Saturday, June 7, 2014

The cost of investigating the since-debunked robocalls conspiracy: $1.32 million – Elections Canada

The cost of investigating the since-debunked robocalls conspiracy: $1.32 million – Elections Canada

In 2013, I did my own robocalls investigation, but my investigation was focused on the merits of Elections Canada spending over $1 million investigating a hyper-inflated partisan myth. What I found in that investigation was shocking, and it called into question the neutrality, expertise, and competency of Elections Canada and the contractors it hired to conduct its investigation.

See the four-part robocalls investigation

A year later, Elections Canada agreed with me and concluded that there was no wrongdoing – no illegal “robocalls” during the 2011 election, except of course those for which the Liberal MP for Guelph was already fined. The final case regarding allegedly illegal robocalls in Guelph is currently before the courts.

As of February 2013, when I began my investigation, Elections Canada responded that the robocalls investigation had cost Canadians $779,891. That was split between the Policy, Planning, and Public Affairs Directorate ($177,016), the Commissioner's office ($323,986) and an additional $278,899 projected to be spent until the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

Now that the witch hunt is over, what was the cost of chasing a fantasy?

Yesterday I got my answer. As of May 14, 2014, Elections Canada has spent a whopping $1,323,755.60 investigating “nuisance phone calls,” including those in Guelph.

Elections Canada's latest response is broken down differently than its February 2013 response:

“All sectors except the Commissioner's office:” $281,850
Investigation Directorate: approximately $683,924.70*
Investigation Directorate: $357,980.99*

*Does NOT include “the salaries of indeterminate staff, nor does it include the Commissioner's honourariums.”

That means the cost of investigating the robocalls almost doubled between April 1, 2013 and May 2014.

Elections Canada did not make it clear what additional costs were forecast to be expended during the currently-occurring Guelph robocalls trial. Their response also raises questions about how many indeterminate (full-time) staff worked on the robocalls investigation, considering Elections Canada out-sourced its investigation to private contractors with known political affiliations.

More updates will be posted once I receive a response from Elections Canada.