Fake election robocalls 'isolated,' top Tory says
Issue 'blown out of proportion,' former campaign director says
By Laura Payton, CBC News
Posted: Feb 29, 2012 4:54 PM ET
Misleading robocalls in an Ontario town are an isolated case, says the man who ran the Conservative Party's 2006 and 2008 election campaigns.
Doug Finley, who advised the Conservatives on the 2011 election and sits as a Conservative senator, says the case of the strange calls has been blown out of proportion.
Opposition MPs have a list of 45 ridings they say were targeted by automated robocalls or live calls wrongly telling voters their polling locations had changed, or harassing calls late at night or on religious holidays.
The controversy's epicentre is in Guelph, Ont., where Elections Canada is investigating allegations someone from the Conservative campaign deliberately tried to suppress votes by impersonating the election agency in robocalls directing people to the wrong voting location.
It's illegal to prevent a person from voting and to induce somebody to vote or not vote for a particular candidate.
Finley says the Conservatives are co-operating with Elections Canada.
"There hasn’t [been] so far, as far as I can determine, one single issue of voter suppression — not one," he told CBC News. "To me it would appear it’s very isolated. If Guelph is where it is, it’s where it is."
Robocalling and live campaign calls are legitimate methods of campaigning used by all parties, Finley said. The calls cost pennies and some call centres in Canada are capable of making 200,000 to 300,000 calls an hour, he said.
The Conservatives use a company called Responsive Marketing Group, Finley said, not Racknine, the call centre through which the Guelph robocalls were placed. RMG does live calls only, he said.
In question period Wednesday, the Conservatives changed tactics, accusing the Liberals and NDP of being sore losers.
"This member and the members of his party have conducted a smear campaign against our party — a completely unsubstantiated smear campaign," Del Mastro said to NDP MP Charlie Angus.
NDP MPs pointed out that only the Tories have had to pay a fine for breaking election laws. Charges against Finley and other party officials were dropped as part of an agreement that saw the party pay $52,000 in fines for moving money from the national campaign to local campaigns and back in 2006, a tactic that became known as "in and out."
Conservative MPs had pointed to Guelph campaign worker Michael Sona, who stepped down from his job with MP Eve Adams last week, as being behind the robocalls. But in a statement Tuesday, Sona denied he had anything to do with it and said he resigned from his job because of the controversy over his involvement.
"I have remained silent to this point with the hope that the real guilty party would be apprehended," he said. "The rumours continue to swirl and media are now involving my family, so I feel that it is imperative that I respond."
Allegations of bribery, the tape, the lawsuit
Dona Cadman says that her husband told her that prior to the vote, two Conservative Party officials, later suggested to be Tom Flanagan and Doug Finley, offered her husband a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote against the Liberal budget in May 2005, the rationale being replacement of the life insurance that is part of an MP's compensation package (since Cadman was not running for re-election and would thus not die an MP if he voted down the government). An audio tape suggests then-opposition leader Stephen Harper was not only aware of a financial offer to Chuck Cadman but gave it his personal approval. According to Dona Cadman, Harper "looked me straight in the eyes and told me he had no knowledge of an insurance policy offer. I knew he was telling me the truth; I could see it in his eyes." Cadman's daughter also acknowledged that her father had been disturbed by the offer. However Harper later admitted in a August 2008 court deposition that he personally authorized an offer made to Cadman in 2005. The Conservative Party, based upon analysis by forensic experts who concluded that the tape was edited, asked an Ontario court to order to Liberals to stop using the tape. But neutral expert testimony showed that the tape has not been edited.
Under section 119 of the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal to bribe an MP. Accordingly, Opposition Liberal party Intergovernmental Affairs critic Dominic LeBlanc asked the RCMP in February 2008 to investigate this allegation, that the Conservatives had offered Mr. Cadman a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his support on the budget vote. In May 2008, the RCMP announced that there was no evidence to support charges.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Posted by Brent Fullard at 6:07 PM