A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Harper History, Part 6A - Con Majority - Election Fraud

Spring 2011 & Subsequent Fallout

This article in my series that attempt to detail the contempt that Harper and his cohorts have for Canadian Democracy will not only cover the 2011 election period but will also detail the many “allegations” of election wrongdoing arising from it. It also details the efforts to date to establish what occurred and who was involved. As I write this some 4 years later some aspects of the “allegations” remain unresolved, particularly for calls that occurred outside the Guelph Riding, mostly due to the Harper Regimes refusal to cooperate with either Elections Canada or the Courts in providing records and witnesses that could shed light on what actually took place.

On March 26 2011 an election was called, parliament having been dissolved after the House of Commons passed a motion of non-confidence against the government, finding it to be in contempt of parliament. The voting public either did not seem to regard this as significant and penalized the opposition for forcing an election by returning the Harper “government” with a majority. The turnout was up slightly from 2008 at a little over 60% (slightly under 40% for those under 25)

Despite being included in the 2008 debates and with general support from the Liberals and grudging support from NDP, Green Party Elizabeth May was excluded from the per-election debates. The other Parties saying it was “up to the consortium”, with it being revealed that in 2008 Stephen Harper specifically tried to keep Ms May out of the debate is is unclear exactly how much political pressure had upon this decision. The Greens did win a seat in parliament however the Liberals lost many seats and the NDP became to official opposition.

Harper continued with his well established efforts to 'control the media' by limiting questions from the press at his various campaign stops:-
“Harper’s strategy of refusing to take more than five questions a day from reporters amounts to a gross disservice to the public. Four of the permitted questions (generally two in French and two in English) go to reporters following Harper’s campaign, while the fifth is allotted to a local scribe, wherever the Conservative news conference that day happens to be staged. ..... “

The Conservatives were returned to power with a slightly increased majority with the NDP becoming the official opposition and the Liberal caucus being reduced to just 34 members. Despite being excluded from the debate Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, was elected as the first Green in a Canadian Parliament.

On election day it was revealed to Elections Canada that a number non Conservation voters in the Guelph riding had received automated calls purporting to come from Elections Canada directing them to non existing voting locations. “Elections Canada emails were revealed under Access to Information requests, and exposed internal communications on the matter. At 11:06 am on election day election officer Anita Hawdur sent an email to legal counsel Karen McNeil titled: "URGENT Conservative campaign office communication with electors".

In Febuary 2012 Some 9 months after Elections Canada became aware of it, this eventually became public with many more voters complaining of receiving similar calls, not only in Guelph but in a number of ridings across the country. Elections Canada did little to get to the bottom of these complaints , only now seeking court orders for records and delving deeper into who instigated the fraudulent calls. Once it did become public it became clear that this was not just an isolated incident and that such calls were closely linked to access to the closely guarded Conservative database.
“Elections Canada and police are looking into reports that automated calls in as many as 18 ridings falsely advised voters that the location of their polling stations had changed. In other instances, voters received harassing late-night or early-morning calls that purported to be from an opposition campaign office. “

“Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand announced Thursday that he now has "over 700 Canadians from across the country" who allege "specific circumstances" of fraudulent or improper calls. CBC News examined 31 ridings where such calls have been reported and found a pattern: those receiving those calls also had previous calls from the Conservative Party to find out which way they would vote. “

In August of 2012 Elections Canada further updated the number of complaints it received over misleading election phone calls but is refusing to provide more details in Federal Court about its ongoing “robocalls” investigations. The agency then said they had fielded 1,394 complaints alleging specific instances of misleading phone calls during the election from people in 234 different ridings, according to new data provided by the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

During this time the Conservatives were still maintaining that they were not involved and knew nothing about it but never the less refused to establish a full inquiry into the matter and were less than forthcoming with providing records and access to various individuals who may have had knowledge of these wrong doings.

"The Conservative party can say absolutely, definitively, it has no role in any of this," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. His parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro (who was later to be convicted of election fraud himself regarding a funding scam), calls claims to the contrary "baseless smears." However, opposition leaders said the scheme could never have gone forward without callers having access to the Conservatives' proprietary database on voter intentions.

With Elections Canada doing little about this fraud the Council of Canadians initiated a lawsuit challengeing the election results in six ridings based upon these misleading robo calls, in which Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley concluded that the Conservative party's massive voter identification database was “the most likely source” of information used to make misleading robocalls to electors “in ridings across the country.” Mosley nevertheless refused to annul the results in the six ridings. Once again the Conservative made every attempt to stall and disrupt the court proceedings by being 'uncooperative'.

In April 2013 - Elections Canada filed a charge against Michael Sona, the ex-Conservative staffer fingered by the Tories in the so-called robocalls scandal .

In November 2013, One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s top advisers instructed a potential key witness in the robocalls investigation to delay an interview with an Elections Canada investigator until she could obtain legal advice. Jenni Byrne, who was the Conservatives’ national campaign manager during the 2011 election instructed Andrew Prescott not to talk to an investigator until she had a chance to talk to the party’s lawyer. Prescott was later given immunity for his testimony which the Judge described as “unreliable” and “selfserving” and another key person Ken Morgan fled overseas never to be heard from.

In April 2014 With an immunity agreement in place, Prescott finally gave evidence to prosecutors regarding the only person accused in the case, Michael Sona, as expected, but also provided information about Ken Morgan, who was the manager of the Guelph Conservative campaign. Morgan moved to Kuwait in 2012 and is still believed to be living there. To date, he has never spoken to Elections Canada investigators about his role in the campaign at the centre of the robocalls scandal.

In June 2014 – The trial of Michael Sona finally started with Prescott being the prosecutions 'star' witness.

December 2014 - In a 100-page ruling, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley found that there was an organized campaign of voter suppression, and that the information used to make misleading phone calls to non-Conservative voters likely came from the Conservative party’s internal database, known as CIMS.
“ The robocall scandal is a stunning case of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives managing to slither out of what could have been very deep trouble — while imposing a new set of rules to protect those engaging in future voter suppression.”
Blame for the scandal was meted out solely to Michael Sona, the former party operative in Guelph who was sentenced to nine months imprisonment and released on bail this week however Judge Gary Hearn also found that “the evidence indicates he did not likely act alone.”
Had the Conservatives actually wanted to prevent a repeat of the robocall scandal, Steven Shrybman, lawyer for the Council of Canadians says, there’s a simple solution: They could require political parties to maintain records of any downloads of internal party data about non-party supporters. But the government’s massive overhaul of our electoral laws last spring took no steps in that direction.
Thus ended a Successful Coverup with the Fall Guy Convicted.

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Owen Gray said...

They are very good at running interference, Rural.

Rural said...

And ducking responsibility, Owen!