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The watchdog responsible for enforcing Canada’s election law received an unusually high number of complaints during the federal vote, but didn’t identify more election integrity issues than normal.
The increase in complaints seems to have happened because multiple people complained about the same incidents, something that hasn’t happened in previous elections, said the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections. The office received about 2,700 complaints from Sept. 11, when the election was called, to voting day on Oct. 21.
“So a single incident — which in previous elections would have resulted in one complaint to our office — may have generated multiple complaints,” said Myriam Croussette, a spokesperson for the commissioner’s office, in an email Wednesday.
“We’re still evaluating the reasons for this, but it’s likely that social media played a role.”
It’s not clear how many of those complaints may result in formal investigations by Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté, as the commissioner’s office doesn’t provide information on what it’s investigating unless it decides to lay charges or take other action on a file.
The 2,700 figure also isn’t final, Croussette added. The commissioner’s office usually receives complaints long after an election has ended, and staff are still crunching numbers.
Some complaints came in long before the election was even called — in July, the federal Liberals complained to Côté about alleged coordination between two conservative third-party advocacy groups.
Though Canadians often hear the most about high-profile issues such as misleading robocalls — which were reported in Atlantic Canada and Quebec on voting day this time around — the most popular complaints tend to be more routine. In the 2015 election, the most frequent gripes were about alleged attempts to interfere with campaign advertising, allegations of double-voting that were largely found to be unsubstantiated and questions about whether campaign ads were properly labelled.
“The topics that Canadians complained about (in 2019) remained largely unchanged since 2015,” Croussette said.
The Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections will release its final report about the federal election in spring 2020.