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Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand waits to appear before a Commons committee in Ottawa on Oct. 4, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand waits to appear before a Commons committee in Ottawa on Oct. 4, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

MPs summon elections watchdog to talk robo-calls on budget day Add to ...

Canada’s chief electoral officer is being called before MPs to speak about the robo-calls controversy dogging the Harper government on the same day Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivers his budget.

The Conservative-controlled procedure and House affairs committee has asked Marc Mayrand to appear March 29, just a few hours before Mr. Flaherty tables the 2012-13 federal budget.

Most of the media in Ottawa that day will be sequestered in a lockup digesting the financial plan. They will be unable to leave the budget proceedings until Mr. Flaherty tables the document at 4 pm ET.

In his testimony, Mr. Mayrand is expected to offer more details on widespread complaints he’s received about misleading or fake calls made to voters during the last election – calls that go far beyond incidents in Guelph already under investigation.

Elections Canada said March 16 it’s received 700 specific complaints about phony dialing during the 2011 ballot in recent weeks.

Data gathered by media and opposition parties suggest a pattern is emerging across dozens of ridings: Complaints show that Canadians reporting misleading calls had previously been phoned by the Conservative Party to find out how they would vote.

Mr. Mayrand’s office is already investigating what it has alleged in court filings is an operative connected to the Conservative campaign in Guelph, Ont., one it believes used an alias “Pierre Poutine” and misleading robo-calls to try to suppress voting by supporters of rival parties.

Elections Canada will review the 700 complaints and weigh the evidence and determine whether they constitute a breach or possible breach of election law. It will then investigate further if needed.

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