By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
We elect a Parliament, not a government; we vote for our local MP, not the Prime Minister. Political parties do not “win” elections, successful local candidates do, and the party with the most of them gets the first chance to form the government. In an election, as in Parliament, the individual matters more than the aggregate, the vote tally as much as the winner, and the result no less than the outcome. The same logic—that every vote matters—explains why we choose our leaders in elections in the first place; if efficiency were all-important, we would use opinion polls, instead.
This is a principled argument. Elections Canada offers a practical one. And perhaps, as Mr. Mayrand argues, the perfect should not become the enemy of the good; a simple bureaucratic snafu may not be enough to upend an election, unless the outcome hangs in the balance. But if the Supreme Court accepts his argument, it will be conceding not just that Canada’s electoral system is imperfect, but also that our commitment to our own democracy is more limited than we might have hoped. Canadians should expect only as much democracy as we can afford.
See previously: A day in court
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The disputed vote in Etobicoke Centre goes to the Supreme Court this morning for a final appeal. The official summary is here. The factums from Ted Opitz, Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Elections Canada are here.
Susan Delacourt says it’s a test of our democratic machinery. Leslie MacKinnon says the stakes are higher for all sides. Postmedia says the chief electoral officers for British Columbia and Alberta are concerned.
Our live coverage will start here around 9am.
8:54am. Greetings from the Supreme Court. The lawyers are seated and the candidates have taken their places in the gallery—Mr. Opitz on the right side, Mr. Wrzesnewskyj on the left. Now waiting for the justices to arrive.
9:00am. All rise. Let’s do this. (Or words to that effect.) Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, July 7, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Two days after Dean Del Mastro told the Peterborough Examiner that he would not meet with Elections Canada to provide a cautioned statement, Dean Del Mastro’s lawyer tells the Globe and Mail that Mr. Del Mastro is willing to provide Elections Canada with a cautioned statement.
Mr. Del Mastro has been trying to arrange a meeting with Elections Canada since mid-June, his lawyer said. He’ll be giving what’s called a “cautioned statement” to the watchdog – one where anything the subject says can be used as evidence in an investigation.
His lawyer told The Globe and Mail it was only Thursday that Elections Canada finally called and said it wants to speak to Mr. Del Mastro. “I received a telephone call [Thursday] from Elections Canada investigator Thomas Ritchie indicating that he is now prepared to meet with Mr. Del Mastro for the purpose of taking a cautioned audio recorded statement,” Mr. Ayotte said. “Mr. Del Mastro has accepted the invitation … and we are in the process of scheduling a date and time for this meeting,” he said.
According to the Citizen, Mr. Del Mastro “rejected an invitation to respond to overspending allegations on a ‘cautioned’ basis.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 9:46 AM - 0 Comments
In the process of making an unrelated announcement yesterday, Dean Del Mastro emerged to plead innocence and lament for the questions being raised about his campaign. And also to proclaim the Prime Minister’s greatness.
He spoke about the effect of the allegations on the Del Mastro name, that of his late father, which appears on the sign above his family`s car dealership. “This does bother me. I grew up a poor farm kid,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot growing up. My two heroes in my life were my mother and father.”
But he said he was bolstered by the prime minister`s ongoing support. “I think Prime Minister Harper is the greatest leader in the industrialized world,” he said. “I`ve always appreciated the trust he placed in me.”
As to matter of the cheques to employees of his cousin’s company, Mr. Del Mastro apparently deferred questions to his cousin (said cousin subsequently declined to speak with the Citizen). As to the question of whether Mr. Del Mastro has been contacted by Elections Canada, the Citizen reports that the agency offered to take a “cautioned statement” that could be used against him in court, but Mr. Del Mastro declined. He apparently called the Peterborough Examiner to explain.
After an early version of this story appeared at www.peterboroughexaminer.com, Del Mastro called The Examiner, repeating that he would not agree to meet with Elections Canada if a cautioned statement is a requirement. “It’s not a dialogue,” he said. “It’s questions without a back-and-forth dialogue. I have to have a process.”
Del Mastro said repeatedly he wants “a process” for dealing with the allegations, and that hasn’t come yet. “If (Elections Canada) wants to come to Peterborough to interview me, I’d be happy to do so,” he said. “I can’t clear my name through a cautioned statement.”
While Del Mastro told The Examiner weeks ago that he would release documents proving his innocence, he has not done so, and said again Wednesday that he wouldn’t. “I’m not going to prove it to the media, and I don’t think I should have to,” he said. “If I thought The Peterborough Examiner could defend me, clear me of this, I would do it,” he said.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 10:14 AM - 0 Comments
A statement from Conservative MP Ted Opitz.
“This is the first time this section of the Elections Act has been considered by a court, and it is important that it be given the fullest consideration because of its significant impact on our democratic system. The court made it very clear that there was no wrongdoing by any candidate. Fifty-two thousand people in Etobicoke Centre followed the rules and cast their ballots. Their democratic choice has been called into question by the decision relating to 0.15% of those ballots.
There is an automatic right to appeal the decision directly to the Supreme Court of Canada. Parliament intended the final decision on such a significant matter of national importance should be made by the Supreme Court of Canada. I will be appealing the decision to let the Supreme Court of Canada decide. It is in the public interest that election results be respected and that voters not be disenfranchised.
The legal grounds for the appeal will be argued in court. My focus will continue to be on doing my job. As I have done for the past year, I will continue working hard on behalf of my constituents in Etobicoke Centre.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
As part of its challenge to the election results in seven ridings, the Council of Canadians has obtained (and now released) an affidavit from Annette Desgagne, a call centre worker with Responsive Marketing Group in Thunder Bay.
About 3 days before election day, the script changed in a manner that was noticeable to me. When a new script was being implemented, we would have to specifically log off and log back into the system. This time, the scripts we were to read to the listeners concerned changes to the locations of their polling stations. The new scripts we were to read did not identify that we were calling on behalf of the Conservative Party nor did we mention the local Conservative candidate…
I started to become concerned about the Change of Address Calls, because several listeners with whom I spoke, questioned me about the new polling location I was providing. For example, I recall one woman in Winnipeg telling me that the address I just gave her was over an hour away. I tried to problem solve this over the phone with her for a few minutes, but she was sure the new address was wrong. There was a phone number at the bottom of the screen in front of me that I was to give people if they had further questions. That lady said she had called that number but that it was not a correct number.
Elections Canada specifically asked all political parties to refrain from calling voters about changes to polling station locations. But Ms. Desgagne says she recalls calling voters in Nipissing-Timiskaming, where apparently no changes were made.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 4:42 PM - 0 Comments
Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher uncover a new twist.
Nearly a year after the investigation began, the agency is trying to determine why database records provided by the party appear to be missing entries that could help identify who downloaded the phone numbers used to make fraudulent robocalls, according to a source familiar with the probe … The investigators have inquired about CIMS logs for one particular user in the party’s headquarters. The logs show blanks between this person’s CIMS logon and logoff on the day the Guelph data was accessed, according to the source.
Whatever this may or may not amount to—and let’s stress that there’s no proof here of really anything—the NDP has already issued a Watergate reference (see below).
Update 4:51pm. And below the NDP release, a statement from the Conservative Party.
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 10:25 AM - 0 Comments
Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a three-time Liberal MP who lost his Toronto-area seat in last spring’s…
Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a three-time Liberal MP who lost his Toronto-area seat in last spring’s election, is calling for a re-vote, claiming fraud contributed to his slim 26-vote defeat to Conservative Ted Opitz.
From the CBC:
Wrzesnewskyj’s lawyers claim 181 ballots are in dispute and should be thrown out. Aside from some voters voting twice, the former MP’s legal team says some voters did not properly prove their identity or were not vouched for properly when they showed up at the polling station with no identification.
Under a court order, Wrzesnewskyj’s lawyers were able to examine the ballots at 10 polling divisions, as well as poll books and electors’ lists at Elections Canada’s office in Ottawa.
The test to declare the election invalid, and trigger a byelection (after any appeals are exhausted), would be a finding that more than 26 ballots, the losing margin, should not have been counted.
Wrzenewskyj’s claims appear unrelated to the still-simmering Robocall scandal. And in many cases, according to the CBC, what he’s alleging is more poor training than deliberate malfeasance, much of it centred around a single polling station. In at least five instances, however, his team claims to have dug up evidence showing voters likely cast their ballots twice, which is a whole different kettle of fish. Wrzenewskyj will be in court April 23 to present his case.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
A new complaint about misleading calls during the last election, this time from a Conservative source.
In a copy of the complaint obtained by The Globe and Mail, Guelph Tory campaign manager Ken Morgan states that calls to Conservative supporters began on April 28 and continued until voting day on May 2. The phone number associated with the calls was 519-479-0031, which, when dialled, led to a recording that said, “This is the Conservative Party of Canada.”
“In no way did this call originate from the Conservative party, nor am I assuming the ‘Elections Office,’ ” Mr. Morgan wrote in an e-mail to the federal elections commissioner last month, after the “Pierre Poutine” robo-call controversy exploded into a political firestorm. “I would like to know from whom did this call originate? It was obviously an attempt to lure our supporters away from their legitimate polls.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 2:33 PM - 0 Comments
Marc Mayrand told the procedure and House affairs committee today that Elections Canada had received 800 specific complaints. He explained that those complaints covered approximately 200 ridings spread over 10 provinces and one territory.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
The chief electoral officer is presently appearing at the committee on procedure and House affairs. He just finished his opening statement, the prepared text of which has been posted online.
The recent media reports on details of the subsequent investigation resulted not only in sustained media coverage, but also in a large number of people communicating with Elections Canada. Since then, close to 40,000 people have contacted my Office to express their concern. Of these contacts, over 800 were complaints alleging specific occurrences of improper or fraudulentcalls across the country. We have added sufficient resources to deal with the inflow of communications and to contact electors who made specific factual allegations. As I indicated in my statement on March 15, I thank Canadians for their collaboration.
The Office of the Commissioner is pursuing its investigation, and I am confident in their ability to do so in a manner that meets the highest standards. Until the investigation is completed and the facts are established, I reiterate the importance of not drawing any premature conclusions.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 1:43 PM - 0 Comments
The Council of Canadians is challenging the election result in seven ridings.
The voter suppression tactics alleged in the litigation include “calls that misdirected electors to the wrong poll or calls of a harassing nature intended to discourage support for a particular candidate,” said Ottawa lawyer Steven Shrybman, who represents the council.
Shrybman said these cases test new ground by asking the court to weigh the effects of a pattern of voter suppression, not just specific acts that have characterized the few legal challenges of past election results. ”We don’t know exactly what the standards will be,” he said. “How do you measure the effect of voter suppression techniques on the result?”
The seven ridings are Don Valley East, Winnipeg South Centre, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Vancouver Island North, Yukon, Nipissing-Timiskaming and Elmwood-Transcona. Winnipeg South Centre, Nipissing-Timiskaming and Elmwood-Transcona are all included on my list of ridings where suspicious calls about polling stations were reported. Following media reports, Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher add Yukon and Vancouver Island North to that list.
By Gustavo Vieira - Friday, March 16, 2012 at 10:48 AM - 0 Comments
The chief electoral officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, finally broke the agency’s silence…
The chief electoral officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, finally broke the agency’s silence on Thursday in relation to the ongoing robo-calls investigation. Saying that Elections Canada received 700 specific complaints regarding misleading phone calls voters received in the days preceding the 2011 federal election, Mayrand confirmed the agency also received 31,000 submissions from the public as the result of an online petition calling for a public inquiry into the matter.
While the National Post’s Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor reported that an unnamed source qualified some of the information submitted to Elections Canada as “gold,” the CBC’s Terry Milewski reported on Friday that the public broadcaster checked the 31 ridings reported to have received fraudulent or improper calls and found a pattern that those receiving misleading calls had previously been called by the Conservative Party to find out how they would vote.
The CBC report suggests that the calls impersonating Elections Canada were made by people who had access to the data in the Conservative Party’s tightly controlled database, which the party uses to identify and keep track of voters and which has recently come under the scrutiny of Elections Canada as part of its investigation into the phone calls received by voters in the riding of Guelph, Ont. during the 2011 campaign.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 10:13 AM - 0 Comments
Elections Canada says the majority of the 31,000 complaints it reported two weeks ago originated with online forms.
If you look at riding-level data, there’s not much to see. But Simon Fraser University’s Anke Kessler has dug deeper into Elections Canada’s poll-level database and uses information that is available at the poll level. Outcomes at polling stations differ in turnout and in vote shares for particular candidates; this makes each riding look like a smaller copy of a country-wide election. In a first step, she finds that polling stations with predominantly non-Conservative voters generally experienced a decline in voter turnout from 2008 to 2011. In a second step, she asks how the extent of this decline varies with reported robocalls. She finds that it was larger in the former, meaning that in ridings where robocalling was reported, polling stations that voted predominantly non-Conservative in the 2008 election saw a greater-than-average decline in voter turnout.
Gordon also notes some important caveats and has posted Prof. Kessler’s paper here.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 9:15 AM - 0 Comments
The House unanimously passed the NDP’s motion on Elections Canada, including an amendment that deleted a reference to future elections (thus making the changes retroactive and applicable to the 2011 campaign). Though non-binding, the motion calls on the government to introduce legislation within six months.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 12, 2012 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Nycole Turmel wanted to talk about the apparently impending confession of Pierre Poutine. Pierre Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph. Ms. Turmel wanted to propose a public inquiry. Mr. Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph.
Switching to English, Ms. Turmel presented an itemized list of grievances.
“Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board said he wants to change the culture of Ottawa,” he noted. “Changing the culture, like replacing Liberal scandals with Conservative scandals? A culture where people can rig elections? A culture where the Prime Minister does not answer questions? A culture with no accountability, no transparency? A culture of denial and partisan attacks? If the Prime Minister wanted to change the culture, he must take responsibility. Will he?”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 12, 2012 at 1:17 PM - 0 Comments
Elections Canada has no comment on reports of an automated call sent out by the Valeriote campaign in Guelph during the last election. Elections Canada says it does not pre-authorize election messages and if approached to vet an election message, Elections Canada would advise a campaign to review sections 319 and 320 of the Elections Act.
Section 320 states as follows:
A candidate or registered party, or a person acting on their behalf, who causes election advertising to be conducted shall mention in or on the message that its transmission was authorized by the official agent of the candidate or by the registered agent of the party, as the case may be.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 9, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
The Star overhears the Elections Canada investigation.
“Every single person I’ve contacted has been (born) between 1947 and 1949,” said one unidentified Elections Canada employee who was following up on the complaints Friday morning.
The Star inadvertently overheard a number of telephone conversations between the woman and complainants located across the country while a reporter was reviewing election expense records at Elections Canada’s Ottawa offices. The questions put to complainants included the content of the robocall, the date it was received and whether that person was able to recall or record telephone number from which the call came. The final question, of those calls that could be heard by the Star, was for the complainants’ age.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 9, 2012 at 4:51 PM - 0 Comments
During a panel discussion on the CBC yesterday, Dean Del Mastro was asked to clarify which documents the Conservative party had turned over. He indicated that the party has provided Elections Canada with those documents that Elections Canada has requested.
Rosemary Barton. Dean Del Mastro, I just wanted to ask you about a speech that you gave inside the House earlier today. You said that the opposition parties should turn over their phone records to Elections Canada and then you said that the Conservative party already has. So I just want to be clear, what documents you have turned over.
Mr. Del Mastro. Well, we’ve made it clear that we’re fully assisting Elections Canada in the investigation they’ve undertaken in Guelph. So we’ve provided them any information they’ve requested in that regard, but the opposition parties have not, Rosie. In this case, we believe that they should.
Rosemary Barton. So you’ve just turned over documents in relation to Guelph, nothing else?
Mr. Del Mastro. Well, that’s what’s been requested, so, you know, we’re fully transparent…
Rosemary Barton. … So you would not proactively disclose all documents to Elections Canada. Anything to do with automated or live calls, to say you want to be transparent, here you go. You’re not going to do that?
Mr. Del Mastro. Well, in fact, we’ve provided transparency that the other parties have not…
According to a spokeswoman for the NDP, Elections Canada has not requested any documents from the NDP. Similarly, a spokeswoman for the Liberals says Elections Canada has made no such request of the Liberals.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 1:13 PM - 0 Comments
The Globe considers the possibility of a court challenge in Nipissing-Timiskaming.
Mr. Hagborg said local Liberal campaign staffers in Nipissing-Timiskaming initially didn’t think much of the bizarre flood of calls they got on election day from confused voters. In hindsight, he says, they probably should have acted more quickly. “We didn’t really think about it at the time. … We thought it was probably someone playing a practical joke or whatever.”
Now, however, they’re collecting all the reports they can of voting-day interference. Mr. Hagborg said at least 25 complaints refer specifically to prerecorded messages, purportedly from Elections Canada, telling the recipients their polling station was changed. In some cases, residents in rural areas of the riding were sent 20 kilometres out of their way, only to find they were in the wrong place.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 3:45 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP has tabled the following motion for debate tomorrow.
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should, within six months, table amendments to the Elections Canada Act and other legislation as required that would ensure that in all future election campaigns: (a) Elections Canada investigation capabilities be strengthened, to include giving the Chief Electoral Officer the power to request all necessary documents from political parties to ensure compliance with the Elections Act; (b) all telecommunication companies that provide voter contact services during a general election must register with Elections Canada; and (c) all clients of telecommunication companies during a general election have their identity registered and verified.
Asked by Nycole Turmel about it this afternoon, the Prime Minister seemed to indicate the government side supported this motion (Mr. Harper’s spokesman seems to concur). Conservatives on the Procedure and House Affairs Committee previously voted to reject a proposal from the Chief Electoral Officer.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 1:21 PM - 0 Comments
A voter reports a suspicious call in Egmont.
The woman said she usually hangs up on automated calls of any kind, but only stayed on the line to listen to the entire message when it identified it was coming from Elections Canada. ”That was what grabbed my attention enough to say, ‘I need to hold onto this call,” she said. ”Then as they were talking, I remember thinking, ‘Geez. It’s pretty close to the election for something like this.’ Then by the time the message was over and I realized they were telling me I had to go somewhere else to vote, it wasn’t a real person so I couldn’t ask (why).”
The caller said their polling station had been moved from Mont Carmel to Miscouche. The couple checked their voter information card, which said nothing of a poll change, so they went to their proper polling station believing they could find out there if a switch had indeed been made. No change had been made and they voted as usual.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
The text of a new letter from NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Alexandre Boulerice to the elections commissioner.
I am writing to again follow up on our previous letters regarding allegations of voter suppression during Canada’s 41st General Election.
We have received anonymous correspondence from people telling us they worked for Elections Canada on Elections Day and witnessed suspicious activity. We heard a number of accounts about voters turning up at wrong polling stations, or people showing up at the correct polling station complaining they had been sent to a wrong location some miles away. We believe that your temporary elections staff with firsthand experience could provide invaluable assistance to your investigation and urge you to follow up with as many as possible, particularly in ridings where complaints have been received.
Furthermore, as this issue has unfolded, our offices have been flooded with accounts of events that occurred on or near Election Day. We have received personal accounts about misconduct on Election Day from ordinary Canadians looking to speak out. These many unsolicited letters, emails and phone calls are a testament to the scope of this issue.