McMaher and CBC's Terry Milewski reported last week on the release of internal emails between an alarmed Elections Canada and a stonewalling Con Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton. Turns out EC officials' were reporting on a robocall "scam" in a "dozen ridings" across "at least 6 provinces", starting three days before the last election.
Four months later Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was still publicly referring to them as "crank calls".
"Ever since the scandal broke, the Conservative line has been it was just a rogue operation in one riding, in Guelph of course, and that otherwise they ran a clean and ethical campaign. So no systematic campaign by the central party as a whole - that's the point of their position."
"Elections Canada kept track of the complainants' caller ID of the people who phoned in saying : hey I'm getting these crazy calls - what's going on? Check your caller ID - what's the number? Where did these calls come from?
And they called those numbers -the whole list of them all over the country, different area codes, all over - and guess what? The same voice was on the voicemail of all of them which said : " Thank you for calling the Conservative Party."
So all of that suggests that this was not one rogue operation in Guelph but it was a wider scheme to suppress votes."
Uh oh. Time for a new Con defence position :
No evidence anyone failed to vote due to misleading calls, say the 6 Con MPs facing a separate legal challenge to their respective election victories
The Cons have apparently given up claiming innocence in election fraud and are now just going with "no harm, no foul"- an illegal move ignored by the ref because in his opinion it didn't change the outcome of the play.
Now here's "no harm no foul" again - this time from the Commissioner of Elections Canada as he dismisses a citizen's complaint that US rightwing Front Porch Strategies violated the Non-interference by Foreigners clause of the Canada Elections Act when they went door-knocking and manned phonebanks in a Canadian campaign office.
After stating that it's just too darn difficult to investigate voter interference by foreigners because they're foreigners, the Commissioner concluded:
"No complaint to this office provided a basis to believe that any elector was actually induced or affected in their voting behavior due to the activity complained of. It is the Commissioner's view that ... it is not in the public interest to pursue this further."
No harm, no foul ever, apparently, in the case of foreign interference.
RoboCon Pilot Project Flashback : Environmentalist Briony Penn lost the 2008 election when taped robocalls advised Saanich Gulf Islanders on the eve of the election to vote for a candidate who had very publicly dropped out 3 weeks earlier. Seems 3700 voters did just that, likely throwing the election to Con MP Gary Lunn who consequently won by a 2,625 vote margin.
Ok, some harm there for sure, huh? Definitely a foul.
Wait for it ...
Elections Canada stated it had "...found no one who had actually been influenced in their vote because of the purported telephone call, nor was he [the Elections Canada representative] able to identify the source or the person or persons who actually made the calls."
Our riding association and the citizens' groups continued to push Elections Canada for over a year. My last personal email inquiry elicited this response in March of 2010: "In this case, this Office examined thoroughly the complaints received and advised the complainants that there is no evidence that the Canada Elections Act has been contravened."
No harm, no foul, another big dollup of we-couldn't-figure-it-out-so-screw-it, and hence no mention of it in the Elections Canada 2008 report.
Democracy Watch would like to know what happened in 3,000 other rulings EC has made over the last 15 years and they have a letter and petition calling for "a law to stop false election robocalls and strengthen election law enforcement".