Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The smoking gun that never was

When news broke last week that there were misleading “robocalls” placed to a few ridings on the federal Election Day, it barely took two seconds for the accusations to start flying.  And mysteriously fly in one direction they did.

“The largest electoral fraud in Canadian history” the NDP screamed.

The Liberals said this was a “Nixonian culture” created by the Prime Minister, a reference to the former U.S. President who resigned after his campaign workers were caught breaking into the Opposition’s offices to dig up dirt.

It was one clear direction in which the accusations were flying, and that was towards the Conservatives.

But I’m proud to have seen so many Canadians stand up and not buy the left’s rhetoric.  They preferred to ask the common sense question: “is there any proof of the Conservatives doing this?”

Such a question, ironically, has been met with confusion and will be the NDP’s and Liberal’s ultimate undoing of their empty rhetoric.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Parliamentary Secretary Dean Del Mastro have repeatedly told the NDP and Liberals: if you have evidence, give it to Elections Canada and the RCMP.  Let them do their investigation.

The continued unsubstantiated screams from the left side of the House are the ultimate revelation of the Opposition’s response to the Prime Minister’s simple yet smart challenge: do you have evidence?

Indeed, one week after the original story broke, the only thing we know is that we know surprisingly little, and we most certainly cannot label any one party or person as being responsible.  But let’s review what we do know:

1. Brian Lilley of Sun News has obtained the original Access to Information Request which was used by Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher to break the story last week.  In its 190 pages of documentation, only three pages describe the complaints about the “robocall” issue.  The rest describe issues such as the RCMP responding to a closed polling station because the Clerk and Returning Officer wanted to go for dinner.  But in those three pages of information on the robocalls, here’s the kicker: Elections Canada acknowledges

“There was no conduct reported that would bring into question the integrity of the election result overall or the result in a particular riding. Although misconduct was reported in several ridings, there is no complaint that it affected the final result. There is some speculation in the media that the dirty tricks may have affected the result in some close contests.”

They even say the misleading robocalls are “legal but seen as ‘unfair’ by candidates.”  But of course, we haven't heard of this essential statement because it entirely disproves the NDP's and Liberal's claims.

So from where is all that “evidence” stemming from which the media has used since this original ATI request?  From “evidence” gathered by the NDP and Liberals themselves!

2. We know that what I said last week was true: the media and the Opposition gravely libeled Michael Sona, with no evidence whatsoever that he was the one responsible for the calls.  Indeed, the Globe and Mail reported Sona’s name “just started circulating.”  Got it?  Someone, somewhere picked up that Sona had resigned from his office, for who knows what reason, and they ran with it.

3. Even some of the state broadcaster’s (the CBC’s) main personalities are refusing to report such garbage slander against the Conservatives.  Rick Mercer, in his February 28, 2012 rant, refused to say the Conservatives were the ones behind the robocalls.  He only described the event as someone from Edmonton calling supporters - of all parties - with a phone registered in Quebec.  Peter Mansbridge, meanwhile, questioned CBC journalist Terry Milewski on whether there was anything at all implying Conservative involvement.  Milewski responded “nothing at all.”  These two examples are refreshing in a time when the CBC has already made up its mind that it will report the Conservatives were responsible, regardless of any evidence (and lack thereof).

4. We have first-hand reports from Conservatives who worked in the war room’s call centre.  John Lietaer was the Conservative war room manager for the May 2011 election and recounts the stringent accountability standards; the importance of privacy; and even an Accountability Officer available to the war room at all times.  Lietaer does an excellent job of dispelling each of the three separate issues being blended together by the Opposition, and describing what actually happened in the Conservative war room.

5. We also have first-hand accounts of employees of the call centres contracted by the Conservatives who admit they: changed scripts on their own, without the knowledge of their superiors or the party; were clearly instructed to identify themselves as representatives of the “Conservative Party of Canada;” and witnessed some of their co-workers deciding on their own to falsely say they were calling from Elections Canada.  Of course, the left-leaning Toronto Star chooses to spin this into saying the Conservatives were the ones falsely identifying themselves as Elections Canada.  Did they not just sentences earlier acknowledge these call centre employees acted without the authorization of the Conservatives?

5. Part 20 of the Canada Elections Act lays out the procedure for contesting the legality of an election.  There are two ways for an election to be declared void by a judge: (1) the elected person was not eligible to be a candidate; or (2) “there were irregularities, fraud or corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result of the election” (s. 524).  But there is of course a statute of limitations: the Act says it’s the later of 30 days after either a) the election result is published in the Canada Gazette; or b) the claimant became aware of the supposed fraud or irregularity (s. 527).  The CBC reported on May 2, 2011 that there were suspicious calls going out to supporters of all parties, in several ridings, and clarified that Elections Canada was not behind these calls.  So the 30-day limit begins on May 2, 2011.  Game over, NDP.  Or, if we want to be really generous and say we only became aware of these allegations last week, that leaves the claimant until mid-March 2012 to make a claim of electoral fraud in court.  But, you know, that’s just the law.

We should also consider that Elections Canada already declared there was nothing suspicious about the May 2011 election which would have affected any one riding or the overall result (see point one).  These calls for byelections in 50+ ridings are purely bogus.  Byelections, by law, are for when sitting MP’s resign before the next national election date.

6. Very little is known about the person who orchestrated these calls.  We know that:
a)      someone, using the fake name Pierre Poutine, purchased a disposable pay-as-you-go Virgin Mobile cell phone with cash in Joliette, Quebec.
b)      That person used RackNine’s services, without the knowledge of RackNine’s owner.
c)      The calls went through RackNine to some voters, in some ridings, who supported all parties (not just one).
7. There is widespread confusion and a blending of the issues taking place in the media and by the Opposition.  There are actually three separate issues relating to calls made around the election, as Lietaer laid out in his articleSome calls were of course made by Conservatives. Our party acknowledges that as the legitimate voter contact and get-out-the-vote process.  But blending those calls into the robocalls issue is a desperate attempt to grasp at any possible link when one does not in fact exist.

Why are we not questioning the Liberals or NDP on their involvement in any of these calls?

What does this all mean?  It means while the NDP, Liberals, and media have flapped their arms frantically in the air, with sensationalist “electoral fraud” allegations, they actually have no evidence whatsoever.  In fact, NDP MP Pat Martin was already threatened with a libel charge, after he slandered RackNine CEO Matt Meier without any evidence. Time will tell if the NDP produces that evidence or backs away from such a claim.

Luckily, some Canadians and media outlets have firmly held their ground and asked the common sense question: is there any evidence of Conservative involvement before we go accusing them of “election fraud”?
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to pull the facts from biased media sources when they’re surrounded by hundreds of inflammatory assumptions.  Luckily, I’ve managed.

All parties need to cooperate with Elections Canada and the RCMP to get to the bottom of this.  The media can help by backing off and allowing these nonpartisan organizations to conduct their investigation, and come back with an answer, if possible, about who is responsible.

But for right now, it’s the left-wing Opposition making inflammatory claims without evidence, and much of the media happily providing the soapbox.  It’s the smoking gun that never was.