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Robocall guilty verdict doesn't close book on 2011 election fraud

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Image: Flickr/Abid Virani

The Ontario Superior Court ruled today that Michael Sona, the young Conservative aide, is guilty of participating in the robocall scheme.

But this verdict does not resolve the issues surrounding the widespread orchestrated electoral fraud in the 2011 election. This fraud took place not only in Guelph, but in 246 other federal ridings. The Council of Canadians, which supported legal challenges of election results in six ridings across the country, expects that its pending legal challenge of the "Fair" Elections Act will shed more light on what happened.

"The story is far from over," says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "We have a few clues about one minor player, but we still don't have the ringleaders. Remember: this didn't just happen in Guelph."

Fraudulent calls misdirected people to wrong or non-existent polling stations in dozens of ridings. In a landmark ruling in 2013, the Federal Court found that there had been a widespread campaign of electoral fraud that was targeted at non-Conservatives. Further, the court found that "the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the [Conservative Party of Canada's] CIMS database."

A Commissioner of Canada Elections investigation report on the 2011 election released in May of 2014 has been used to claim there was no widespread campaign of voter suppression. But that report has been shown to be "fatally flawed."

"Other higher-ranking Conservative Party officials were most likely involved," says Dylan Penner, the Council of Canadians' democracy campaigner. "The Conservatives have yet to reveal the list of people who had access to this database. Who are they protecting?"

For Barlow, it is time for the Harper government to come clean with Canadians.

"The Prime Minister still needs to answer some serious questions," adds Barlow. "Did someone close to the Prime Minister authorize the use of CIMS for voter suppression in the 2011 election? If not, who did? How can he ensure that this will not repeat itself?"

Meanwhile, the so-called "Fair" Elections Act, which became law in June, only compounds these unresolved issues. The law forbids Elections Canada from promoting voting and includes strict guidelines on proving residency to vote. The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students will be challenging the "Fair" Elections Act in court for infringing the constitutional right of Canadians to vote.

"Techniques such as using large-scale robocalls or live calls to mislead or defraud electors were already difficult to detect during the last federal election," says Garry Neil, executive director of the Council of Canadians. "The new law will make it harder for the Chief Electoral Officer to report on complaints received from voters and thus it will be nearly impossible to detect these tactics. That is why we will be challenging it in court."

"While there are still far too many questions, the legal challenge of the 'Fair' Elections Act will hopefully bring us closer to finally getting some answers," concludes Barlow.


Image: Flickr/Abid Virani

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