The stakes are enormous for virtually every participant in tomorrow's Supreme Court of Canada appeal of the overturning of the 2011 federal election result in the riding of Etobicoke Centre.
The top court hearing will determine whether an Ontario Superior Court judge was right to toss out the election result in the Toronto riding and force a byelection.
Two of the interveners in the case beginning Tuesday, the chief electoral officers for B.C. and Alberta, have filed submissions raising concerns that the judge may have set the threshold too low when he threw out 79 ballots due to voting "irregularities," more than enough to outweigh the 26-ballot winning margin.
Keith Archer, B.C.'s chief electoral officer, argues in his submission that this case will affect how B.C.'s next election will be conducted.
But neither of the two electoral officers gives reasons why specific ballots in the Etobicoke Centre election should or shouldn't be allowed to stand.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, also an intervener, expresses a wish that voters not be disenfranchised, as the electoral officers do, but emphatically states that credible evidence of who the voter is must occur on the date of the election, not later in a court case.
For Elections Canada, its very reputation is in question.
The Etobicoke Centre case was not about voter fraud or voter suppression, but clerical errors, both minor and major, by Elections Canada staff. Perhaps that's why Elections Canada — self-described as a neutral body and observer in the appeal — nonetheless has filed new evidence for the Supreme Court to consider.
Missing voter certificates key part of case
Last week and more than a year after the election, Elections Canada presented its attempts to find 44 of the voters whose ballots were discarded by the judge because their voter registration certificates couldn't be found.
Registration certificates are filled out when voters show up who are not on the voters list, and contain the names, addresses and signed affirmation that the voter is of age and a Canadian citizen.
Elections Canada says it has found the 44 voters’ names, or names that are similar, on the National Register of Electors, a massive 24-million permanent voters' list that is proof enough, for electoral purposes, of Canadian citizenship. What isn’t addressed in Elections Canada's filing is that half of the 44 people didn't live in the riding of Etobicoke Centre when the writ was dropped in March 2011.
For Conservative MP Ted Opitz, who has represented Etobicoke Centre for over a year, his job is on the line. He's a first-time MP, a backbencher, a hard-working committee member who says he'll run in a byelection if he loses the appeal. But he won by a squeaker last time, and the political landscape is very different, with two new party leaders on the scene and a drop in the polls for the Conservatives.
As for former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, he said people rated his chances at 10 per cent when he started his case last June, and his own party didn't have the stomach or the pocketbook for a fight, so he's the only player to pay for the case on his own, at great cost.
And although Wrzesnewskyj won the riding three times before, Etobicoke Centre split almost evenly between Tories and Liberals last time, and it won't be an easy win, if he even gets the chance to run again in a byelection.
The Supreme Court will likely make its decision quickly since by law, it has to expedite the case. If the court rules this summer, there could be a byelection in Etobicoke Centre early in the new year, or sooner.
It has been just over a year since the last federal election, one that has become known almost as much for allegations of electoral fraud in Guelph, Ont., as for the way it redrew the House of Commons.<br><br> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">Investigators are now looking into calls wrongly claiming to be from Elections Canada that redirected voters to a polling station they couldn't use</a>. It's illegal both to interfere with a person's right to vote and to impersonate Elections Canada.<br><br> A year later, here's what we do know, according to court documents and information provided in interviews:<br><br> <strong><em>With files from CBC.</em></strong><br><br> (CP)
1. Probe Started Early
Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews started looking into complaints in Guelph on May 5, 2011, three days after the election that saw reports of illicit phone calls. The winning candidate in the riding, Liberal <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/10/robocalls-by-liberals-guelph_n_1336895.html" target="_hplink">Frank Valeriote, compiled a list of almost 80 names</a> of people complaining about the calls. News of the investigation didn't break until Feb. 22, 2012. (Thinkstock)
All political parties use automated robocalls and live calls to identify voter support and contact people during a campaign. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/23/racknine-robocalls-elections-canada_n_1296383.html?ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">The campaign of Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke used RackNine</a>, a company that offers voice broadcasting services, to make legitimate robocalls to campaign supporters. The person who made the fraudulent robocalls also used RackNine. (Alamy)
3. Pierre Poutine
The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/28/robocalls-scandal-pierre-poutine_n_1307730.html?ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">person who made the calls used a disposable, or burner, cellphone, registered to a "Pierre Poutine."</a> The RackNine charges were paid via PayPal using prepaid credit cards, purchased at two Shoppers Drug Mart stores in Guelph. Shoppers Drug Mart doesn't keep its security camera videos long enough to see who bought the cards more than a year ago. (Alamy)
4. IP Traced
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/04/andrew-prescott-pierre-poutine-robocalls-conservative_n_1478809.html?ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">Elections Canada traced the IP address used to access RackNine</a> on election day and send the fraudulent message. Mathews got a court order for Rogers, the company that provided the internet service to that IP address, to provide the customer information that matches that address, on March 20, 2012. (Alamy)
5. Andrew Prescott Linked To Poutine IP
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/04/andrew-prescott-pierre-poutine-robocalls-conservative_n_1478809.html?ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">Pierre Poutine and Burke campaign worker Andrew Prescott (pictured here with Tony Clement) accessed their RackNine accounts using the same IP address</a>. On election day, they accessed their RackNine accounts from the same IP address within four minutes of each other, Mathews says in documents filed in court.
6. But Accounts Don't Match
A court document lists the billing account numbers for the customer information provided by Rogers to Mathews. <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/05/11/pol-robocalls-guelph-rogers-account-numbers.html" target="_hplink">Those accounts don't match</a> the number found on the Burke campaign's Rogers invoices submitted to Elections Canada, suggesting RackNine wasn't accessed through a computer in the Burke campaign office.
7. Misleading Calls Discussed?
Two Conservative staffers, accompanied by the party's lawyer, told Mathews they overheard <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/04/michael-sona-robocalls-pierre-poutine-guelph_n_1479400.html?ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">Michael Sona (pictured here with Stephen Harper), another Burke campaign worker, talking about "making a misleading poll moving call."</a> Sona, who stepped down from a job in the office of Conservative MP Eve Adams when the story broke, has previously said he had nothing to do with the misleading calls.
8. Poutine Used Tory Database?
Arthur Hamilton, the Conservative Party's lawyer, told Mathews the list of phone numbers uploaded to RackNine by Pierre Poutine appeared to be a list of identified non-Conservative supporters, with data on it that was updated in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/17/robocalls-scandal-privacy-information_n_1525197.html?ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">CIMS, the party's database</a>, days before the election. The CBC's Terry Milewski had reported a similar pattern after sifting through complaints in 31 ridings.
9. Deluge Of Complaints
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/29/marc-mayrand-testimony-robocalls_n_1387176.html?ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">News coverage led to 40,000 people contacting Elections Canada one way or another</a> -- whether to report a misdirecting call or by signing an online petition to express concern that it had happened -- chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand told a parliamentary committee in April. There are now specific allegations in almost 200 ridings by 800 people.