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Harper government delays bill to address robo-calls issues

A man casts his vote for the 2011 federal election in Toronto in this May 2, 2011, photo.

Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Harper government is temporarily delaying the introduction of its electoral reform legislation following a discussion in Conservative caucus Wednesday morning.

In the closed door meeting, Tory MPs raised concerns about how some measures in the bill were designed and suggested changes.

Asked for comment Wednesday afternoon, Tim Uppal, the minister of state for democratic reform said the Tories found some last-minute problems with the new bill.

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"In our desire to rapidly incorporate recent recommendations made by the chief electoral officer, we discovered a last-minute issue in the proposed Elections Reform Act. Therefore, we are postponing the introduction of legislation. We will take the time necessary to get the legislation right," the minister of state said.

It's been expected the bill would tackle gaps in the law exposed by the robo-calls scandal in Guelph, Ont., where non-Conservative voters were telephoned by a fraudster who sent them to the wrong polling station.

The legislation was supposed to be tabled Thursday in the Commons.

Mr. Uppal had said earlier this week that the legislation would address concerns raised by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand.

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

Mr. Mayrand has said he believes stricter rules to combat fraudulent or harassing calls to voters should be in place soon to prevent another spate of such incidents during the next election.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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