Elections commissioner halts robocalls probe, says evidence lacking

Elections commissioner halts robocalls probe, says evidence lacking

Elections Canada releases its report


OTTAWA – A three-year investigation into allegations of fraudulent robocalls during the last federal election has found no evidence of intent to deceive voters nor any evidence of an orchestrated scheme beyond Guelph, Ont.

A long-awaited report from commissioner of elections Yves Cote will come as vindication for the Conservative party, which has faced a cloud of suspicion for years over widespread reports of non-party supporters being directed to the wrong polling stations in the final days and hours of the hard-fought May 2, 2011, vote.

“Having carefully examined all of the evidence, the commissioner found no reasonable grounds to believe that an offence under the (Elections) Act has been committed,” Cote’s 32-page report, posted Thursday, flatly asserts.

The conclusion is supported by an independent review by Louise Charron, a former Supreme Court justice who was paid by Elections Canada for her expert opinion.

Cote’s investigation is separate from robocall allegations during the same election in Guelph, where Michael Sona faces Elections Act charges for his alleged role in calls that impersonated Elections Canada.

Despite tens of thousands of citizen complaints after media reports surfaced regarding the investigation in 2012, the commissioner said it all boiled down to 1,726 complainants in 261 electoral districts.

“Overall, no discernible pattern of misdirection, such as a predominant calling number or constellation of predominant calling numbers, was noted that would suggest a potential breach of the Act,” the report says.

That is not to say some citizens weren’t sent to the wrong polling stations.

Cote castigates the Conservative party for going ahead with calls to electors informing them of their polling station after Elections Canada had expressly told all parties not to do so. And his report states these calls went ahead “despite, at least in the case of one party, their knowledge that a small percentage of electors would be given incorrect information.”

Elsewhere in the report that party is identified as the Conservative Party of Canada.

That has some critics, including the watchdog group Democracy Watch, saying Cote should have referred the matter to prosecutors to let them ascertain whether charges were warranted.

However the report states that “it is not sufficient to find evidence of misdirection of an elector. There must be evidence of intention to prevent the elector from voting, or by some pretence or contrivance, to induce the elector to vote or not vote for a particular candidate.

“No such evidence was found.”

Cote says as a result, he won’t be referring the matter to the federal director of public prosecutions and the investigation is effectively over.

The report says the investigation was complicated by the amount of time it took for many people to report the suspicious calls, which caused memories to fade. Extensive media coverage may have also coloured recollections, says the report.

And potential witnesses and certain “entities” also did not fully co-operate with investigators.

“A significant amount of investigative effort was used in attempting to obtain the co-operation of individuals, political parties, telemarketers and telephone service providers,” says the report.

“Those who agreed to co-operate sometimes took considerable time to come to that decision or to schedule a response to investigators’ requests for meetings; in some cases, they declined to co-operate fully.”

Cote says Elections Canada needs the power to compel testimony — something the Conservative government left out of its controversial new elections overhaul despite calls last year for increased investigative powers.

Charron, in a four-page appendix to the report, mentions the “inordinate delays and at times inexplicable resistance to providing the requested information,” to investigators.

“I am unable to say if the result of this investigation might have been different in a world where none of these investigative challenges existed,” concludes the former Supreme Court justice.

“My overall sense is that it would not be.”

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Elections commissioner halts robocalls probe, says evidence lacking

  1. So dodging, weaving and stonewalling has paid dividends to the CPC.

    Between the outcome from this testing of the water, and the “Fair” Elections Act, we can only expect to see an increase in this type of behaviour.

  2. He has control of all the levers and can bring all the negatives into line and push the buttons he needs. Robocalls, Duffy/Wright, PBO, Maynard, The Commissioner, and the military dutifully showing up for Conservative Party photo ops. Lots more!

  3. The real losers in all of this, are the voters, who didn’t get to see the truth of what really happened on election night of 2011. We still didn’t get to the bottom of this sorry situation because of stone walling by the cons with their high paid lawyers using witness suppression tactics to keep witnesses from testifying..

    • 2015 won’t resemble anything like the normal free, fair, and open election we’ve known in the past. The Wild West. No controls on the rules, the money or the advertising. Crippled Elections Canada, crippled Commissioner, advertising free for all.

  4. Unbeliveable! One week we are called in Sarnia asking if we are supporting Pat Davidson, the Conservative candidate. Two weeks later, we are robocalled with false info about the polling centre being moved. And there is no evidence?

  5. interesting….

  6. suprising