Message of the day
Michael Sona is not Pierre Poutine.
Questions not answered
- Who is behind the illegal robo-calls in Guelph?
Evan Solomon had an exclusive interview with Michael Sona, a former campaign worker from Guelph who was once fingered as being “Pierre Poutine,” the originator of misleading robo-calls. Sona categorically denied that he was “Pierre Poutine,” and thought that he was named because of the other controversy from Guelph during the election, which was around the seizure of an improper ballot box on campus. Sona denied having any additional knowledge about who was responsible, but said that he resigned his job as a staffer for an MP because the media attention made it impossible for him to do his job and was bringing undue attention to the MP.
With regards to specific allegations, Sona said that he did not have access to the Conservative voter database – CIMS – or to RackNine, the company that did the calling, though he did script some legitimate robo-calls. He noted that Andrew Prescott, another figure from the campaign who did have access to both CIMS and RackNine, wasn’t always careful about logging off his computer, but said that Prescott told him that he wasn’t responsible, and he had no reason to believe otherwise. With regards to the campus incident, Sona said he was acting on instructions from party headquarters, but felt uncomfortable about the confrontation that happened.
“I’m not going to take the fall for something I didn’t do,” Sona said, and added that all of the anonymous sources in the world won’t change that. He said that the incident has shown him who his friends are after so many people abandoned him amidst the accusations. Some of his statements, such as the involvement of Nick Kouvalis and his treatment by Sun News, sparked Twitter exchanges that were read out on air. Sona said it wasn’t credible to believe that he could have coordinated such a “massive scheme,” especially when he didn’t have the needed access.
Later on, P&P’s Power Panel weighed in, where Stephen Maher said that Sona was convincing on camera and put forward a persuasive case. He added that Elections Canada is secretive in their investigations, which has made for a frustrating 18 months of investigation, but they need to be extremely thorough because of the strict sentencing requirements in the Elections Act. Jennifer Ditchburn noted that Sona believes the robo-calling is part of a bigger scheme as opposed to being an isolated incident, and that the party has a habit of throwing staffers under the bus. Tim Powers said that Sona was trying to present himself as credible but wasn’t sure that the interview cleared anything up as it raised new questions. Ian Capstick noted that it was interesting that Elections Canada would tell Sona that they had cleared him, but that we should give him the benefit of the doubt as others rushed out not to.
On Power Play, Don Martin spoke to immigration minister Jason Kenney about his announcement about making it easier for foreign students to stay, while freezing other levels once again. Kenney said that the Canada Experience Class invites foreign students and qualified temporary foreign workers to stay in Canada, because research shows that immigrants who succeed best are those who are younger, with Canadian degrees and work experience, and with good English and French language skills. Kenney said he is sick and tired of bringing over immigrants who become unemployed or underemployed because they can’t get their credentials recognized.
Martin’s MP panel of Jinny Sims, Stella Ambler, and Sean Casey then weighed in on the changes. Casey said that Kenney’s constant focus on negative stories around immigration, like crackdowns on fraud, is becoming a blot to our international reputation. Sims said that Kenney ignored the opportunity to address a flaw in the system around family reunification, and that the focus remains on temporary foreign workers instead of nation building. Ambler said that they have increased family reunification spots, and that these students are the kinds of immigrants we want to retain.
After today’s release of the Cohen Commission report on Sockeye salmon stocks, Marin spoke to Stewart Hawthorn of the BC Salmon Farmer’s Association. While there was no smoking gun in the report, Martin asked about the notion that aquaculture may be a contributing factor, which Hawthorn didn’t agree with. Hawthorn said the concerns were more around climate change, and that fish farmers were actually part of the solution because they take pressure off of the wild stocks. While there was a suggested moratorium of fish farms, Hawthorn insisted it was a need for precaution and more research in one small area.
Later, Power Play’s journalists panel of Robert Fife and Stephanie Marin were asked about the report. Fife said that the Cohen pointed to the dichotomy where the salmon fishing industry is regulated by the same department that is supposed to promote the fishery – much like the same situation with Agriculture and CFIA. Marin noted that the report pointed to the need for more research, which the NDP brought up in QP today.
On the day that a National Post poll said that Justin Trudeau would win a majority government, and that Denis Coderre declared that he was not running for leadership while he contemplates a run for mayor of Montreal, Martin spoke with Jane Taber from the Globe and Mail, Barry Cooper from the University of Calgary, and former Liberal Party national director Steve MacKinnon. Cooper said that Albertans would shake their head a Trudeau-led government, but the leadership timing gives the Conservatives a couple of years to frame their version of him. Taber sounded caution around trusting these polls, but noted that the Liberals may start looking to Trudeau as a Messiah figure because of them. She also noted that Trudeau has the capacity to raise enough money to counter Conservative ads. MacKinnon said that they could draw a couple of conclusions from the poll, which is that people are looking for something other than what is currently on offer.
Martin later asked his journalist panel about Coderre’s announcement. Marin said that for a few months, there has been the sense that Coderre was leaning more towards the mayoralty than the Liberal leadership, and that he wouldn’t admit to staying out because of Trudeau. Fife said that Coderre is a master politician, and was a good cabinet minister, who has a real chance at becoming mayor of Montreal in the midst of this corruption scandal.
Power Play’s MP panel also looked at the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement. Casey noted that they only got a briefing at committee and they wanted more time to hear from experts. Ambler said the agreement is a good thing that levels the playing field. Sims noted that they debated the Free Trade Agreement with Jordan (though a FIPA is not a market access agreement like an FTA), and she was concerned the process has been so secretive.
A private members’ bill passed the House that would make it an additional offence to wear a mask during a riot. Evan Solomon spoke to an MP panel of the bill’s sponsor, Blake Richards, along with Françoise Boivin and Irwin Cotler. Richards said that police said that they have difficulty identifying those who go to peaceful assemblies with the tools of destruction. Boivin said that she doesn’t think the police needs another tool, though they may have a problem applying current laws around masks. Boivin added that the bill shifts the burden of proof, which will create court challenges. Cotler said that rioting is already an indictable offence, and that “lawful excuse” is an overly broad term that invites a Charter challenge.
P&P’s Power Panel also touched on this issue, where Capstick said that he doesn’t agree with his party and that masks should be banned. Ditchburn noted that it’s already illegal to wear a disguise while committing an offence, while Powers noted that this bill appeals to those who faced the riots in Vancouver. Maher said that defence lawyers are probably looking forward to challenging this law in court.
Solomon spoke with reporter Sasa Petricic, who has just returned from Northern Syria. Petricic said that the Free Syrian Army is not monolithic, and are fighting the modern government arm with handguns and Kalashnikovs and are re-using bullets and making makeshift explosives. He said that at this point, the government couldn’t re-take the city of Aleppo, and that they are acting more like guerrillas with their strikes because they can’t re-take the territory. Petricic also spoke about the government forces firing on people lining up for bread, and the fact that civilians simply can’t afford to leave the area.