A woman who had been fighting to overturn the election of Conservative MP Joe Daniel is dropping her case after the party's lawyer found she doesn't live in the riding and therefore isn't eligible to challenge the election result in court.
Leeanne Bielli is one of nine Canadians who brought a challenge to the Federal Court over the 2011 election results. The challengers are asking for a judicial review in seven ridings won by Conservative candidates. The challenge is backed by the Council of Canadians, a frequent critic of the Conservative government.
The challengers say there's a pattern of robocalls and other tactics used to suppress the vote, and therefore the election result in those ridings is invalid.
In a notice of motion filed Oct. 18, Daniel says Bielli doesn't live in the riding and is therefore not eligible to take the case to court. He says she's on the voter list for Toronto's Don Valley West, the riding next door.
"Ms. Bielli has no standing … to contest the election in the electoral district of Don Valley East," the notice of motion says.
"As such, the application herein is frivolous and vexatious or not made in good faith, and must be dismissed."
A lawyer for the Council of Canadians says in a response to the motion that Bielli won't fight the motion to dismiss.
"Ms. Bielli informs me that at the time of swearing her affidavit, and until our call [on Oct. 18], she had the honest belief that she resided in the riding of Don Valley East," Steven Shrybman wrote in the letter.
"Ms. Bielli stands by her account of having received a misleading call about the location of her polling station. However she acknowledges that she was in error about her riding and sincerely apologizes to the court and to the respondents for her error."
Stands by report of misleading call
The letter also says that Bielli won't be filing an application to fight the election result in Don Valley West, where the Conservative incumbent John Carmichael won by a smaller margin than Daniel did in Don Valley East.
Shrybman will oppose having to pay costs.
An affidavit filed in support of Daniel's motion notes that public records show Bielli has lived in Don Valley West since a few months before the May 2, 2011, election, and that she still lives there.
The applicants brought their case last March, shortly after media reports of widespread allegations of misleading calls that appeared to direct Conservative non-supporters to the wrong polling station.
The Elections Canada website has a postal code search in the middle of its homepage for voters who want to find their riding and polling station. There's also an option to search by address.
Garry Neil, executive director for the Council of Canadians, said that Bielli's error about her riding shouldn't detract from what she's reporting.
"The fact is, whatever else happens here, this woman, who was an eligible elector, received a fraudulent telephone call claiming to be from Elections Canada, claiming that the location of her polling station had changed. That is fact," Neil said.
No one confirmed residency
Neil said it appears no one thought to verify the ridings throughout the court process. The Council of Canadians put out a call on its website last spring for Canadians to challenge the election results. Voters can challenge an election result only in their own riding.
Losing one of the applicants won't fundamentally affect the remaining six challenges, Neil said.
"The issues are still there, the evidence is still very strong, in our opinion, and points to widespread voter suppression efforts that were targeted on non-supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada," he said.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party said the Council of Canadians is challenging the election results simply because it doesn't like them.
"The Council of Canadians case is based on the flimsiest of evidence, clearly thrown together without any real care or concern for the facts, made up for politics," Fred DeLorey said in an emailed statement.
The ridings being challenged are:
- Don Valley East and Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario.
- Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba.
- Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan.
- Vancouver Island North in B.C.
The Conservative MPs lost a previous motion to dismiss the challenge, as well as a motion to have the applicants put up a total of $260,000 extra in security deposits. They withdrew another motion to dismiss.
The court ruled there was no basis to conclude an increase in security deposit was warranted and ordered the MPs to pay costs of the motion because it unnecessarily delayed proceedings.
Related on HuffPost:
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.