As MPs review the federal government's proposed changes to the Elections Act, another Conservative MP has raised allegations of attempted voter fraud in the 2006 election.
On Monday, Conservative MP Laurie Hawn told the House of Commons he'd been called by someone who claimed to have scooped up voter information cards from apartment building lobbies.
During a debate on an NDP amendment to the government's Fair Elections Act, Hawn said, "In the 2006 election, I was called personally and offered hundreds of voter cards that had been left in apartment buildings, and so on. Like an idiot, I said, 'No, we don't do that sort of thing,' but should have said, 'Yes, come on down', and had the police waiting.'"
Hawn's campaign actually issued a news release in January of 2006 to announce it had filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Elections Canada about "massive voter list irregularities" in his riding of Edmonton Centre, alleging that non-residential buildings or "non-existent" addresses were listed on the voter rolls. But the 2006 release does not make mention of an offer for voter identification cards.
A list of suspect names
About a week before the 2006 election, Hawn's campaign gave a list of suspect names found on the voters list to Elections Canada.
Vitor Marciano, who ran Hawn's campaign, said in an interview from Edmonton, "You had people in self-storage places, truck stops, lingerie shops. You had Government of Canada lawyers registered to vote out of the justice offices at Government of Canada."
Marciano, who currently is press secretary to Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Party in Alberta, explained, "A lot of these private mailbox companies, you get a mailbox that looks like an address. It looks like a street number."
He said that Hawn's campaign office "made such a stink about it" that Elections Canada put on extra staff in Edmonton Centre on voting day. Hawn won that election.
A year later in January 2007, Elections Canada issued a release about the results of its investigation into Hawn's complaint. It found 93 voters who used what it called "non-residential addresses" and reports it interviewed "most of these electors."
The upshot of the investigation was that 23 voters who did not live in Edmonton Centre nonetheless voted there. Elections Canada found that all had "updated" their addresses, although the report doesn't say when that happened. The report says none voted twice and nor was any link found between them.
Perhaps because of Hawn's complaint, the report goes on to say, "On election day, electors listed at potential non-residential addresses, including these 21, were highlighted on the lists of electors, and election officers obtained proof of residence from these electors before they voted."
The report concludes with Elections Canada saying it has taken measures to prevent voters from using non-residential addresses. It also notes that Hawn won the riding by 3,609 votes.
Hawn to speak to committee
Hawn's office has told CBC News he won't be answering questions about his claim that just before that same election he received a call offering him illegally obtained voter information cards. He wants to wait until he speaks before the Procedure and House Affairs Committee.
Asked why Hawn didn't report the call about the voter information cards in 2006, Marciano said, "What were you going to do? You could have visited any apartment building in Canada and found a pile of VICs sitting in the garbage."
Marciano added, "Election fraud happens in Canada. It happens on such a small scale, it doesn't usually matter. Unless of course it's a close election."
Hawn's statement about the voter information cards was raised at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee hearing testimony Tuesday on the government's proposed changes to the Elections Act. A Conservative member on the committee, Scott Reid, said Hawn would be testifying at the committee Thursday.
Hawn's anecdote was similar to one conveyed by Conservative MP Brad Butt, who told the House in early February he'd witnessed individuals retrieving voter cards from garbage cans and mailbox areas of apartment buildings.
But on March 24, Butt told the House he wanted to correct the record. He then stated he had not in fact seen these activities taking place.
Voter information cards
A voter information card is a mail-out sent to all registered voters to confirm that they are on the voters' list, according to Elections Canada's website.
However, in 2007, new rules stipulated voters must provide specific ID, such as driver's licences, utility bills or other forms of identification, in order to cast a ballot,
For the 2011 election, the voter information cards were permitted to be used for proof of address, but only for specified groups, such as aboriginals, students and seniors in assisted living or retirement homes.
The Fair Elections Act eliminates the use of the voter information card altogether as proof of address.
The proposed bill ignores a recommendation of Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, who had asked Parliament to expand the use of the voter information cards for the 2015 election so that all voters could use the cards as proof of residence.
Hawn's anecdote is the third time a Conservative MP has alleged an eyewitness account of voter fraud during the debate over the proposed fair elections act.
Paul Calandra's 'strange' incident
In February, Paul Calandra told the House that in the 2006 election, as a scrutineer for the Conservative Party, he had seen his dead mother's name on a list of voters who were recorded as having already voted.
"She had actually passed away in 2005, and when I asked the person why her name was checked off the list, she assured me that my mother had been in earlier in the day to vote. When I explained to her that was not possible, I was ushered out of the polling station," Calandra said.
Reached by phone late Tuesday, Calandra said he made a mistake when he said he was a scrutineer in that election. He was just a voter, he says. But he noticed his mother's crossed-off name as the poll clerk was about to draw a line though his own name.
"In retrospect do I think there was something fishy about it. Yes. Do I think it was any of the polling people? No," he said.
Calandra, who is parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, confirmed he was asked to leave, although not rudely, he says. "I didn't take any offence when they asked me to leave. It's not like they were pushing me out of there because of a coverup."
He conceded "in retrospect" he should have launched a complaint with Elections Canada.
"At the time, I thought it was extraordinarily strange. In retrospect, could it have been an incident of voter fraud? Yeah."