The legal challenge sponsored by the Council of Canadians to the federal election results in seven ridings is still alive.
The Conservatives had argued that the suit should be dismissed before it really started and on three different counts. Federal prothonotary Martha Milczynski ruled differently yesterday on two of those counts. On the claim that the suit was "frivolous and vexatious, she wrote:
"Far from being frivolous or vexatious, or an obvious abuse, the applications raise serious issues about the integrity of the democratic process in Canada and identify practices that, if proven, point to a campaign of activities that would seek to deny eligible voters their right to vote and/or manipulate or interfere with that right being exercised freely."
Both here and in the Etobicoke Centre case, the Conservatives appeared to argue that looking too closely at our electoral process might damage the confidence we have in it. Milczynski seems to be taking the opposite position: that the best way to maintain confidence in the system is to subject it to greater scrutiny, not less, and to do so in open court. Works for me.
The other issue ruled on here is whether the plaintiffs were too late in filing their suit since the law specifies that challenges should be made within 30 days. Steve Shrybman, representing the plaintiffs, had argued that his clients didn't suspect any organized effort to deceive voters had occurred until they began reading stories in the media this past February and that they couldn't have been expected to act until then. The court seemed to support that argument:
The court ruled, though, that when voters received calls misdirecting them on election day, they could not have known that they "could have been part of a fraud or corrupt or illegal practice," and said a determination requires "a full evidentiary record."
"It cannot be concluded at this juncture simply on the basis of inference and argument that the applicants as a group, or any of them, sat on their rights until after the time for bringing the application had expired."
As an aside, I wonder if that will set a precedent of sorts for the challenge being mounted in Guelph, where the Marijuana Party candidate, Kornelis Klevering, only recently returned from abroad and has filed suit to overturn the results there. The only news on that front this past week was the predictable reaction from Liberal Frank Valeriote, who won the election and has filed notice that he intends to oppose the suit. It remains an uphill battle for Klevering since the point of the robocalls was to suppress Liberal votes (among others) and the Liberals won anyway — and by a healthy margin.
But back to our main event. It isn't mentioned in the Stephen Maher story I linked to at the top but the Canadian Press version (via the Winnipeg Free Press) notes that there's a third Conservative motion that's still outstanding: the Council of Canadians shouldn't be involved because everyone knows they don't like Conservatives.
However, the council's Maude Barlow said she expects to win that court battle as well.
"We're feeling quite confident that that will be thrown out, as this is," Barlow said.
Given the rulings from Milczynski so far, I don't think Barlow is being overconfident. So it's on. There's no indication here of the specific timing but the consensus seems to be that things will move quickly.
While everything else seems to be moving relatively slowly. I've seen no news on the original Elections Canada investigation into fraudulent phone calls in the last week. There was a long piece in The Hill Times on Dean Del Mastro on Monday but the only new item there was the suggestion that the long awaited meeting between the Peterborough MP and EC investigators is "expected to take place at the end of July." And we're still waiting for the Supreme Court ruling on the Etobicoke Centre appeal.
If patience is a virtue, I'm not feeling very virtuous. See you next week.