11/17/2014 11:58 EST | Updated 01/17/2015 05:59 EST

Regulator to Canadians: How much should voter registry violators pay?

OTTAWA - Canadians are being asked for their thoughts about how violators should be penalized for contravening the new voter contact registry.

The country's telecom regulator issued a call for comments Monday on its proposals for imposing penalties, which would take a number of factors into account, such as the nature of the violation and the ability of violators to pay.

Under changes enacted in June, most individuals and companies wanting to contact voters during a federal election will be required to register with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission within 48 hours of the first automated call being made.

The government gave the CRTC the authority to impose fines ranging from a maximum of $1,500 for individuals to $15,000 for corporations every time they fail to register or make a call that would be considered misleading.

But unlike recently adopted, anti-spam legislation, which spelled out clear fines, Ottawa did not provide guidelines for how penalties should be meted out under the voter contact registry.

"There was not what would constitute and how we would assess a violation or not," said CRTC spokeswoman Patricia Valladao.

"That's why we're putting the consultation out, so everybody can participate."

The changes to the Canada Elections Act and the Telecommunications Act followed the so-called robocall scandal, in which automated calls were made during the 2011 federal election, allegedly to suppress voting.

After the election, Elections Canada was inundated with complaints from people who received automated calls telling them that polling stations had been moved.

The initial complaints came largely from the Ontario riding of Guelph, but the investigation was soon expanded to include other ridings across the country.

While Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Cote determined by April of this year that there was not sufficient evidence for a successful prosecution, a former junior Conservative staffer was eventually charged.

Michael Sona was found guilty in August of one violation of the Elections Act.

"The CRTC is looking forward to doing its part to help protect Canadians from rogue or misleading calls during a federal election," CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement Monday.

Those required to register include political parties, candidates, companies and individuals who call potential voters using automated dialing systems.

Individuals who volunteer to make live calls on behalf of candidates won't have to register.

The CRTC compiled a list of factors that could be considered in setting fine amounts, including the number and frequency of complaints and violations and whether the violator has a history of similar offences.

Those registered with the CRTC will need to have their identity verified by the regulator and the telephone service provider.

Registrants would be publicly identified thirty days after the election and would be required to keep recorded messages and scripts of live messages to voters for one year from the date of the election.

People will have until Dec. 17 to submit their views on how penalties should be imposed.

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