Council of Canadians calls for public inquiry into 2011 robocalls

TORONTO – The Council of Canadians, a citizen activist group, is calling for a public inquiry into robocalls made during the 2011 federal election.

The announcement comes as a group of voters who fought to overturn 2011 election results said they won’t take their case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Last week, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley rejected applications by the group of voters to overturn the election of six Conservative MPs. The applicants were supported by the Council of Canadians.

“I feel we have taken this case as far as we can go,” said Peggy Walsh Craig, one of the applicants in the case.

In a press conference in Ottawa Friday morning, Garry Neil, executive director of the council, said an appeal wouldn’t get to the bottom of what he calls “a widespread campaign of voter suppression.”

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Neil said both the council and applicants wish to seek two outcomes: identify who was behind the robocalls and ensure they do not happen again.

“A Supreme Court appeal will achieve neither of the outcomes that Canadians want and need,” said Neil.

The council said they are demanding Prime Minister Stephen Harper launch an official public inquiry into the robocalls.

The council is also urging the government to table electoral reform legislation that would allow individual voters to challenge election results obtained through “fraud or corrupt or illegal practices.”

While Mosley concluded fraud was a factor in the misleading calls, he wouldn’t go as far as to overturn election results.

“The scale of the fraud has to be kept in perspective,” wrote Mosley in the decision.

“The number and location of the complaints received by Elections Canada from across Canada indicates that the voter suppression effort was geographically widespread but, apart from Guelph (Ont.), thinly scattered.”

After Mosley’s decision, the Conservatives issued a statement noting the ruling found no evidence of wrongdoing by the party or any of the candidates or campaign teams involved in the challenge. The statement also blasted the council, who paid the legal bills for the applicants.

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“The Council of Canadians court challenge was a transparent attempt to overturn certified election results simply because this activist group didn’t like them,” the statement said.

Today, the council launched a petition called “Democracy 24-7,” and they are calling for Canadians of all political stripes to sign it.

“It’s a matter of trying to call on Canadians to step forward and put pressure on their government,” said Neil. “We think adding to those pressures will result in what we want, which is [a] public inquiry.”

The six ridings in question are Vancouver Island North in British Columbia; Yukon; Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan; Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba; and Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario.

Elections Canada is also probing robocalls, stemming from complaints in 56 ridings across the country.


*With files from The Canadian Press

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