|Prime Minister Harper posing with Guelph Conservative|
Campaign organizer Michael Sona, who is under investigation.
Back in October 2008, complaints were filed after that federal election, making a small splash in the media at the time and quickly forgotten. Elections Canada investigated the specific issue of fraudulent "robo-calls" made to Saanich Gulf-Islands residents on the evening before the October 14, 2008 election.
The calls came from an unknown source but "spoofed" the caller ID showing the phone number of the NDP campaign organizer. They urged voters to vote for Julian West of the NDP, although Mr. West had dropped out of the campaign, too late for his name to be taken off the ballot and too late for the NDP to nominate another candidate. It is believed by many that these calls may have affected the vote enough to ensure Conservative Gary Lunn's win against Liberal Briony Penn, but Elections Canada does not agree. They ruled that they had no proof that anyone had been influenced in their vote and admitted that their investigator could not determine the person or persons who made the call. In Elections Canada's final report on the 2008 federal election, while many issues and problems are mentioned, the complaints around the Saanich-Gulf Islands fraudulent calls nor the agency's failure to find the perpetrators of these calls is mentioned anywhere in the report.
Check this out on Chirbit
A recording of the 2008 robo-call provided by a Mayne Island resident who received it.
A Mayne Island resident who received the robo-call spoke with investigator Tim Charbonneau of Elections Canada and was told by Mr. Charbonneau that they had no way and no hope of ever tracing the call. If this was the case in 2008, it appears that somehow Elections Canada has been able to improve on that in 2011 because they identified the Conservative-linked firm that placed a robo-call going to a Guelph riding and also tracked it to an obvious bogus name, Pierre Poutine of Separatist St, Joliet Quebec.
Former candidate Briony Penn believes that "[n]one of this today would have happened if we had an Elections Canada that had properly investigated, had clamped [down] on any of the loopholes if they indeed even existed,” the Salt Spring Island resident said. “Why is it that we can uncover spy rings and WikiLeaks can do this, and we can’t find one little source of a robocaller? I mean, that was ridiculous. We don’t know what the investigation consisted of. And we can’t get that information.”
Saanich-Gulf Islands MP, Elizabeth May, who defeated Gary Lunn in the 2011 election alleges that more attempts at misleading voters through phone calls were made during that election and believes that the 2008 robo-calls were a trial run for the more extensive fraudulent calling that occurred in 2011.
|Former CRD Director for the Southern Gulf Islands, Ken|
Hancock reports that he received a suspicious call in May 2011
There have been media reports of 3 whistle-blowers who worked for the telemarketing firm Responsive Management Group who have said they filed complaints in May 2011 with both the RCMP and Elections Canada regarding what they felt was misdirection to voters that they were ordered to make around telling them of polling station changes. The firm is now under investigation by Elections Canada and has done millions of dollars of business with the Conservative Party of Canada. Responsive Marketing Group (RMG) is identified, both in their Canadian and US operations as working for both Conservative and Republican candidates in elections and in fund-raising. A long-time Conservative organizer and strategist named Stewart Braddick is connected to both RMG and the US affiliate Target Outreach.
In the House of Commons, our Prime Minister, whose party has pled guilty to breaking election laws and paid a fine and whose party has been sanctioned by the speaker for making misleading robo-calls into Liberal MP Irwin Cotler's riding, has denounced the whole affair as an "unsubstantiated smear campaign" by sore losers.
To those who have received these calls both across Canada in 2011 and in Saanich-Gulf Islands in 2008, they have evidence of attempts at voter suppression and illegal actions as defined by the Canada Elections Act. Stephen Harper should be showing Canadians that he takes these issues very seriously rather than playing at hyperbolic rhetorical games during Question Period and slandering those who are honestly complaining and want to see some action against those who committed these crimes against our democracy.
Update March 5th: Former Liberal candidate Briony Penn, who ran against Conservative Gary Lunn in Saanich-Gulf Islands in 2008 and came within 2500 votes of winning has written a piece published in the Ottawa Citizen today. She talks about her campaign's complaints to Elections Canada around the robo-calls that occurred here and what she considered insufficient follow-up from the federal agency.
I was the first robocalls victim by Briony Penn
My name is Briony Penn — I am a journalist and lecturer, and I ran as a political candidate in the 2008 federal election. My other claim to fame is apparently being the first “victim” of illegal robocalls.
We tried to warn Canadians what was coming up in the next election, but our complaints were inadequately investigated by Elections Canada and ignored by most media. If they had been investigated properly, then the outcome of the 2011 election may well have looked very different.
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