Inside Politics

UPDATED - Robocalls Watch: Guelph Liberal EDA hit with $4,900 fine for failing to ID source of 2011 campaign calls

Hot off the CRTC presses comes word of the first official finding of electoral shenanigans in Guelph

Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that a Notice of Violation has been issued to the Guelph Federal Liberal Association ("the Association") on behalf of Frank Valeriote. The Notice of Violation involved Robocalls made on April 30, 2011, which did not comply with the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules. As part of a settlement, a penalty of $4,900, has been imposed. The calls involved an election advertising message and were made during the 2011 Federal election campaign in Guelph.

The violations involved a pre-recorded message sent by the Association that failed to identify on whose behalf the call was made; provide necessary call-back information; and display the originating telephone number or an alternate number where the originator could be reached. The calls were made over a period of approximately one hour. 

"We appreciate that Mr. Valeriote and the Association fully cooperated with our investigation and committed to comply with the Rules in future campaigns," said Andrea Rosen, the CRTC's Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer. "We expect political party associations and candidates who are running for office to put appropriate safeguards in place to ensure compliance with the rules."

In addition to paying an administrative monetary penalty, the Association and Mr. Valeriote have agreed to implement a compliance program that includes:

    • acknowledgement of all applicable rules and a commitment to comply fully with them
    • appointment of a Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules compliance officer
    • an education and training program for volunteers
    • appropriate record retention
    • appropriate compliance measures with 3rd party service providers
    • promotion of better awareness of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules

The CRTC applies the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules in order to reduce unwanted calls to Canadians. Under its enforcement process, the CRTC can discuss corrective actions with individuals, firms or organizations engaged in telemarketing, which may lead to a settlement that includes a monetary penalty and other corrective measures.

Moments after the release dropped, the following statement was sent out on behalf of a seemingly duly chastened Frank Valeriote:

"I accept the findings of the CRTC regarding the election call placed by my campaign designed to educate Guelph voters about specific policy differences between myself and an opponent. We were unaware of certain requirements and inadvertently neglected to include some identifying features in the message, such as a phone number and address. When I first learned of the errors in the call earlier this year, I was fully and immediately cooperative with the CRTC; I take full responsibility and apologize for the infringement.

This has been an important learning experience, not just for me, but for all MPs and future candidates. Consequently, I have volunteered to do whatever I can to assist the CRTC to educate MPs, candidates and their staff to the full extent of regulations governing calls and the use of auto-dialers. It is important for these types of investigations to take place regularly to ensure that Canadians are aware of our rules and that they are respected."

If past history is any indication, the Conservative Party InfoAlerteBot will almost certainly have something to say about this latest development. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Well, that was quick. Courtesy of Conservative Party spokesman Fred Delorey's twitter account, the official response:

Mr. Valeriote's dirty tricks during the last election campaign are simply shameful. 
What's more shameful? Mr. Valeriote's attempts at covering up these misleading calls. 
In March 2012 he said that his campaign did not break any of the rules and that it was a "issue-based call" (Sun News, March 12, 2012). 
The CRTC rejected Mr. Valeriote's claim. 
One can't help but wonder, without these misleading phone calls to voters, would have the election outcome in Guelph been different? 
The Liberal Party has some explaining to do. 
How many other Liberal campaigns broke Canadian telecommunication rules? How many used robocalls to mislead Canadian voters?

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