Friday, November 2, 2012

Real answers are needed in Elections Canada’s incompetent robocall investigation


Embattled former Conservative staffer Michael Sona had his first sit-down interview with Evan Solomon on the CBC’s Power and Politics this week.

Regardless of your perspective on the “robocalls” scandal (if there is one) you have to admit that a Conservative giving an interview to the openly hostile and anti-conservative state broadcaster was a feat to overcome in itself.

Sona answered questions on Conservative candidate Marty Burke’s campaign in Guelph, including Sona’s communications role, unauthorized polling stations at the University of Guelph, and – plainly – whether Sona was the imagined “Pierre Poutine.”

But there was one gaping hole in Solomon’s interview: it still assumes that any of these calls were done by Conservatives.

Sona confirmed he was not in any way involved in fraudulent calls within the first 30 seconds of the interview.  Yet for the next 20 minutes Solomon grilled Sona as if he or his party was.

Are you Pierre Poutine?  No.  Did you conduct fraudulent robocalls?  No.  Sona didn’t even have access to the database to be able to conduct these calls – again, assuming it even came from a Conservative.

Then again, Sona was already cleared from any wrongdoing months ago when Elections Canada recognized they had misattributed quotes to Sona, leaving absolutely no evidence against him.  Woops.

Thus, the entire interview was premised on old news which was disproved ages ago. It’d be like having a debate in 2012 about whether dinosaurs still exist or whether the Earth is flat.

What about some current news which could have been discussed?  Canadians need real answers to real questions regarding what has been revealed to be an entirely fake scandal.

In Solomon’s entire interview with Sona, not once did he remind viewers that the Guelph Liberals have already been fined for illegal robocalls.  In those deceptive robocalls, a female caller with a fake name attempted to solicit fear against the Conservative candidate for his views on abortion.  There was no identification as the Liberal campaign, there was no “Lori McDonald,” and they used a fake phone number with a prepaid, “burner cellphone” which was disposed of after the calls were made.  The Guelph Liberal MP behind those calls also may have slipped in admitting these calls targeted Conservatives.

All of these are mysteriously similar – if not identical – characteristics of the illegal calls now being investigated.  Why are we not exploring whether they also targeted other voters with their claims that a polling station or two had moved? It’s not a far stretch.

Some other questions Canadians deserve to have answered relate directly to the gross incompetence of Elections Canada in the handling of these claims.

Elections Canada became aware of misleading calls in Guelph on May 2, 2011 – the day of the election.

That’s 551 days and counting.  What have they accomplished?

Sona has been told the Elections Canada investigation has been completed and the report is written.  Where is that report?  What does it say?  Why hasn’t it been released?  When will it be released?

How many millions of taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted on chasing an innocent person?

Tales of call centre employees who knew what was “really” going on have been revealed to be completely false.  How much money has been spent on investigating legitimate leads?

How many Guelph Liberals have been interviewed on their role in illegal phone calls?

How many Guelph NDP staffers have been interviewed on their role in illegal phone calls?  And other fringe parties?

How many anarchist, anti-government, and obstructive leftist organizations have been interviewed on whether they had a role in illegal phone calls?

How many Elections Canada officials have been interviewed on whether they sent out legitimate notices of poll changes, only to have that message conflict with what senior managers intended to communicate?  We already know rogue Elections officials love doing things without authorization from their bosses.  Some of them completely close polling stations to go for dinner; some of them open up unauthorized, illegitimate polls on university campuses; and others take ballot boxes for a joy ride in their personal vehicle.

Michael Sona’s name was cleared months ago.  Now it’s time to focus our attention on the gross incompetence of Elections Canada in opening, investigating, and closing a straightforward investigation, and whether they should even have the authority to do this in the future.