Infamous for his robo-calls that misdirected voters to non-existent polling stations, it seems that Michael Sona has a history of voter suppression. What part of this was Harper unaware of? Oh yeah, Harper claims he doesn't read Canadian papers.
Special ballot held at U of G valid, Elections Canada rules
Sat Apr 16 2011
GUELPH — Votes cast by about 700 students in a special ballot held Wednesday at the University of Guelph are valid, Elections Canada ruled Friday afternoon.
In a letter sent Thursday to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Tories alleged that the polling station was not sanctioned by Elections Canada, that partisan election material was on display near the ballot box, and that scrutineers from the various parties were not present.
Elections Canada ruled against the Conservative claims.
“All information at our disposal indicates that the votes were cast in a manner that respects the Canada Elections Act and are valid,” according to a statement issued nationally by Elections Canada.
“They should be valid as far as I’m concerned. I’m so glad to hear it,” first-time voter Gracen Johnson said. “Students won’t be discouraged by what happened.”
Several students and a Liberal scrutineer present at the polling station allege Marty Burke’s director of communication, Michael Sona, attempted Wednesday to grab a ballot box in an effort to stop voting at the U of G polling station.
Sona and the Burke campaign team directed all requests for media comment about this episode to the Conservative Party of Canada national campaign.
In a news release issued Friday morning, the party “vehemently denies that any of its workers or volunteers interfered” at the polling station.
“In particular, the Marty Burke campaign denies that any of its workers or volunteers touched a ballot box or ballot,” read the release. “The outlandish and unfounded claims being spread on the internet are the product of desperation, and are most regrettable.”
Students Brenna Anstett and Claire Whalen both said Sona tried to grab the ballot box. Anstett was “100 per cent” sure it was Sona after she identified him in a group photo provided by the Guelph Mercury.
Sona is a former University of Guelph student and former member of the Guelph Campus Conservatives. He also founded the group’s Facebook page.
Conservative party spokesperson Ryan Sparrow, the official responding to media queries about the case, wouldn’t say if Sona had been on campus in connection with the episode.
Elections Canada also ruled Friday that no other special ballot polling stations, similar to the one in Guelph, will be authorized anywhere else in Canada during this campaign.
“In light of the focus on youth and student electoral participation at the 41st general election, and on efforts to increase voter interest and turnout among this group, a well-intentioned returning officer undertook a special initiative to create an opportunity for students at the University of Guelph to vote by special ballot,” the media release read. “Once Elections Canada officials were made aware of the local initiative in Guelph, the returning officer was instructed not to engage in any further activities of a similar nature. All returning officers have received this instruction.”
The Conservatives seem satisfied by Elections Canada’s decision and also view the matter as closed.
“While the Elections Canada statement confirms that what happened in Guelph lacked proper authorization, we applaud the decision not to disenfranchise University of Guelph students because of errors by the local returning officer. These student voters should not suffer because of mistakes by the local election officials,” a Tory media release stated. “At the same time, we are pleased that the rules for special balloting have been clarified and reconfirmed. The same rules should apply everywhere and be applied consistently across the country.”
Guelph incumbent Liberal MP Frank Valeriote said he had no problems with the Conservatives protesting the validity of the special ballot.
“I deny the validity of their challenge but at least their lawyer (Arthur Hamilton) was using proper procedure,” Valeriote said Friday.
Rather, Valeriote had a problem with the happenings reported at the ballot box and attributed to Conservative campaign members.
Elections Canada media adviser James Hale said Thursday the episode “was a minor incident. It was mostly yelling and shouting.”
However, several witnesses allege an attempt was made to seize control of a ballot box during the incident.
“What happened at the polling station, it was nothing but thuggery,” Valeriote said. “The type of conduct seen at the polling station is the type of conduct condoned by the prime minister in Ottawa and it’s now been exported to Guelph.”
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the case on the campaign trail Friday, prior to Elections Canada’s decisions.
Harper said the party was interested in making sure election rules were followed.
“It’s worrying. I can’t believe it,” Ignatieff said, during a campaign stop in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans.
“This is part of a pattern. First you have a prime minister check the Facebook page of people coming to his meeting … and then you have a Conservative operative trying to grab a ballot box at a university in a town precisely where students were mobilizing to get out the vote,” he said.
Guelph NDP candidate Bobbi Stewart said she was in disbelief over the matter. Cancelling the student votes would have amounted to “another erosion of our democracy,” she said.
Guelph Green party candidate John Lawson said the Conservative party’s handling of this matter is now “a key issue” in this campaign. “It’s about the politics of intimidation and exclusion. This is politics of fear.”
UPDATE: February 28, 2012 10:00PM EST: Michael Sona states he had nothing to do with the Robo-calls. Article here
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Posted by Brent Fullard at 9:09 AM