Robocalls case won't be appealed to Supreme Court

The voters who last week lost their challenge of 2011 federal election results in six ridings because of misleading robocalls said today they will not appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Voters say they've taken their case as far as it can go

Garry Neil, executive director of the Council of Canadians, told a news conference on Friday that there should be a public inquiry to get to the bottom of who was responsible for voter suppression in the 2011 federal election. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The voters and the Council of Canadians who last week lost their Federal Court challenge of 2011 election results in six ridings will not appeal to the Supreme Court, but are demanding a public inquiry into voter suppression.

The Council of Canadians, a social justice organization, backed the case launched by a group of voters who were seeking to have the results in six ridings annulled because of robocalls that directed people to the wrong polling stations.

"I feel that we have taken this case as far as it can go," Peggy Walsh Craig, one of the voters from North Bay, Ont., said at a news conference Friday morning in Ottawa.

The voters alleged there was voter harassment and misleading phone calls in the last federal election that directed some people to the wrong polling stations, and that there was a co-ordinated campaign to suppress support for parties other than the Conservative Party.

Last week, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley didn't annul the election results, but did conclude that fraud occurred in the election.

Results in these six ridings were challenged:

  • Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario.
  • Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba.
  • Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar.
  • Vancouver Island North.
  • Yukon.

He said there were misleading calls and that their purpose was to suppress votes of electors who had indicated their candidate preferences in response to earlier voter identification calls.

Mosley said he was not finding that the Conservative Party, its candidates or the suppliers providing live and automated robocalls were directly involved in "the campaign to mislead voters."

He did chastise them, however, for how they handled the legal challenge, and said the Tory MPs involved engaged in "trench warfare" to try and prevent the case from getting to court.

The judge said the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the CIMS database, maintained and controlled by the Conservative party, but that there is no evidence that use of the database in that manner was approved or condoned by the party.

"I feel completely vindicated by the ruling," Walsh Craig said.

"While the results were not overturned in my riding, that is far less important than exposing the roots of what is now acknowledged as a widespread problem and making sure this never happens again."

Council demands public inquiry

Garry Neil, executive director of the Council of Canadians, told the news conference that a Supreme Court battle will not get them any closer to knowing who accessed the database and was in charge of the calls.

"Nor can the Supreme Court ensure that such a campaign never happens again," said Neil.

Instead, the Council of Canadians is demanding that Prime Minister Stephen Harper initiate a public inquiry "that will get to the bottom of the voter suppression campaign that the government can no longer deny took place."

"There's certainly enough evidence, enough facts that are now on the table to justify holding a public inquiry, and that public inquiry would of course be able to subpoena witnesses and to force them to testify under oath as to what happened," said Neil.

He also wants the government to table electoral reform legislation that sets tough rules for the conduct of political parties.

"We intend to keep the pressure on," he said, urging Canadians to sign a petition calling for the inquiry and legislation. 

Neil hinted that if a public inquiry isn't called, his organization will consider further legal action. He said the council is "exploring all possibilities."