Apparently Dean Del Mastro has had a change of heart. With regards to the investigation into his 2008 campaign spending, the MP had insisted repeatedly that he wasn't prepared to meet with Elections Canada on their terms. But it was reported last Friday afternoon that he's now prepared to do just that.
...Del Mastro's lawyer, quoted in a Globe and Mail story Friday, said Del Mastro was contacted by the agency and is planning to give a statement under caution to investigator Thomas Ritchie.
Neither Del Mastro nor the lawyer, Jeffrey Ayotte, responded to requests to explain the MP's sudden change of position on the caution.
And since Elections Canada won't comment on an ongoing investigation, that's all there is to report except to say that Rob Nicholson still hasn't responded to the NDP's letter asking to bring the RCMP in on this one immediately. I doubt that Nicholson's silence surprises anyone very much. The NDP does raise a good point when it comes to the issue of the campaign contributions that were allegedly reimbursed by Deltro Electric (also mentioned in the linked story). Thus far there's no evidence that anyone in an official capacity is investigating those allegations.
And now a word from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court:
"In a sense, this appeal comes down to how important is it to keep electoral records and keep them properly ... One argument is that it's extremely important, because unless those records are kept and kept properly, the public cannot have confidence in the process."
In fact, she said, this attention to detail and record-keeping is what distinguishes Canada's advanced democracy from other, more questionable democratic states in the world.
Similarly, McLachlin said that rigorous bureaucracy is what often stands in the way of corrupt election practices, whether here or abroad.
"So just because we take for granted, in Canada, that everything usually works honestly and so on, how far should the court go in saying this is all right? That's what's troubling me," she said.
The Chief Justice was speaking at the hearing convened to consider whether to overturn a lower court ruling that would throw out the results in Etobicoke Centre in last year's federal election and send voters in that riding back to the polls for a do-over. She was responding to arguments that the ruling in question was based on purely administrative errors and that upholding the lower court decision would set too low a standard for overturning election results. Those arguments were coming from both the Conservative party, which was predictable, and from Elections Canada, which was less predictable and, in the context of other developments, is a bit disturbing.
Elections Canada made a last minute submission of records to show that of the 79 ballots the lower court threw out, 44 of them were actually citizens with a right to vote and their votes should stand. Their position seemed to gloss over the fact that about half of those 44 may not have lived in the riding at the time the election took place, which poses a bit of a problem in the context of a parliamentary system in which we vote for a local representative, not a national party. I live in Oshawa. A Canadian citizen who lives in Hamilton may have a perfect right to vote but he has no right at all to vote here in Oshawa and influence the choice of the member who will represent me in the House of Commons. To me, that's not a minor issue.
The other argument that keeps getting repeated is that throwing out the results and calling a by-election somehow disenfranchises the voters. Those would be the same voters who get to vote in the by-election. It's implicit in this argument that having to hold another election is just a terrible imposition on everyone involved. Again, it's predictable coming from the Conservatives when it's the self-serving argument to make but it's disturbing coming from the people who run the elections and are responsible for making sure they're run properly.
The Supreme Court has reserved its decision but is expected to issue a ruling quickly. Given the attention that's now being paid to this case, I'm pretty sure it'll be hard to miss when it does.
As far as I know, there's nothing more to report on the original investigation into fraudulent phone calls. I do have more to say about Elections Canada, especially in light of this. In fact I have enough to say that I'm going to save it for another post. If you're interested, you can watch for that over the next couple of days.