Monday, May 6, 2013

Part 3: Elections Canada breaking its own political neutrality rules to hire robocalls investigators

My investigation into what’s really happening in the “robocalls” investigation has revealed a botched investigation and openly partisan individuals partaking in what must absolutely be an independent, non-partisan investigation.

My research has required the extensive use of Access to Information requests, the most recent of which was responded to last week.

Thus, I bring you part three of the investigation into what’s really happening in the robocalls investigation:

I asked:

“According to Elections Canada's Procurement and Contracting Guide (Version 1, September 1, 2011):

"In some cases, in order to achieve such political neutrality, it is necessary to restrict contractors who provide goods and services to Elections Canada from being engaged in politically partisan activities and from performing work for or on behalf of a political party, a candidate or a person, body, agency or institution with politically partisan purposes or objectives where the performance of such work raises a reasonable apprehension of political partisanship."

1.      What steps were taken by Elections Canada to ensure this guideline was followed in the hiring of "robocalls" investigators?

2.      What steps were taken by Elections Canada when it was revealed that these investigators were financially linked to the Liberal Party of Canada and Bloc Quebecois?"

As previously reported, Elections Canada already has guidelines in place to handle the political partisanship of its employees and contractors.  And it makes sense, considering the need to balance their employees’ rights with their responsibilities to be neutral, non-partisan individuals.

In response to question one, Elections Canada provided one copy of one contract – between Elections Canada and John Dickson Professional Corporation.  Indeed, despite several other contractors also being contracted to investigate robocalls, Elections Canada felt one example was sufficient:

Specifically, Annex C (Article 24 on page 37) deals with the contractor’s conflict of interest.  That the contractor is bound to follow Elections Canada’s Procurement and Contracting Guide should be there, right?

Shockingly, no.  Section 24.02 – No Conflict of Interest deals with the contractor “influencing” or “seeking to influence” an Elections Canada decision “knowing that the decision might further its private interest.”  The contractor is also not to have any financial interest in a third party (e.g. a political party), but I’m doubtful donations to a political party could be considered having “financial interest” in a political party.

The result: Elections Canada's own policy ensuring only politically neutral individuals are hired isn't being followed.

(Another interesting part of the investigators’ contracts: according to s. 9.01.01, Elections Canada’s “facilities, equipment, documentation, and personnel are not automatically at the disposal of the Contractor,” which sounds like most of these robocalls investigations are being done from home.)

In response to question two: Elections Canada’s response is quite simple: “no records can be located.”

The absolute disregard for its own policies and regulations just becomes ever more obvious.  Elections Canada has a clear policy which states in some cases its contractors and employees can be legally barred from being politically partisan.

Yet we have several contractors working on an investigation supposedly essential to Canada’s democracy, and they’re openly, financially supporting the Bloc Quebecois and Liberals!  This information isn’t groundbreaking – it’s data found in Elections Canada’s own contributor’s database!

What good are their rules if they’re not followed through self governance?

Is Elections Canada so incompetent that its contracting agents were unaware of their responsibilities to hire only non-partisan investigators?  Or were partisan contractors purposely hired to investigate the Conservative Party?

Are these responses acceptable to you? Has Elections Canada fulfilled their obligations in responding with open, accessible, transparent information related to the original questions I asked?

If not, you can help by submitting your own ATI request or by donating money to keep this investigation going.  ATI requests cost $5.00 each, which is a nominal amount, but it adds up after repeated and deliberate stonewalling to avoid answering the questions being asked.