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Electoral reform bill to be introduced Thursday in wake of robocalls scandal

Minister of State (Democratic Reform) Tim Uppal speaks with the media about Senate reform in the Foyer of the Senate on Parliament Hill Friday February 1, 2013 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Harper government will introduce electoral reform legislation on Thursday.

Tim Uppal, the minister of state for democratic reform, said the bill will address concerns raised before a Commons committee by Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer.

"Our government will introduce comprehensive elections reform proposals to increase accountability, accessibility and integrity to Canada's elections system," Uppal told the Commons on Tuesday.

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The long-awaited legislation is intended to address problems arising from the robocalls scandal.

Mayrand has warned there could be another wave of false or misleading telephone calls in the next election if tough new rules and punishments are not in place by the end of next year.

An Elections Canada report last month offered a number of ideas aimed at preventing another rash of so-called robocalls in future campaigns.

They included penalties for impersonating election officials, wider investigative powers for elections officials and increased voter privacy.

Mayrand's office is still investigating fraudulent robocalls reported by complainants living in dozens of ridings across the country.

The agency's investigation has focused on the southwestern Ontario riding of Guelph, where a number of residents say they received automated phone calls from someone claiming to be from Elections Canada and directing them to a wrong or non-existent polling station.

While the phone calls appeared to target non-Conservative voters, the Conservative party insists it had no involvement in any such scheme and says it is assisting the investigation.

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