NEWS

Robocalls witnesses revealed after judge lifts publication ban

11/15/2013 10:36 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
A publication ban has been lifted on the names of six witnesses who allegedly said then Conservative Party staffer Michael Sona bragged to them about arranging a misleading robocall in Canada's 2011 federal election.

The witnesses filled in the blanks in an Elections Canada investigation into the misleading calls in Guelph, Ont., on the May 2, 2011, election day.

Their names were initially subject to a publication ban, which CBC News, the Ottawa Citizen, Postmedia and other news outlets fought. 

The witnesses are:

- Tyler Barker, who works for Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen, a former director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

- Mitchell Messom, a former Conservative Party intern who also worked for Stewart Olsen and in 2011 for Steven Fletcher, then democratic reform minister of state. Messom now lives in Nova Scotia.

- Rebecca Docksteader, who at the time worked for Conservative MP Chris Warkentin, and now lives outside Edmonton.

- John Schudlo, who currently works for Warkentin. He and Docksteader both worked for Warkentin when the alleged conversation with Sona took place.

- Benjamin Hicks, who used to work in the Prime Minister's Office and was president of the University of New Brunswick Conservatives. Hicks's name was raised in the Senate in 2010, when he was working in the PMO, after he posted on Facebook a call for students to blow the whistle on "lefty" teachers and professors bringing politics into the classroom.

- Conrad Johnson, who formerly worked for Senator Doug Finley and started a job in government relations at Fasken Martineau, the same firm where former Harper chief of staff Guy Giorno is a partner, a few months after speaking to Elections Canada.

The judge lifted the ban Friday morning after hearing arguments by a lawyer representing the media outlets, as well as Sona's lawyer, and the Crown on Wednesday.

Sona is the only person charged in the case. He had worked for Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke in the lead-up to the 2011, election, and went on to work for Conservative MP Eve Adams. 

Investigator fears witness harassment

The lead investigator for Elections Canada told the court earlier this week that he thought the names of the witnesses should be protected until the case goes to trial.

Al Mathews testified that some of the witnesses had told him they feared any media attention would affect their job prospects. He also said he feared they would be harassed by the public or by the media.

Judge Célynne Dorval said in her decision that the Crown didn't present any evidence to support those contentions. 

Sona's lawyer, Norm Boxall, agreed to the release of the information, despite initially requesting a publication ban on the affidavit filed by Mathews.

Part of the ban, dated Aug. 26, 2013, was lifted in September. Most of the remaining ban was lifted Wednesday after the Crown and Sona agreed to the release of the information.

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