Elections Canada, Dean Del Mastro and the Supreme Court of Canada have all been very quiet as far as the stories I've been tracking in these regular Friday posts are concerned. In fact, there are only two parties who have anything to say.
The first is Steven Shrybman, the lawyer representing voters who want the election results in seven ridings overturned. He'd like Elections Canada to start talking.
The second is Arthur Hamilton, the lawyer representing the Conservative Party of Canada in the same matter. He wants Shrybman to stop talking and would prefer that Elections Canada didn't start.
I should note that EC is a named respondent in this case but McGregor and Maher remind us of this from Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand:
Mayrand told the parliamentary committee on Procedure and House Affairs that his agency would function like an "amicus curiae" -- a friend of the court -- and provide assistance in this case.
Assistance is exactly what Shrybman would like (and here I'm switching to a CBC story that has a more succinct summary of Shrybman's request):
Steven Shrybman, lawyer for nine voters who want last year's election results in those ridings overturned, says in a letter to a lawyer for Elections Canada that chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand told a House committee the agency would assist the court in its hearing.
Shrybman refers in the letter to Mayrand's appearance at the March 29 House of Commons committee and asks the agency to:
- Update the number of complaints they've received, as well as lay out the ridings from which they've received complaints.
- Describe the fraudulent calls, like whether they were live or recorded.
- Tell the court how many investigations the agency has underway.
- Provide publicly available court documents filed by Elections Canada investigators.
Given EC's reluctance to comment publicly on specific investigations I can see the third item being a sticking point. I don't see why the rest would pose problems. On the fourth point, in particular, Shrybman isn't asking EC to reveal anything confidential. He's looking for any additional court filings similar to those which have informed much of the reporting that journalists have already done on the robocon story. Those documents become public record the moment they're filed and what's at issue here is saving journalists and/or researchers the trouble of visiting jurisdictions all over the country to locate them independently.
As of this writing, EC hasn't responded to the request but the CPC's lawyer has.
A lawyer representing the Conservative Party says Elections Canada should not be allowed to hand over new evidence in legal action that seeks to overturn the results of the last year's federal election in seven ridings.
Arthur Hamilton says in a letter to opposing counsel that the applicants have missed the deadline for submitting new evidence in the series of challenges in Federal Court and warned that allowing in "incremental material" could further delay the cases.
...Hamilton wrote to Shrybman this week saying that the court had set June 15 as the deadline for submitting evidence. Allowing new material would be unfair to the seven Conservative MPs who are named as respondents, he said.
Is it normal for opposing counsel to debate these issues through the mail (and the media)? Hamilton's going to have to repeat those arguments before a judge. But even if the court eventually disallowed the admission of new evidence, Shrybman's request might still result in new information being exposed and providing reporters with even more to report.
It's safe to say any response from Elections Canada will get a lot of press. The agency is already getting a lot of attention and I'm sure it's for a variety of reasons. There was a long piece in The Hill Times on Monday discussing EC's track record, the difficulties it would face in enforcing the laws and possible changes to those laws. I was interested to see this comment:
Elections Canada's record and style of investigation and enforcement are hard to evaluate. According to civil watchdog group Democracy Watch, the agency has had more than 3,000 cases in front of it since 1997, but it is impossible to know what they were about, or what came of them because the agency doesn't make that information public.
I've seen no recent developments on the attempts by Democracy Watch to have that information released to the public.
Yesterday there was a critical piece in the Toronto Sun:
In the past 20 years, Elections Canada hasn't prosecuted one deadbeat candidate for not repaying election debt within the deadline.
This despite the fact candidates from the 2004, 2006 and 2008 general elections owed almost $3 million in unpaid bills.
The outstanding amounts ranged from a few dollars to more than $20,000 - and indebted candidates were scattered across the country and party lines.
If you're interested in pursuing that story, there was a related piece earlier in the week at the Globe and Mail. If the only way to resolve a situation is to sue yourself, I'd say the legislation needs another look.
But I digress. Steven Shrybman and Arthur Hamilton will be facing each other in court again this coming week but still doing preliminary business. The main event isn't expected until the fall at the earliest.
The Supreme Court will publish when it publishes and we likely won't know until the Monday of the week they do that the ruling is coming.
I haven't seen notice of any new developments on Pierre Poutine for so long that I fear he may cease to be a person of interest in a criminal investigation and become a creature of myth and legend.
Does Dean Del Mastro have a cottage?