Inside Politics

UPDATED - Tory spin on robocalls ruling at odds with judge's own words

Had anyone been listening along to the internal soundtrack accompanying my leisurely mid-evening perusal of CBC colleague Susana Mas' report on the recent court ruling on costs stemming from that concluded robocalls election challenge, they would have heard the record screech to a halt right about the time that I hit this quote from newly installed Conservative Party communications director Cory Hann:

In an email to CBC News, Cory Hann, the director of communications for the party, said, "Conservative MPs won the case."

"The judge looked at all costs submissions and awarded the Conservative MPs costs for defending their legal and legitimate election results."

To put it as diplomatically as possible, it would seem Hann's analysis of the decision handed down by Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley yesterday is ... somewhat incomplete.

Specifically, it appears that he may have missed the bit in the ruling that recapped what the MPs in question had asked for, as far as compensation, which worked out to more than $300 K in total -- $120,000 for filing costs and legal fees, plus $235,907.56 in additional disbursements, including more $166 K for the services of expert witness Dr. Ruth Corbin, $10 K for travel and accommodation, $6.3 K for transcripts, research and deliveries and finally, $54,202.35 that was submitted, in the words of the judge "without further explanation."

Mosley, however, settled on a distinctly smaller amount:

[24] Having considered the matter further, I have reached the conclusion that the "modest fixed amount for the costs of the hearing" that should be awarded the respondent MPs is the amount paid into court for the seven applications, $7,000, plus disbursements of $6,206. I make no award for the other costs incurred by the respondent MPs in preparation for and conduct of the hearing.

(The "modest fixed amount" metric, by the way, was pretty much exactly what Mosley had initially been inclined to apply, as noted in his initial ruling, in which he went on at some length about the 'trench warfare' that had characterized the respondent MPs' attempts to stop the case from coming to court. )

UPDATE: As it turns out, Hann's claim that the Conservative MPs "were awarded their legal costs" is even more potentially confusing to readers unaware of the full context than it initially appeared. 

Although the judge did indeed award the MP respondents just over $13,000 in costs, he had already signed off on the applicants' request for $18,000 in costs related to earlier motions. Given that earlier finding, it would seem -- and has been confirmed by the Council of Canadians -- that it is actually the MPs who will have to send along a cheque, albeit for just under $5K after the $13 K they won in costs has been deducted from the total owing.      


Still more baffling was Hann's subsequent assertion, which didn't make it into our online piece, but was included in the full response that he provided to CBC yesterday:

We are pleased the courts shut down the Council of Canadians applications and saw them for what they were; a completely transparent attempt to overturn legitimate election results purely because this left-wing activist group didn't like them.

It was at this point that I briefly wondered whether Hann had somehow wound up with a copy of an entirely different court decision.

How else, really, can the above interpretation be reconciled with what Mosley actually wrote in his ruling, in which he explicitly reaffirmed that the complaint, while ultimately unsuccessful, "was not a case of unwarranted election challenges," but one based on a "factual foundation," albeit one that, in his view, failed to meet the necessary threshold to succeed in overturning the results?

Here's what Mosley had to say, in his own words:

[10] This is not a case in which the applications were improperly brought or where the applicants engaged in inappropriate behaviour in their conduct of the proceedings. In contrast, as noted above, I found that the respondent MPs "engaged in trench warfare in an effort to prevent this case from coming to a hearing on the merits" and adopted a stance aimed at blocking the applications "by any means". Settlement was not at any time a realistic outcome in light of the nature of the allegations and the evidence that attempts had been made by parties unknown to interfere with the democratic process. [...]

[18] I am satisfied that the applicants in this matter were genuine public interest litigants motivated by a higher purpose. These proceedings fell squarely within the criteria endorsed by in Harris and the other decisions cited above. The applications involved issues, the importance of which extended beyond the immediate interests of the parties involved. The applicants had no personal, proprietary or pecuniary interest in the outcome that would have justified the proceedings economically. They stood to gain nothing other than the vindication of their electoral rights.

The issues had not been previously determined by a court in proceedings against the same defendants and the applicants did not engage in vexatious, frivolous or abusive conduct. This was not a case of unwarranted election challenges. There was a factual foundation, albeit one which I ultimately found fell short of meeting the statutory threshold required to annul the election results in their ridings.

It's one thing to attempt to spin a story to your advantage, but the version of events proffered by Hann in response to yesterday's ruling is so clearly -- and starkly -- contradicted by the record that, that it may have done more damage to his -- and his party's -- credibility than deliver the hoped-for damage control.

In any case, for those who eschew potentially misrepresentative excerpts in favour of full context, here are Hann's statement, and the ruling, in their respective entireties:

Like in their applications, the Council of Canadians have difficulty presenting things truthfully. Conservative MPs won the case, and were awarded their legal costs.

We are pleased the courts shut down the Council of Canadians applications and saw them for what they were; a completely transparent attempt to overturn legitimate election results purely because this left-wing activist group didn't like them.

The judge looked at all costs submissions and awarded the Conservative MPs costs for defending their legal and legitimate election results.

As was made quite clear by the ruling, there was no wrongdoing by the Conservative Party of Canada, any of the candidates or campaign teams. We ran a clean and ethical campaign.

 

Tags: blackberry jungle, conservative party, cory hann, robocalls

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