Elections Canada has tracked thousands of fraudulent telephone calls back to an Edmonton telephone robotics company that had close ties to the last Conservative election campaign.
Voters with ties to the Liberal Party in about in about a dozen ridings were called by the firm on voting day and told in a recorded message that their polling station had been moved. It gave them a new address. None of it was true. It was a scam.
The investigation began soon after the elections and could soon end up in court.
It remains unclear what role the company, RackNine Inc. played in what happened.
The taped voice told them in excellent English:
"This is an automated message from Elections Canada. Due to a projected increase in voter turnout, the location of your poll location has been changed."
Your new voting location is at ( address .)
Some liberals did not take the trouble to go to the new address and chose to stay home. Others went to the new address and were furious to find nothing there. They thought Elections Canada had screwed up.
Others went back to the original address and voted, after giving Elections Canada returning officers a piece of their mind.
It is not known how many thousands of votes the Liberals lost because of the scam, or how many of the targeted ridings passed into the hands of conservatives because of the scam.
It is against Canadian law to trick someone so as to make them lose their vote.
The scam was complex. Although the robotic telephone machines at RackNine Inc, in Edmonton sent out the thousands of misleading recorded messages, the original messages was sent to RackNine Inc., for re-sending from a cellphone in Joliette, Québec. Evidence shows that everything started from phone number 450-760-7746 in Joliette.
The calls ended up in ridings in Ontario where the electoral races were close between Conservatives and Liberals in Kitchener, Guelph, London, and in Victoria in British Columbia.
RackNine Inc. is a small call center in Edmonton, which has done work for the national Conservative Party campaign for at least nine Conservative candidates, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the riding of Calgary Southwest.
We do not know yet the extent of the involvement of the Conservative Party.
The RCMP are still looking for the genius behind the scam.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has denied the Conservative Party is involved in the scam: “Our party has no knowledge of these calls.”
He added that whoever is responsible will face the full consequence of the law.
The deniability factor slipped a notch when Conservative campaign manager Jenni Byrne denied any connection with the scam, but added that “if anyone on a local campaign was involved, they will not play a role in a future campaign.”
Some punishment. He could be in jail by then.
Then a newspaper close to the Conservative Party ran a photo of Michael Sona, standing next to Harper, claiming he was being investigated by the Conservative party in relation to the calls. The photo came from the prime minister’s office.
Sona was the Conservative Party organizer who on voting day in the May 2 election showed up at a polling station at the University of Guelph and tried to make off with a ballot box. The students pounced on him and he left.
A lawyer for the Conservatives tried in vain later to persuade Elections Canada to invalidate the votes in that box on the grounds that someone had tampered with the box.
Liberal leader Bob Rae told journalists that the Conservative Party had singled out a lone organizer as the culprit only after the scam story had become public in the news media.
New Democrat MP Pat Martin said that the story put out by Conservative Party brass that the scam involving “hundreds of thousands of calls” on election day was the work of a “lone punk” defies credibility.
Martin says he wants a full RCMP investigation because he doesn’t trust a parliamentary committee hearing.