November 1, 2012 6:59 am

I couldn’t have engineered ‘massive’ robocalls scheme: former Tory staffer

OTTAWA – A former Conservative party staffer once named publicly in the robocalls scandal in Guelph, Ont., says the “entire, massive scheme” was much more co-ordinated than could have been done by a 22-year-old without data access.

In a CBC interview, Michael Sona said he’s not going to “take the fall” for something he didn’t do, accusing the party of cutting him adrift.

Sona, now 24, was publicly named by a Conservative-friendly media outlet as a key suspect in the vote suppression scheme in Guelph, which saw phoney Elections Canada calls aimed at misdirecting voters during the 2011 election campaign.

Similar calls were reported across the country and are under investigation by the Commissioner of Elections.

Sona emphatically denied Wednesday that he had anything to do with the calls.

“I think that there’s some people that maybe had an interest in seeing me take the fall for it,” he said, noting he’d already made something of a name for himself over a ballot box incident at Guelph University during the 2011 election.

Sona confirmed that Guelph was a target riding and that Conservative party headquarters in Ottawa was “very involved” in the local campaign.

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He said Fred DeLorey, the party’s communications director, told him to intervene at the university polling station, over Sona’s objections that the optics would not serve the party well.

And he claimed that Nick Kouvalis, a principal at the company Campaign Research that handled voter outreach in dozens of Conservative ridings, visited Guelph between eight to a dozen times during the campaign. Kouvalis subsequently went on Twitter to say he was in the riding only twice.

DeLorey, in an email, responded to Sona’s claims by maintaining the party “ran a clean and ethical campaign and was not involved in voter suppression”

“The Conservative party proactively reached out to Elections Canada and continues to assist them in any way we can,” said DeLorey.

“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.”

While maintaining his innocence, Sona shed no light on which individuals might have been involved in the scheme, saying it’s up to Elections Canada to get to the bottom of the matter.

“You’ve got to take a look at the options and just say, you know what, what is the more realistic option here?” Sona told CBC.

“That some then 22-year-old guy managed to co-ordinate this entire massive scheme when he didn’t even have access to the data to be able to do this? Or the alternative, that this was much more co-ordinated or possibly that there were people that knew how to do this, that it was being done?”

He said Elections Canada investigators effectively cleared him when they recognized he did not have access to the Constituent Information Management System, or CIMS, the party’s crucial database that was required to build the robocall dialing list used in the vote-suppression calls.

Sona said the party should be able to tell Elections Canada who used CIMS create the call database.

“It should be known,” he said.

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