Political parties, MPs penalized for robocalls: Is it time to ban the robocall?

·Politics Reporter

It's a fine-palooza for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

On Wednesday, the CRTC announced that they've imposed penalties — totaling $369,000 — on the Federal Conservatives, the NDP, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the Alberta Wildrose Party, Liberal MP Marc Garneau, Conservative MP Blake Richards and Edmonton-based telemarketer RackNine Inc. for breaking federal robocall rules.

Most of the infractions included not identifying who the calls were from.

Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that it has issued seven notices of violation totalling $369,000 in penalties following a wide-ranging investigation into the use of robocalls by political parties, elected officials and telemarketers.

The CRTC received the cooperation of the following parties, firms and an individual who, further to settlement agreements, have paid penalties totaling $277,500: the Wildrose Alliance Political Association, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the New Democratic Party of Canada, RackNine Inc. and Mr. Marc Garneau, M.P.

You'll notice that the Conservative Party of Canada is not on the list of parties that cooperated with the CRTC.

[ Related: Parties, MPs and telemarketer face hefty robocalls fines from CRTC ]

These fines should give credence to the argument that we need to ban automated political phone calls or at least allow Canadians to opt out of them.

According to CRTC, registering on the 'National Do Not Call List' does not eliminate telemarketing calls from political parties and candidates.

While robocalls are relatively new to Canada, they have been a part of American electoral landscape for years. In fact, they have become so problematic that some states have taken steps to not allow them. Bills containing such a ban have been passed by legislatures in Arkansas, Indiana and Wyoming but have also faced first amendment challenges in the U.S. court system.

Maybe it's time we follow suit.

[ Related: Head of Elections Canada confirms witnesses not co-operating in robocalls case ]

Last May, Elections Canada Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand recommended that legislators further regulate contact with voters.

But as Wednesday's CRTC ruling makes clear, our politicians can't be trusted to abide by the regulations.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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