Elections Canada pressed for robocalls probe details
Court challenge of last year's results in 7 ridings backed by Council of Canadians
A lawyer for voters challenging the 2011 election result in seven federal ridings is asking Elections Canada to provide more information on its investigation into mysterious phone calls and other complaints from Canadians.
Steven Shrybman, lawyer for nine voters who want last year's election results in those ridings overturned, says in a letter to a lawyer for Elections Canada that chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand told a House committee the agency would assist the court in its hearing.
The challenge is before the Federal Court, which has agreed to hear the case against seven Conservative MPs. The MPs argued the case should be dismissed because there's no chance the voters will win and they filed it too late, but the court agreed last month to let it go ahead.
The next case conference is set for Aug. 8, Shrybman says in the letter.
The court challenge is backed by the Council of Canadians, which has gone up against the Conservative government on a number of issues.
The voters allege a pattern of misleading phone calls that directed voters to the wrong polling stations indicate a widespread campaign to suppress the vote.
Misleading calls tied to Conservative campaign
Court documents show Elections Canada is investigating misleading automated calls, or robocalls, in Guelph, Ont., and have tied them to a Conservative campaign. It's illegal to interfere with someone's right to vote. A spokesman for the Conservative Party has repeatedly denied the party is involved, and says anyone who breaks the law should be prosecuted.
Shrybman refers in the letter to Mayrand's appearance at the March 29 House of Commons committee and asks the agency to:
- Update the number of complaints they've received, as well as lay out the ridings from which they've received complaints.
- Describe the fraudulent calls, like whether they were live or recorded.
- Tell the court how many investigations the agency has underway.
- Provide publicly available court documents filed by Elections Canada investigators.
Shrybman says he hopes the agency provides the information he's requesting.
"Their mandate is to investigate and to prosecute where warranted and they're very much on the straight and narrrow when it comes to pursuing their objectives," he said.
There's more information that's relevant than Elections Canada is bringing to public attention, Shrybman said. The production orders filed in court, for example, are tricky to find.
"It's been very hit or miss and Elections Canada hasn't disclosed these documents even though they're part of the public record once they get filed with the court," Shrybman said.
The applicants are challenging the election results in the following ridings:
- Don Valley East in Ontario, won by Conservative MP Joe Daniel by 870 votes.
- Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario, won by Conservative MP Jay Aspin by 18 votes.
- Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan, won by Conservative Kelly Block by 538 votes.
- Vancouver Island North in B.C., won by Conservative John Duncan by 1,827 votes.
- Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba, won by Conservative MP Joyce Bateman by 722 votes.
- Elmwood-Transcona in Manitoba, won by Conservative MP Lawrence Toet by 300 votes.
- Yukon won by Conservative Ryan Leef by 132 votes.
The Federal Court challenge isn't the only court process related to the 2011 election.
Voters in Etobicoke Centre are awaiting a Supreme Court decision on whether their riding will see a byelection after a Federal Court judge declared the 2011 result to be null and void. Conservative MP Ted Opitz challenged the decision after the ruling sided with former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who said Elections Canada officials didn't have the proper paperwork to show everyone who voted in the riding was eligible.