Canadians may be staring at their own Watergate. They may be staring at a widespread attempt to fix the last federal election by people with links to the upper levels of the governing Conservative Party of Canada.
That’s a big accusation, and nothing is proven. But it’s what you get when you bring all the evidence together.
The one party member to break silence has gone on CBC to label what took place a “massive scheme.” The Canadian news media — with the exception of two dogged Postmedia reporters, Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor — have disgracefully swept the story into the shadows, presumably because it is Maude Barlow’s Council of Canadians (or, as the mainstream media say, “left-leaning Council of Canadians”) that has gone to court to try to nail the Conservatives with electoral fraud.
If the media simply were to connect the dots, they’d find a story that can’t stay in the shadows, Maude Barlow or no Maude Barlow, and a story that doesn’t fit the scenario the Conservatives are trying to construct.
The Council has gone to court to challenge the May 2011 federal election results in seven — now six — ridings across the country very narrowly won by Conservative candidates. In each riding there was evidence of calls to voters telling them inaccurately that the location of their polling station had been changed. At least some of the calls were purported to have come from Elections Canada.
The Council has submitted as evidence a survey by widely respected Ekos Research showing that voters in the target ridings were 50 per cent more likely to have received misleading calls about polling station location changes than voters in 106 comparison ridings. It found that three times as many NDP, Liberal and Green supporters received the calls as Conservative supporters. The Ekos poll suggested that the calls resulted in a 1 per cent vote suppression (people deciding not to vote or being unable to figure out how to vote) in the target ridings which were won by Conservatives with a plurality of between 18 and 1,827 votes.
The Conservatives have questioned the survey’s methodology and attempted to debase the professional reputation of Ekos president Frank Graves. Mr. Graves’s reputation and his survey’s methodology have been defended by leading scholars and practitioners in the field such as University of Toronto political scientist Neil Nevitte and Michael Adams, president of rival pollster Environics.
In attacking Mr. Graves while professing to be ethically spotless — “The Conservative Party of Canada ran a clean and ethical campaign and it was not involved in any voter suppression,” said Foreign Minister John Baird on Nov. 2 — the party never got around to revealing that in the few days before the election its lawyer Arthur Hamilton was twice asked by Elections Canada why voters in six different provinces were getting questionable calls about polling station locations. In documents dug out of Elections Canada by reporters Maher and McGregor under the Access to Information Act, Elections Canada lawyer indicated their suspicions that a “scam” and “mischief” was underway, linked to the Conservative Party. According to the two Postmedia reporters, Mr. Hamilton said the party was only calling its own supporters.
This is where the dot-connecting comes in.
If the Ekos poll is accurate — and Ekos has a well-founded reputation for accuracy — then how were Liberal, NDP and Green supporters primarily targetted for calls in the six ridings?
First, consider Michael Sona, a former Conservative campaign worker in Guelph constituency whose named was leaked to the media as someone involved in the fake calls. He is reported to have refused to be interviewed by Elections Canada investigators. He has denied culpability but he says party members want him to take the fall for the calls.
He went on CBC-TV and told interviewer Evan Solomon, “You’ve got to take a look at the options and just say, you know what, what is the more realistic option? That some then-22 year-old guy managed to co-ordinate this entire massive scheme when he didn’t even have access to the data to be able to do this – or the alternative, that this was much more co-ordinated.”
Think about his words: “massive scheme” and “didn’t even have access to the data to be able to do this”
So, second, consider that the Conservatives have by far the most sophisticated voter identification database in the country, the Constitutent Information Management System, or CIMS. It is unlikely that any other database could have identified voters with such accuracy. Access to CIMS is limited to a small group at the upper levels of the party; it is not known to be accessible at the constituency level.
If the Conservatives were only calling their own supporters why did the Ekos survey show that the majority of people called were supporters of other parties? And why would the Conservatives be giving their own supporters wrong information about polling stations? That doesn’t make any sense. And how did the callers get information about who supported which party? And how do we get a full-fledged inquiry with teeth into who’s dicking around with our democracy?