Watch: Documents reveal a Conservative Party lawyer directed some of the questions in the robocalls investigation. Jacques Bourbeau reports.
OTTAWA – The Conservative Party lawyer who attended interviews related to the May 2011 robocalls investigation at times spoke for witnesses and directed the questions, according to excerpts obtained by Global News.
Arthur Hamilton sat in on the interviews with the witnesses, who had all worked as Conservative staffers, alongside Elections Canada investigators Allan Mathews and Ron Lamothe in March and April 2012.
The investigation relates to misleading robocalls in Guelph during the 2011 election. Michael Sona, who worked for a Conservative candidate in Guelph, has been charged with violating the Elections Act. He has publicly denied wrongdoing.
Court documents released this week allege Sona told “several” friends he was involved in making misleading calls directing Guelph voters to nonexistent polling stations.
In documents, Hamilton said he attended an interview as “counsel for the Conservative Party of Canada,” not the witness.
In an email obtained by Global News, one witness said Hamilton wasn’t representing him.
“Well I said I didn’t need a lawyer, wasn’t commenting. I don’t suppose the cpc (Conservative Party of Canada) lawyer counts, because my choice in that matter wasn’t exercised,” the witness wrote.
According to excerpts of interviews, Hamilton at times took charge of the interrogation, telling witnesses what to say and speaking for them.
“You’ve spoken to your parents as well about this,” Hamilton says to one witness.
“Yeah,” the witness says.
“Go ahead, type. Yeah. His parents live in Saskatchewan,” Hamilton replies.
At one point, Hamilton tells another witness to give investigators the “exact quote.”
“I said, ‘You should shut up and stop telling people this stuff,’” one witness says.
Hamilton replies: “You can give the exact quote if you want.”
Ottawa defence lawyer Michael Spratt says it’s “very unusual” for a third party to be present in interviews.
“Is he acting in the interest of the witness? Or is he acting in the interest of his client, the Conservative Party of Canada?” said Spratt.
“The reason why it’s unusual, and perhaps may raise some questions in this case, is that this was an ongoing investigation, in which the Conservative party was at least somewhat involved. And to have a lawyer for that third party at the witness interview, obviously opens the door to a flow of information back to the Conservative party.”
A spokesman for Elections Canada said he couldn’t speak to specifics about the investigation.
“As is the practice with other enforcement bodies, an interviewee is not prevented from having legal counsel present during an interview if he or she desires,” spokesman John Enright said in an email.
Hamilton said in an email he cannot comment because he is not representing either side in the case.
“I am not the lawyer for either the prosecution or the accused in the Guelph case, so it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment about those proceedings,” Hamilton wrote.
The Conservatives have claimed they played no role in the robocalls. A party spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.