OTTAWA – Seven Conservative MPs are seeking a combined $355,907 from a group of voters who went to court and lost their bid to overturn election results in their federal ridings because of misleading robocalls.
A document recently filed in Federal Court says the Tories are asking for a “modest fixed amount” in legal fees plus disbursements.
The Conservative MPs — Joyce Bateman, Kelly Block, Lawrence Toet, Jay Aspin, John Duncan, Ryan Leef and Joe Daniel — say they are asking for far less money than they could have sought.
“The total figure arrived at represents only a small fraction of the actual costs incurred by the respondent parliamentarians, to which they were otherwise entitled,” the court document says.
“The total figure has been further reduced, as the respondent parliamentarians have claimed only for costs related directly to the preparation of written submissions and the attendance of counsel, while forgoing all other costs for purposes of the calculation.”
But the Council of Canadians — which bankrolled the voters’ Federal Court case — balked at the request.
“This is an outrageous amount to request, given that the judge found that voter suppression did occur and that the Conservative party database was the likely source of the call lists,” Garry Neil, executive director of the Council of Canadians, said in a statement.
Each of the applications included a $1,000 security against costs, he added.
“Seeking over $350,000 is shameful, given the applicants were serving the public interest in this case.”
A Federal Court judge concluded last month that fraud was a factor in the misleading calls, but not enough of one to justify overturning the result.
The ruling cleared the Conservative party and its candidates of any effort to mislead voters, but said the most likely source of information used to make the misleading calls was the party’s voter database.
In his nearly 100-page ruling, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley also chided the Conservatives for holding up the robocalls court case, accusing them of engaging in “trench warfare in an effort to prevent this case from coming to a hearing on the merits.”
He also took the Conservative party to task for making “little effort to assist with the investigation at the outset.”
“While it was begrudgingly conceded during oral argument that what occurred was ‘absolutely outrageous,’ the record indicates that the stance taken by the respondent MPs from the outset was to block these proceedings by any means,” Mosley wrote.
Initially, the results in seven federal ridings were contested, but the one in Don Valley East was later dropped because the woman challenging the result didn’t actually live in the riding.
The Conservatives argue that since Daniel was awarded costs when the court challenge against him was dismissed, all seven applications should be awarded costs.
The other six ridings in question were Vancouver Island North in British Columbia; Yukon; Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan; Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba; and Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario.