Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
OTTAWA—Elections Canada has revealed it is pursuing a massive investigation in five separate provinces of robo-calls that may have caused voters to go to the wrong polling station or not vote at all in the May 2, 2011, election.
Newly released documents show the probe of voter suppression calls has expanded to encompass 56 of the country’s 308 federal ridings. Previously, it had only been confirmed that Elections Canada was digging into dirty tricks in a single Ontario riding, Guelph.
It was the latest twist in a growing controversy that has led to accusations that widespread electoral fraud distorted the outcome of last year’s election and helped Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives win a majority government. The Conservatives have denied such accusations, saying they did not engage in any unethical activities during the 2011 campaign.
But by October, the elections commissioner had received 1,043 complaints about misleading phone calls, the court documents reveal. They also relate examples of voters across the country receiving calls from people claiming to be with Elections Canada who tried to direct them to a bogus voting station.
The commission has also received 857 complaints of harassing calls received by voters through the night, early in the morning or on a holiday from people claiming to be from a political party. Yet the real purpose of the annoying calls, it seems, was to anger voters.
“The wilful conduct of the caller(s) prevented or endeavoured to prevent electors from voting in the election,” Dickson wrote.
And he said the phone calls also attempted to cause voters to “refrain from voting from a particular candidate.”
The agency has requested phone records from service providers Shaw, Vidéotron and Rogers.
The new information on Elections Canada’s investigation was provided to Federal Court in connection with a legal action by constituents in several federal ridings. They are asking the court to throw out 2011 election results in six ridings won by the Tories on the grounds that misleading pre-recorded and live calls distorted the voting outcome in those ridings.
“We think this confirms what we have said from the beginning, that this is far more widespread than a rogue campaigner in the riding of Guelph, Ont.,” said Garry Neil, the council’s executive director.
Opposition MPs jumped on the new revelations and demanded the Conservatives co-operate with Elections Canada’s investigation.
“Guelph was clearly not an isolated incident,” Craig Scott, the New Democratic MP for Toronto-Danforth, said Friday in the Commons. “Newly released court documents reveal that voter suppression investigations have expanded far beyond Guelph.”
The Tories have said they are offering investigators their full co-operation. Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative MP for Nepean-Carleton, said on Friday his party has been working “proactively” with Elections Canada, adding, “We ran a clean and ethical campaign.”