October 30, 2014 4:24 pm
Updated: October 31, 2014 8:55 am

‘Poor Michael Sona’: NDP Pat Martin still paying off robocalls defamation suit

NDP MP Pat Martin holds a penny in Ottawa Thursday, March 29, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand


OTTAWA – When Michael Sona is sentenced next month for his role in the robocalls election fraud case, it’s possible no one on Parliament Hill will be paying closer attention than Pat Martin.

After all, the NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre paid the price for his thoughts on the matter – to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

And he still believes the wrong man was punished. The wrong man, as well as himself.

“Poor Michael Sona,” Martin said in an interview.

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“Nobody in their right mind believes Michael Sona acted alone but it looks like he and I are the only two that are suffering any lingering effects from the attempt to hijack…the 2011 election.”

In 2012, Martin was sued after making comments about automated calling firm RackNine, the service used to make the misleading calls in Guelph, Ont. that sent mostly Liberal voters to the wrong polling station.

READ MORE: Lunch with NDP MP Pat Martin – back on the front bench, but not as angry (he hopes)

The $5 million defamation suit was settled in February 2013 for an undisclosed sum, but Martin still estimates he’s got about $60,000 left to pay in legal expenses, including the settlement.

“I’m still coping with it and dealing with it,” he said.

“I’m reminded every day that somebody tried to hijack the 2011 federal election because it costs me a fortune every month.”

Sona was convicted in June of wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting. He faces a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

While the judge in the case said it is likely the now 26-year-old former Conservative staffer did not act alone, he said Sona played a very active role in the scheme.

Sona will be sentenced on November 19. The Crown has asked for at least a year-and-a-half in jail.

Despite the legal and personal ramifications for his public remarks – Martin was swiftly removed from the hot-button file and has been somewhat silenced since – he remains steadfast in his view that widespread voter fraud took place in 2011.

“That wasn’t orchestrated by one junior campaign worker from Guelph, Ont,” he said.

Elections Canada received complaints about phone fraud in 200 ridings; a federal judge later ruled fraud occurred in six ridings, although the election results were not overturned.

Martin says the “perpetrators,” whom he stopped short of naming, will never be brought to justice.

“This is the fundamental principle and integrity of our democracy that was attacked and assaulted in the last election,” Martin said.

He said he believes the people who perpetrated the fraud are banking on the fact that issues in Ottawa “have such a short shelf life.”

“It’s to their advantage that the country has moved on to other issues and is no longer outraged by the fact that people cheated in a widespread and calculated way in the last election,” he said.

“Canadians have the attention span of gerbil.”

Martin followed Sona’s trial with interest, and was “disappointed that he was left hung out to dry.”

“I honestly didn’t think they would get a conviction, because I don’t believe he played a significant role in the whole enterprise,” Martin said.

He says he thinks the judge will “make an example” of Sona and give him jail time.

That’s “my gut feeling. And no I don’t think he should,” he said.

“The fact that Canadians seem to have forgiven and forgotten these incidents just means we’re destined to suffer from it again in the next election.”

For his part, Martin hopes to pay back off his expenses in the next couple years. The six-term MP says he’ll run again in 2015.

While he initially received donations from the NDP and labour unions to help pay down costs, Martin says no one has donated to his legal defence fund for months.

“People were sympathetic at first and very generous, and I appreciate that very much but it’s a lot of competing interests, a lot of election campaigns have come and gone, and you keep going back to the same fountain for donations,” he said.

“It was predictable it would dry up.”

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