The Liberal riding association in Guelph has been issued a $4,900 penalty by the federal broadcast regulator for sending out unsolicited robo-calls during the 2011 election campaign.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced the finding and penalty Friday.
It describes its notice of violation as being against the Guelph Federal Liberal Association on behalf of Frank Valeriote, who was the Liberal candidate who won the election and is currently an MP.
The CRTC notice says the violations involved a pre-recorded message that failed to identify on whose behalf the call was being made, did not provide call-back information and did not display the originating telephone number.
“We appreciate that Mr. Valeriote and the association fully co-operated with our investigation and committed to comply with the rules in future campaigns,” said Andrea Rosen, the CRTC’s Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer, in a news release. “We expect political party associations and candidates who are running for office to put appropriate safeguards in place to ensure compliance with the rules.”
Mr. Valeriote issued a statement of his own just minutes after the CRTC decision was announced.
“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 co-operative with the CRTC; I take full responsibility and apologize for the infringement,” he said.
The calls featured a woman’s voice criticizing the Conservative candidate over abortion, claiming he believed “that under absolutely no circumstance should a woman have the right to choose.”
The Conservatives fired back, saying the "dirty tricks" of Mr. Valeriote's campaign were "simply shameful."
"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?" Conservative spokesman Fred DeLorey said in a statement.
The riding of Guelph is at the centre of an ongoing controversy over automatic dialers - or robo-calls.
Elections Canada has indicated in court documents that it is investigating allegations that someone linked to the Conservative campaign in Guelph arranged robo-calls impersonating Elections Canada that directed voters to the wrong polling station. The allegation is that the calls were targeted at voters who did not support the Conservatives.
Elections Canada has said that a political operative hiding behind the alias “Pierre Poutine” played a role.
The Conservative candidate in Guelph, Marty Burke, has said he would be shocked if the Elections Canada probe found evidence that his campaign team was connected to the calls.
Earlier this month, the Commissioner of Canada Elections filed documents stating 1,394 complaints had been received relating to misleading telephone calls in 234 of Canada’s 308 federal ridings.
With files from Steven Chase