there have been numerous address errors by Elections Canada in each of the six federal elections he has contested.

"This is no reflection on our faithful, local returning officer ... and their office workers. The errors and misinformation are compiled and compounded by Elections Canada's head office," he said.

"We don't even bother trying to chase down, trace back and correct all these Elections Canada errors anymore. Too much valuable campaign time would be used up on such a project."

Mr. Vellacott says Elections Canada has flawed voting lists and often gives voters incorrect information.

"There is no voter enumeration just before every election any more, but the Elections Canada voter list across the country is updated based on income tax filings or other federal and provincial programs – not a perfect system by any means," he said.

"Because Elections Canada too frequently provides incorrect information, and secondly because technological problems occur with trying to merge Elections Canada info for phone lists, there is a significant potential for error.

"Hired live phoners or automated calling systems are only as good as the data provided to them. You know the saying, 'garbage in, garbage out."'

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The robo-calls affair broke after it was revealed Elections Canada was investigating an incident in the Ontario riding of Guelph, where voters were called on the telephone and told to go to polls that didn't exist during last spring's federal election.

Since then, Canadians in dozens of ridings have reported receiving similar calls, or being telephoned at inconvenient hours or harassed by people purportedly calling on behalf of political parties.

Elections Canada is now reviewing more than 31,000 reports of robo-calls.

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