Overturning an election is a serious matter, but the last federal campaign shows clear signs of fraud, says a lawyer for eight voters trying to turf six Conservative MPs from office.
Steven Shrybman, the lawyer for the eight voters, wrapped up his case by calling for the judge to act on the evidence he has submitted.
"We have done our best to put the evidence before you," Shrybman said, outlining problems he had in getting the information he wanted to present in court.
"In our submission, it is accurate and reliable."
Shrybman's clients, backed by the Council of Canadians, allege a widespread campaign of harassing and misleading live phone messages and robocalls deterred people from casting ballots in the last federal election, and that the Conservative MPs benefited from it.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party says the 220,000 people who voted in the ridings being contested should have their votes respected.
'Political activist campaign'
Turnout was higher than in the previous election in those ridings, Fred DeLorey said.
"These elections were fought and won cleanly. During the hearings, the Council of Canadians made it clear that it was not alleging wrongdoing by the Conservative Party of Canada, our six candidates, their campaigns or Responsive Marketing Group [the company that operated a call centre for the Conservative Party]."
"It speaks volumes that despite the Council of Canadians' vigorous search and nationwide media attention, it was not able to produce a single elector to testify that he or she was prevented from voting."
DeLorey said Shrybman couldn't produce a single voter who was prevented from casting a ballot. He says the court challenge is "a political activist campaign masquerading as a lawsuit — a left-wing group is seeking to overturn democratic elections because it doesn't like how people voted."
Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, said some people don't read newspapers or watch TV news, and just don't know they may have gotten a misleading call.
"There's a kind of group that's watching this and there are an awful lot of people who aren't.… I think a lot of people have kind of lost their taste for elections and this is what's so upsetting, is that we have such a low voter turnout in Canada. I think this all feeds into 'all politics are wrong, everything's not good, and so this only fit into a pattern of, I'm never going to vote again,'" Barlow told reporters outside the court room.
"The numbers show us very clearly that there were people in every riding that made a choice not to vote because of this and this is the decision the judge will have to make."
Barlow says the Council of Canadians will find a way to go to the Supreme Court if needed, whether it's because the voters win and the Conservative MPs appeal, or whether the voters lose and want to appeal.
"The notion that this was a cash cow for us — we tried to laugh about it, but it's hard to laugh about the bills that we're facing," she said.
"We certainly don't want to cut the process short, so we're committed for the long run."
A spokesman for the organization estimated the case would cost $560,000 by last Friday. It has raised $303,000 so far to pay the legal fees.
Shrybman presented polling numbers that showed those who didn't support the Conservatives were more likely to get a misleading phone call about where to vote, and that there were people in all six subject ridings who said that prevented them from casting a ballot.
Lawyers for the Conservative MPs presented evidence rebutting the polling methods used and questioned whether the pollster, EKOS Research Associates' Frank Graves, was biased, an assertion the judge seemed to question.
Shrybman says many of those contentions were actually wrong, calling them an avalanche of criticisms that have no merit.
"This is a nuisance point: there's no merit to this," Shrybman said.
He also took on criticism levelled at Graves's methods by Ruth Corbin, an expert provided by the Conservative MPs, arguing Corbin assumed that if Graves didn't produce a piece of information, he was trying to hide something.
The criticism was "entirely unwarranted, unjustified … and egregiously unfair," he said.
"The EKOS report is balanced. It is modest. It doesn't overstate the case."
Decision not expected until spring
A lawyer for RMG submitted that the company didn't knowingly or unknowingly do calls that sent voters to the wrong polling stations.
Shrybman argued Monday that because RMG got the contact list from the Conservative Party, it's possible the company didn't realize it was calling non-supporters rather than supporters.
Shrybman wanted RMG to produce the lists from the final days of the campaign — in which an executive from RMG said the company made only get-out-the-vote calls to supporters — but RMG said it no longer had the lists. Shrybman said it was up to the MPs to present the lists. The Conservative Party holds the voter database and isn't a party to the case.
As the investigation into allegedly misleading robocalls in Guelph, Ont., shows, it takes only $162 and a list to try to misdirect voters, Shrybman said.
Arguments wrapped up at the Federal Court in Ottawa just after noon ET. Judge Richard Mosley reserved his decision, which is not expected until the spring.
Mosley still has to rule on whether to dismiss the case following a motion by Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton last week.
Hamilton made his closing arguments Friday.
The voters are challenging the Conservative wins in:
- Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario.
- Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba.
- Vancouver Island North.