05/04/2012 05:16 EDT | Updated 07/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Michael Sona Openly Talked About Misleading Calls With Fellow Tory Campaign Workers, Elections Canada Told


OTTAWA - Elections Canada says it was told by Conservative staffers that local campaign workers in Guelph, Ont., openly discussed making misleading telephone calls during the last election.

Newly filed court documents say Conservatives told chief investigator Allan Mathews that Guelph Tory staffer Michael Sona talked about American-style politics and making misleading or harassing calls to non-supporters.

Sona was the communications director for Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke. He has denied being behind the calls.

But two Conservatives told Mathews that Sona spoke about misleading calls. Matthew McBain worked in the party's central war room in Ottawa. He says Sona, who he did not know, left him voice mails during the campaign.

"McBain subsequently contacted Sona. Sona spoke to McBain about a campaign of disinformation such as making a misleading poll moving phone call," the court document says.

"McBain warned Sona off such conduct as the party would not stand for it. That was the end of McBain's involvement."

One of Sona's co-workers on the Burke campaign, Christopher Crawford, provided a similar account. He told Mathews he overheard a conversation between Sona and Burke's campaign manager, Ken Morgan.

"He overheard a conversation ... in which Sona was describing 'how the Americans do politics,' using the examples of calling non-supporters late at night, pretending to be liberals, or calling electors to tell them their poll location had changed," the court document says.

Crawford told Mathews he didn't think Sona was serious, but he told him that his comments were not appropriate.

Conservative party lawyer Arthur Hamilton accompanied McBain and Crawford when they spoke to Mathews.

A third Tory staffer, Christopher Rougier, says Burke's deputy campaign manager, Andrew Prescott, had access to call up Guelph voter data using the party's central database.

Rougier, who was also accompanied to his meeting by Hamilton, says Prescott called up three phone lists on April 30, 2011, and downloaded the reports to a local computer.

The lawyer gave Mathews two of the three lists that Prescott downloaded. A third list could not be recovered from the central database.

Based on his conversations with Conservative staff, Mathews concluded Guelph campaign workers talked about making misleading calls to voters in the run-up to the May 2 federal election.

The document was filed as part of a production order seeking access to records held by Rogers Communications, specifically Internet protocol information that could be used to track whoever was behind the calls.

The court filings also shed light on Mathews' hunt for the elusive "Pierre Poutine," the name linked to the account behind the Guelph calls.

To Edmonton-based RackNine Inc., he was client 93, who gave the fake name Pierre S. Jones.

The client identification number may help Mathews narrow in on Pierre Poutine.

Prescott has said he owns a small business that has an account with RackNine. The court document says RackNine assigned Prescott client number 45.

The court records show client 93 and someone using Prescott's account logged in to the same computer within four minutes of each other on May 2, election day.

"At a minimum this session log information means that client #93 used the same computer as did client #45," the court document says.

Prescott did not immediately return a call for comment. An attempt to reach Sona was unsuccessful.

Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey says all documents have been turned over to Elections Canada.

"We have proactively reached out to Elections Canada and offered to assist them in any way we can," he said in an email.

"That includes handing over any documents or records that may assist them. We will not comment on specifics as we do not want to compromise any part of the investigation."

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has said his office has received hundreds of complaints from Canadians who say they received so-called robocalls directing them to non-existent or wrong polling stations during last May's federal election.

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