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Even the Robocalls Investigation Is Dirty Business

Posted: 02/20/2013 12:36 pm

This article originally appeared in the Prince Arthur Herald

New information reveals not even the private contractors hired by Elections Canada to investigate the possible 2011 "robocalls" are neutral, non-partisan individuals.

Information on who the private contractors conducting the "robocalls" investigation are is scarce, but the very fact that Elections Canada has outsourced one of its vitally important responsibilities to private firms is shocking.

It is even more shocking that such responsibility has been delegated to paper companies: private companies with no website, no phone numbers, and no email addresses, which only seem to exist in the eyes of Elections Canada. Google searches bring up nothing more than Elections Canada's listings of contracts (and perhaps the odd LinkedIn profile).

Certainly the least Elections Canada could have done before hiring these private contractors was to ensure they were hiring neutral, non-partisan individuals. Especially with the odd and significant amount of recurring $78,444.35 contracts, Canadians deserve to know that their tax money is being put towards professional, neutral individuals.

But that's not the case according to a search of Elections Canada's contributors' database.

A search of the sole contractor involved in the robocalls investigation with a website -- Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton -- reveals that many members on their board of directors have donated money to the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois -- the same parties which have the most to gain in propagating any sort of "robocall" voter conspiracy myth, ramping up the rhetoric to the extent that some members are now being sued for slander and libel.

In July 2008, Emilio Imbriglio, Chair of Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, donated $300 to the Liberals. In January 2009, he donated $1,000 to the Michael Ignatieff leadership campaign.

In February 2010, Eric Bergeron, Assurance Partner, donated $375 to the Liberals.

Marc Bergeron, Vice President of Recovery and Reorganization, donated $287.79 to the Liberals in June 2007 and another $250 in December 2008.

Lynda Coache, Assurance Partner, donated $255 to the Liberals on February 28, 2010.

Martin Deschenes, Assurance Partner, donated $405 to the Liberals on February 28, 2010 and $400 to the Bloc Quebecois on June 8, 2011.

Eric Labelle, Tax Partner, donated $465 to the Liberals on February 28, 2010.

Jocelyn Renald, Vice President Management Committee, donated $300 to the Liberals in December 2008.

It is unclear whether any of these individuals have a direct involvement in the current robocalls investigation, however the firm has been given a $214,700 contract to conduct its investigation. This is the largest robocalls contract I've come across to-date, so at least the company, if not its employees, would be neutral, right?

Wrong.

In 1999, when businesses and unions were allowed to donate to political parties before the days of the Liberal's AdScam and the Conservative Party's Accountability Act to address that Liberal corruption, Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton donated $4406.48 to the Liberal Party. And another $1,000 in 2000.

In 1998, Grant Thornton, the apparent head office of RCGT, donated a staggering (and odd) $12,657.18 to the Liberals.

They also audited the 2004 books for the Marijuana Party of Canada, although the party barely received $11,000 in donations (I guess the rest went up in smoke).

During the 37th general election, the company gave $450 for the re-election of Serge Cardin, a then-sitting Member of Parliament for the Bloc Quebecois and a currently sitting Parti Quebecois Member of Provincial Parliament. They also gave $500 to support his opponent, then-Liberal candidate and now city councillor Jean-Francois Rouleau. What better way to make friends with both the sitting Bloc Quebecois MP and his Liberal challenger than to just donate money to them both?

It is startling that Elections Canada did not properly vet the neutrality and worthiness of allowing yet another partisan investigator (after Andre Thouin) onto this investigation. These are not small amounts of money, and throwing thousands of dollars behind a leadership contestant or political party indicates strong, decisive support.

Canadians are well on their way to spending $1 million on this "robocalls" investigation. What has that investigation dug up or accomplished? So far, nothing.

How can Canadians have confidence in any of this investigation when the very investigators have a strong, clear, undeniable political bias?

If this investigation has uncovered anything, it needs to be laid bare immediately. Otherwise, this rank investigation needs to be swiftly thrown out.

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  • 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)

  • 2. RackNine

    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.

 

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