Easy to ignore: today’s election fraud ruling

So, while we were all freaking out about Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, and Rob Ford, the Federal Court today made a ruling in the Robocalls case launched by voters in six ridings with the support of the Council of Canadians.

It’s really long, and I skimmed through some of the more repetitive stuff, but there were some key findings.  The biggest:

I am satisfied that is [sic] has been established that misleading calls about the locations of polling stations were made to electors in ridings across the country, including the subject ridings,and that the purpose of those calls was to suppress the votes of electors who had indicated their voting preference in response to earlier voter identification calls.

And:

I am satisfied, however, that the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the CIMS database maintained and controlled by the CPC, accessed for that purpose by a person or persons currently unknown to this Court. There is no evidence to indicate that the use of the CIMS database in this manner was approved or condoned by the CPC. Rather the evidence points to elaborate efforts to conceal the identity of those accessing the database and arranging for the calls to be made.

So, basically, whoever Pierre Poutine actually was (the ruling suggests this may have been a group of volunteers), there is no evidence this person was acted on behalf of the CPC or any of its candidates, but there is evidence that he/she/they used the CPC’s CIMS database.  If you want more elaborate detail on how they are alleged to do this, it starts on page 63 of the ruling and is quite interesting.  It’s surprising to me that they were able to determine the IP address from which the data was accessed, but not which user login was used – unless there was a single login for all users… that’s not clear in the ruling.

The rest of the ruling went on to say that there was not enough evidence that the results of the election, or the public’s confidence in the elections process, were altered significantly enough to overturn the election results.  On the latter issue, the court suggested that Elections Canada is in the process of doing all the things it’s allowed to do under the Act to solve this – which seems reasonable enough to me, provided they get any sort of co-operation on the matter.

None of this is particularly incriminating of the Conservative Party of Canada — which, frankly, I’m kind of relieved by.  Our political situation is bad enough right now, we don’t need political parties actively engaging in electoral fraud.  It’s still rather disturbing overall though – in the very best circumstances this was a rogue volunteer who deliberately committed electoral fraud on a scale never before seen in this country.  This is shameful, as is the fact that we still have no idea, over two years later, who this person might be.

What does worry me, though, is the scolding the “respondent MPs” (six Conservative MPs elected in the affected ridings) received from the judge.  Judges aren’t known for criticising people needlessly in rulings, but in this case the behaviour of the MPs in response to this case was both reprehensible and relevant to the decisions made.

The respondent MPs launched a significant number of procedural challenges with the case, which caused significant delay – something the judge notes is not generally acceptable in matters such as this, so he felt the need to explain why it took so long (it was, for the most part, a result of these procedural moves).  One specific example was with respect to an expert witness put forward by the applicants – the efforts here are so petty it’s embarrassing:

When given an opportunity at the hearing to cross-examine on the substance of Graves’ sur-rebuttal affidavit, the MPs counsel persisted in focusing on the details of the modest contributions he had given to Liberal Party candidates. They did not dwell on the contribution he had given to a Conservative candidate.

Among other things, the respondent MPs argue that Mr. Graves represented himself as having a PhD, when he does not, while at the same time referring dismissively to Dr. Corbin,who does have a PhD, as Ms. Corbin in his reply affidavits.

But it’s in the judge’s discussion of who should bear the costs of the trial that the respondent MPs are really exposed.  I’ll excerpt in its entirety [all emphasis is mine]:

[261] These proceedings have had partisan overtones from the outset. That was particularly evident in the submissions of the respondent MPs. In reviewing the procedural history and the evidence and considering the arguments advanced by the parties at the hearing, it has seemed to me that the applicants sought to achieve and hold the high ground of promoting the integrity of the electoral process while the respondent MPs engaged in trench warfare in an effort to prevent this case from coming to a hearing on the merits.

[262] Despite the obvious public interest in getting to the bottom of the allegations, the CPC made little effort to assist with the investigation at the outset despite early requests. I note that counsel for the CPC was informed while the election was taking place that the calls about polling station changes were improper. While it was begrudgingly conceded during oral argument that what occurred was “absolutely outrageous”, the record indicates that the stance taken by the respondent MPs from the outset was to block these proceedings by any means.

[263] The preliminary stages were marked by numerous objections to the evidence adduced by the applicants. The respondent MPs sought to strike the applications on the ground that they were frivolous and vexatious, to have them dismissed as champertous and to require excessive security for costs, in transparent attempts to derail this case.

This is from six Conservative MPs – members of the party whose leader this week said to his caucus “we must also uphold a culture of accountability. And I know that the people in this room have.”  Does a culture of accountability include making “little effort” to assist in the investigation of what a court has now said was clearly electoral fraud (even if it wasn’t committed by the CPC itself)?  And making “transparent attempts to derail” such a case?  If these Conservative MPs believed in accountability, they would have co-operated fully with this case and allowed the justice system to perform its work.  It’s now accepted by the courts that fraud occurred, and there is no evidence they committed it – if they believed in accountability, what could possibly drive them to “engage in trench warfare” to prevent the case from playing out?  Perhaps if they had participated, someone might have been held accountable – heck, it might not even have been them!

This isn’t accountability, this is obstruction of accountability.  Someone committed electoral fraud in Canada.  That someone (or those people) need(s) to be held accountable.  And no one – Conservatives or otherwise – should be doing anything to prevent that from happening.

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