Glen McGregor (The Ottawa Citizen):
The federal New Democrats are calling on Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté to reopen the investigation into misleading phone calls to voters made during the 2011 federal election campaign.
The NDP says testimony given by Sen. Mike Duffy at his trial suggested Conservatives used robocalls dirty tricks in the 2008 election in the Vancouver Island riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, where Green Party leader Elizabeth May was attempting to unseat Tory cabinet minister Gary Lunn.
According to Mr. Duffy, NDP deputy national director Karine Fortin writes to Côté, the Conservative Party used “automated calls, or robocalls, to encourage New Democrat supporters to vote for NDP candidate Julian West despite the fact Mr. West had already dropped out of the race.”
West had withdrawn his candidacy over a report that he had once gone skinny-dipping in front of a group of teenaged girls in 1996. Because he dropped out too late, his name still appeared on the ballot.
The Saanich robocalls, the NDP alleged, attempted to “deliberately misdirect voters in an effort to split the vote” to ensure Lunn’s re-election.
During testimony in his ongoing fraud, bribery and breach of trust trial, Duffy described his own visit to the riding in 2011 and a meeting with Lunn.
“He’d had a close call during the previous election and it was only through the divine intervention of Doug Finley’s black ops group at Conservative headquarters that he managed to get himself re-elected,” Duffy testified, referring the party’s 2008 campaign manager. (Finley has since passed away.)
Duffy added, “They used robocalls to misdirect NDP voters, to split the vote and allow Gary Lunn to win.”
After an extensive investigation of robocalls made in the 2011 election, Côté’s office eventually laid a single charge against Michael Sona, a Conservative campaign worker who was later convicted for his role in the misleading “Pierre Poutine” calls to voters in Guelph, Ont.
The judge is Sona’s case said that it was probable that Sona didn’t act alone, though no one else has ever been charged.