Canada's chief electoral officer is offering to appear in front of a parliamentary committee to talk about his agency's investigative process, following weeks of controversy over concerns of wrongdoing in the last federal election.
Marc Mayrand, head of Elections Canada, is also putting a number to the specific complaints the election agency has received. Until now, the agency would only say it had received 31,000 "contacts" and that the vast majority were generated by online forms. Mayrand said he has received specific allegations from more than 700 Canadians.
Elections Canada is investigating allegations of fraudulent phone calls after complaints in Guelph, Ont., of election day calls claiming to be from the agency. The calls redirected voters to the wrong polling station. It's illegal under the Canada Elections Act to impersonate Elections Canada or to interfere with somebody's right to vote.
It's the first public statement Mayrand has made since the story broke at the end of February.
Warns against drawing conclusions
Mayrand cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
"Like all law enforcement bodies, the office of the commissioner generally does not disclose information on its investigative activities in order to protect the presumption of innocence and privacy," he said.
"In this regard, I advise caution about drawing conclusions based on possibly inaccurate and incomplete information."
"The Canada Elections Act strives to achieve a delicate balance between the need for accessibility and openness, and the necessary safeguards to ensure the integrity and fairness of elections," Mayrand said.
"Immediately following the 2011 general election, the Commissioner of Canada Elections deployed resources to investigate complaints of fraudulent or improper calls."
He also gave an idea of the number of people involved in a federal election, noting Elections Canada hired and trained more than 200,000 temporary workers to serve more than 24 million voters in 20,000 voting sites.
The chief electoral officer issues reports to Parliament every year and following federal general elections. The procedure and House affairs committee studies the report and the recommendations of the chief electoral officer.
Joe Preston, the chair of the procedure and House affairs committee, says he can't decide on witnesses by himself but it's something he expects the committee members to consider. Mayrand and other Elections Canada officials go before the committee on a regular basis, he said.
"If he feels he has something he needs to tell us, I’d be happy to have him come tell us," Preston said.
MPs will be spending next week in their ridings and return to Ottawa March 26. The next procedure and House affairs meeting is March 27, at which point the committee members can discuss whether to invite Mayrand.
MP Adams talks about staffer Sona
One day after media reports revealed the investigation in Guelph, a campaign worker for Conservative candidate Marty Burke quit his job on Parliament Hill.
Michael Sona later told CTV News that he stepped down from the office of Eve Adams, parliamentary secretary to the minister of veterans affairs, because he couldn't do his job while he was dealing with media reports that he was involved.
Adams spoke about Sona for the first time Thursday as she left question period.
"He worked for me for one week. He tendered his resignation and I accepted," Adams said.
Asked why she accepted his resignation, Adams repeated the statement: "He tendered his resignation after working for one week," she said.