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April 27, 2014

Sabotaging democracy in Canada

Scott Stockdale

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When the Harper government obtained a majority by fraudulent means in the May 2, 2011 election, it was a turning point for Canada, according to Dr. Michael Keefer, professor emeritus at the University of Guelph, and author of the upcoming book Sabotaging Democracy: Robocall Vote Suppression in the Canadian 2011 Election.

Dr. Keefer said court documents filed in mid-August 2012 by the Commissioner of Elections Canada indicated that the elections watchdog had received reports of fraudulent or misleading calls in 247 of Canada's 308 ridings.

There have been concerns that an unknown Guelph robocall user had access to the Conservative Party national voter identification database, known as "CIMS". The information from this database was used to target voters who identified themselves as voting against the Conservative Party.

Speaking at a presentation at the University of Guelph recently, Dr. Keefer said the 2011 election debacle affects us all.

“The tar sands have been ramped up. Line 9 reversal had been approved; violence used to suppress the Mic Mac opposition to Shell gas development and, two days ago the Stephen Harper government sent the RCMP to roundup demonstrators in B.C.

Dr. Keefer said Prime Minister Harper lied in parliament when he said it was just a small incident of electoral fraud in Guelph and, right-wing media commentators such as Michael Coren supported the Prime Minister's lies. He said that in 2012, Mr. Coren said some idiotic people are getting excited about a few silly phone calls.

However, Dr. Keefer said that based on data from two polling companies, his best estimate is that between 820,000 and 980,000 fraudulent phone calls were made.

Moreover, Dr. Keefer noted that an EKOS poll confirmed that non-Conservative voters were targeted by robocalls, over Conservative voters, and voters in contested ridings were targeted over those in less contested ridings. The president of EKOS described the result as "highly statistically significant and we can say with confidence that this is not an artifact of chance," and that "These results strongly suggest that significant voter-suppression activities took place that were targeted at non-Conservative voters."

In four of the six ridings, a poll conducted by Frank Graves of Ekos Research found the number of those who said they were prevented from voting by such bogus calls exceeded the winner’s margin of victory. And Dr. Keefer said that in10 or 11 ridings that went to the Conservatives; the margin of victory was less than 6,000 votes.

He added that the Conservative Party of Canada is gaming the system in such a manner that these people don't deserve to be in the House of Commons, let alone running Canada.

On 2 April 2013 Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona – who worked on the campaign of Conservative candidate Marty Burke in Guelph - was charged under section 491(3)d of the Canada Elections Act for preventing or trying to prevent a voter from casting a ballot, which carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.

Meanwhile, court documents filed by Allan Mathews, an investigator working for Canada Elections, say Andrew Prescott, the Conservatives' deputy campaign manager in Guelph, Ont., after one phone conversation, communicated through his lawyer he would not be participating in a sit-down interview.

CBC News reported that Mr. Prescott has a written guarantee "the Crown has no intention" of charging him in connection with the misleading phone calls, according to a source close to the case. The agreement- reached in December 2013 - says the Crown is interested in Mr. Prescott as a witness and not as an accused.

He was the main Conservative Party contact with RackNine, the company whose services were used to make the illicit calls. Mr. Burke's campaign used RackNine to make legitimate robocalls through Mr. Prescott's account. The misleading calls were made using a separate account, although Mr. Mathews – the Elections Canada investigator leading the probe – has traced the two accounts to the same computer.

Mr. Mathews states in an affidavit filed in court that the account assigned to Mr. Prescott and the account used to make the misleading robocalls both signed into RackNine in a single web session minutes apart. Moreover, Mr. Mathews also says in the affidavit to the court that he has an email showing Mr. Prescott sent the campaign's RackNine contact information to Mr. Sona and campaign manager Ken Morgan on April 30, 2011, one day before the unknown robocaller programmed the misleading calls.

A later Information to Obtain (ITO) to the court alleges that Mr. Prescott's account was accessed from an IP address belonging to Mr. Burke's campaign, around the same time as the unknown robocaller – who used the fictitious name Pierre Poutine – logged on from the same address, early on the morning of the Election Day.

Dr. Keefer said only one person has been charge in the robocall case and he thinks they've charged the wrong person.

“He's the only person in the campaign who could not have done it. The person given immunity to testify against this person is the likely suspect.”

In a civil case brought by the Council of Canadians on behalf of voters in six ridings, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley ruled that thousands of calls were made to hundreds of ridings across Canada; they were made to non-Conservative voters and callers falsely presented themselves as being from Elections Canada, and gave voters false information about where to vote. Judge Mosley ruled that it was a deliberate and systemic attempt to subvert the democratic process using the Conservative Party's CIIMS database.

Meanwhile, Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton, has instructed party workers not to discuss the events and Conservative Party headquarters is still under investigation by Elections Canada.

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