Tories trying to block new evidence in robocalls case
Party lawyer says fresh details from Elections Canada would 'interfere with the case timetable'
The federal Conservative Party's lawyer, Arthur Hamilton, is objecting to a demand by a group of voters that Elections Canada provide details of complaints received from voters in the robocalls affair.
The voters, backed by the Council of Canadians, are suing to overturn the results in seven ridings where bogus phone calls were reported in last year's election. But Hamilton alleges in a letter to their lawyer that the demand for specifics on these reports would "interfere with the case timetable."
Elections Canada says it received some 800 complaints from 200 federal ridings about misleading phone calls in the May 2011 federal election campaign. Steven Shrybman, a lawyer for voters who are suing in each of the seven named ridings, wants Elections Canada to provide details on the nature of these complaints.
The Conservatives allege that Shrybman's request comes too late, after a June deadline for filing evidence supporting the council's claims.
In a separate case, the Conservatives recently urged the Supreme Court to consider last-minute evidence from Elections Canada in a battle over the results in Etobicoke Centre. The court has yet to rule on that.
However, in the Council of Canadians' case, the Conservatives say the request for additional details from Elections Canada could cause delays.
Hamilton's response says, "Your letter threatens to interfere with the case timetable that has been in place since May." He goes on to say "such a request will be opposed by our clients."
In his reply to Hamilton, Shrybman says, "we note that you have raised no concern about or objection to the relevance of the evidence we are seeking. Surely the respondent MPs are not suggesting that relevant evidence be withheld from the court."
Shrybman concedes that the court did order "evidence in support of the applications" to be filed by June 15. However, he says, "you make the unwarranted assumption that the evidence in question will be in 'support of the applications,' unless you have knowledge of that evidence we do not possess. I can tell you that in fact we do not know whether this evidence will support the applications or not."
Rather, Shrybman adds, he is seeking the evidence "because of its obvious relevance to the issues raised by the applications."
The next case conference where lawyers from both sides will discuss the Federal Court challenge is set for Wednesday.