MPs vote to give Elections Canada more power

An NDP motion to give Elections Canada more investigative power passed a vote unanimously in the House of Commons Monday night.
An NDP motion to give more power to Elections Canada to investigate campaign expenses was proposed last week and tweaked so its measures would apply to past as well as future federal elections. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

A motion calling on the government to boost Elections Canada's investigative power has passed in a unanimous vote by members of Parliament tonight.

Now it is up to the government to introduce legislation to implement the measures contained in the motion.

The move comes as the 2011 election sits at the centre of controversy on Parliament Hill.

Elections Canada is investigating allegations of fraudulent calls that were made to voters in Guelph, Ont. It is also looking into numerous reports of misleading automated messages, known as robocalls, and misleading live calls that were received by voters in ridings across the country.

The non-binding motion to give Elections Canada more power was proposed by the NDP last week, and was later tweaked so its measures would apply to both past and future federal elections.

The motion and the amendment was supported across the board, passing 283-0— a result greeted in Parliament with applause.

Motion requests 3 changes to act

The motion, by NDP MP David Christopherson, asks the government to make three changes to the Elections Canada Act in the next six months:

  • Give Elections Canada stronger investigative powers, including the ability to force political parties to provide supporting documents for their expenses.
  • Require all telecommunication companies that provide voter contact services during a general election to register with Elections Canada.
  • Make telecommunication companies identify and verify the identity of election clients.

Christopherson said last week there will be "hell to pay" if the government doesn't move quickly to bring in legislation to back the motion.

He said he also expects Canadians will pressure the government to act to strengthen Elections Canada powers.

Option to address spending won't affect taxpayer

Last week, the opposition parties accused the government of denying a request from Elections Canada for the power to demand receipts for political parties' election spending.

In his report on the 2008 federal election, Canada's chief electoral officer asked MPs to give him the power to request supporting documents from political parties for their expenses. Individual candidates are already required to provide their receipts, as are leadership contestants, Marc Mayrand told the procedure and House affairs committee.

But opposition MPs say the Conservatives on the committee looking at the report overruled them last week, refusing to support Mayrand’s recommendation.

Tom Lukiwski, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, said Mayrand suggested two options to deal with party spending, and the committee went with the option that cost the parties rather than taxpayers.

The committee recommended the parties have their books audited to ensure they complied with the law.