Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Cote has concluded his investigation regarding the alleged "robocalls" that took place during the 2011 federal election, and it's not what the media or Opposition NDP or Liberals wanted to hear.
The report, released on April 24, 2014, concludes that all the hysteria about the Conservatives supposedly "stealing democracy" or being "illegitimate" for "tampering with" the election was for nothing. There was no evidence of any wrongdoing or criminal activity that took place during the 2011 federal election.
Cote's conclusion was independently reviewed and verified by Louise Charron, a former Supreme Court of Canada justice. Charron agreed that Cote's conclusion, "that there are no grounds to believe that an offence under the Canada Elections Act or the Criminal Code has been committed," was "amply supported by the evidence."
However, this is the same conclusion Elections Canada reached almost three years ago in its own election post-mortem: "There was no conduct reported that would bring into question the integrity of the election result overall or the result in a particular riding. Although misconduct was reported in several ridings, there is no complaint that it affected the final result. There is some speculation in the media that the dirty tricks may have affected the result in some close contests." This is what Elections Canada concluded just days after the 2011 election.
Yet, after thousands of conspiracy theories from every corner of the media and the Opposition NDP and Liberals, the Liberal Party of Canada remains as the only political party to have been fined for its illegal robocalls during that election. Remember those screams from the NDP and Liberals about "the largest electoral fraud in Canada's history" and how the Harper Conservatives were supposedly using "Nixonian-style" cover-up tactics? They look like ridiculous over-the-top hyperbolic statements from the ultra-partisan left.
The criminal allegations against Michael Sona are a "separate case" and is still before the courts.
The Commissioner's report thoroughly debunks the "voter suppression" and "illegal robocalls" fantasies and their numerous varieties.
On receiving "nuisance" phone calls: there were a small number of complaints, which varied from being called late at night to just being contacted at all. There was no valid complaint simply because a person received a call: "The fact that electors received a call or several calls asking for their support is part of the normal process practiced by each of the major political parties."
On receiving "misleading" phone calls: a total of 11 - yes, just 11 - field managers for Elections Canada reported receiving complaints of phone calls that directed electors to incorrect polling locations. The Commissioner concluded that there were indeed a small number of phone calls by Liberal and Conservative call centres which gave incorrect information, but that the call centre employees still told the voter to verify their polling location with Elections Canada. This was "not sufficient to find evidence of misdirection of an elector."
All told, just 10 ridings saw complaints about illegal calls and they were spread across Canada, from Vancouver Centre (British Columbia) to London North Centre (Ontario) to Louis-Hebert (Quebec) to Winnipeg South Centre (Manitoba). "Had there been an effort to purposely mislead electors, investigators would have expected to see a single predominant calling number or constellation of such calling numbers. This was not found."
It was not until the media began covering the story that the number of robocalls complaints exploded. A whopping 3597 articles were written in 2012 about the "robocalls" affair, leading to Elections Canada receiving over 40,000 "complaints."
But those "complaints" didn't come from electors reporting that they had received a call - instead, they came from individuals signing a Leadnow template petition that complained about robocalls, not that they had actually received a call. Some actually complained about a phone call they had received as far back as September 2010! Of those 40,000 complaints, only 158 actually complained about receiving a call. Of that small group, six people -- yes, six people -- said they did not vote as a result of those calls.
This grand total of six people is not meant to minimize the severity of their allegations, but to illustrate how far detached the media and Opposition became from reality. All those claims of "mass voter fraud" that apparently resulted in an illegitimate federal government really came down to just six people. Even so, Elections Canada concluded there was no illegal activity just because these six people did not vote.
The Commissioner's conclusion is only the latest exoneration of the Conservative Party of Canada and any of its representatives from any wrongdoing in the 2011 federal election. After Elections Canada made its own conclusion in 2011, federal court judge Richard Mosley also concluded in May 2013 that there was"no finding that the Conservative Party of Canada or any CPC candidates or RMG and RackNine Inc. were directly involved in any campaign to mislead voters."
In fact, the Commissioner's investigation concludes what I concluded over two years ago: that there were in fact misleading robocalls, in one riding, by one campaign, potentially by one rogue campaign staffer. And we have known since August 2012 who that was: the Guelph campaign of Liberal MP Frank Valeriote was fined $4900 for its illegal robocalls.
Beyond this, there was absolutely no evidence of any smoking gun pointing to illegal robocalls in the 2011 election. It's a shame that it's taken Elections Canada an additional two years and probably over $1 million to conclude that nothing happened. (As of February 2013, Elections Canada had spent $779,891 investigating the "robocalls" allegations. I have asked Elections Canada for a final tally of the costs of chasing a fantasy that never existed.)
The true record of this robocalls saga has now been investigated and concluded as baseless by a sitting federal court judge, a former Supreme Court justice, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, and Elections Canada itself. This is a more thorough debunking supported by more legal, political, and elections experts than could have ever been obtained through a public inquiry. It's time to put the robocalls conspiracy (and all its vitriolic rhetoric) to bed for good.
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