04/17/2013 02:53 EDT | Updated 06/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Conservatives delay election reform legislation

The Conservative government says it has to delay its attempt to update Canada's election laws, one day after it announced the bill would be tabled this week.

"In our desire to rapidly incorporate recent recommendations made by the chief electoral officer, we discovered a last-minute issue in the proposed Elections Reform Act. Therefore, we are postponing the introduction of legislation. We will take the time necessary to get the legislation right," Tim Uppal, minister of state for democratic reform, said in an emailed statement.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand told reporters last month that he hadn't been consulted on the government's attempt at reforming the laws that govern federal elections, including communications with voters and campaign spending.

Asked yesterday whether that was still the case, a spokesman for Mayrand said, "The chief electoral officer was informed by the government on Monday that a bill would be tabled on Thursday."

A report in the Globe and Mail said the legislation was being delayed after some Conservative MPs raised concerns about it in their weekly caucus meeting. That led to two opposition MPs complaining to Speaker Andrew Scheer that it appeared someone broke the rules by providing copies of the bill to the caucus before it was tabled in the House.

Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger and New Democrat MP Craig Scott asked Scheer to rule on whether their privilege had been breached.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, however, denied that any draft copies or excerpts of the bill had been shown to caucus.

The Speaker will look at the arguments and rule later.

MPs voted unanimously more than a year ago in favour of a motion to give Elections Canada more investigative power and to create a registry of telecommunications companies that work for parties and candidates during elections. The motion came shortly after the first media reports revealed misleading automated robocalls had directed voters in Guelph, Ont., to the wrong polling station.

The motion gave the government a September 2012 deadline, which they have missed by seven months.

Elections Canada has since expanded its investigation to cover harassing calls and live calls, and is looking at complaints in 234 ridings. A related case saw a group of voters challenge six MPs in Federal Court, alleging they had benefited from vote suppression tactics and should lose their seats. A decision has not yet been released in the case.

Michael Sona, the director of communications for former Conservative candidate Marty Burke, faces one charge in the Guelph case. His first court appearance is set for May 3. He denies having anything to do with the calls.