Is it time for an official inquiry into the robocall scandal?

·Politics Reporter

It's time for the Harper government to call a public inquiry into allegations of voter suppression in the last election.

The Canadian Press is reporting that the number of complaints about fraudulent or misleading telephone calls in last year's federal election has almost doubled, according to recent court documents filed by the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

By mid-August, Elections Canada had received 1,394 complaints "alleging specific occurrences" in 234 of Canada's 308 federal ridings, the lawyer for the elections watchdog says.

The new court filing, is part of legal action by the left-leaning Council of Canadians to contest the election results in seven closely fought ridings, arguing that misleading calls to voters may have skewed the outcome.

The Council has openly accused the Tories of being behind the robocalls but nothing has been proven in court or anywhere else.

[ Related: Robocall scandal: what's happening to the investigation ]

Along with robocalls, candidates in the last election have complained about being bombarded by live calls harassing voters at all hours of the night or during religious holy days.

A Postmedia News-Ottawa Citizen investigation based on interviews with dozens of campaign workers has identified 14 ridings — mostly closely fought electoral districts in southern Ontario — where electors reported receiving fake live calls. Many received irritating and sometimes rude calls in the middle of the night from callers claiming they represented the local Liberal candidate.

So far, the only investigation into all of this is by Elections Canada.

But the watchdog's powers are limited and they're anything but transparent.

According to Democracy Watch, the Commissioner's office of Elections Canada has refused to disclose the rulings it made on more than 3,000 complaints from the 1997 election through to the 2011 election.

Earlier this week, at the national Green Party convention in British Columbia, delegates voted in favour of sending a letter to the Queen asking for a royal inquiry into the robo-call scandal. The idea of the Queen intervening is simply a ridiculous notion.

[ Related: Elizabeth May to ask the Queen for a Royal Inquiry into the Robocall scandal ]

What the Greens and other proponents of a public inquiry should be doing is garnering public support for one.

It's becoming more clear that the voter suppression tactics in the last election were not isolated incidents; there had to be some coordination, somewhere. On the other hand, it's hard to believe that the central campaign of any major political party would be involved in something so sinister.

If the Conservatives' truly didn't partake in voter suppression tactics last Spring, then what harm is a public inquiry if it helps Canadians feel more secure about our electoral process.

This is not an issue that's going away anytime soon.

Cost of a public inquiry:

According to Maple Leaf Web, the most expensive commissions have been the Commission of Inquiry into the [Liberal] Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities, which cost $100 million, and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which took five years and cost $60 million.

The Romanow Commission on the Future of Health Care and the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies cost $15 million and $30 million, respectively.

Much of the cost can be attributed to hiring more staff, including legal experts and researchers. Other costs include travel expenses and legal counsel for witnesses.

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