The search for Pierre Poutine
Even among those who are fervently hoping that the perpetrator of all those fraudulent phone calls in Guelph is found, I can imagine two distinctly different reactions to the news that the RCMP is now directly involved in the investigation. The first is: what the hell took them so long? And the second is: great... a politically compromised police force is supposed to get to the bottom of skullduggery by the governing party. We live in such interesting times.
Either way, things are looking grim on this file. It turns out that the IP address used by both Pierre Poutine and Andrew Prescott, deputy manager for the Conservative campaign in Guelph, was actually used by five different Conservative campaign workers. At the time, the address was associated with an unsecured wireless internet account at a residence on the other side of town from the campaign office. The residents don't appear to have any connection to the campaign so we're left to imagine that five different Conservatives drove across town and parked outside of the same house to log on to the internet.
It's a puzzle.
And it appears to be a dead end. So Elections Canada and the Mounties are now re-examining evidence from the logs at RackNine, the call company used to place the calls, as well as following up on an email address Poutine used in the course of setting up the calls. It's a gmail account and originally Google had balked at providing information but apparently the company is now cooperating with the investigation. That doesn't mean investigators will get anything useful from the exercise.
Andrew Prescott is still refusing to speak to investigators. No explanation for his use of a proxy server to mask his IP during some of his own dealings with RackNine has ever been provided. Michael Sona's name continues to come up — see the end of the older article at the second link — but there's nothing new here. The RCMP has no comment on the investigation. And all Elections Canada is saying is that the RCMP is working with them and they have no further comment.
The Council of Canadians and the seven ridings
When I posted last Friday about the affidavit submitted by the Responsive Marketing Group as a rebuttal to the evidence submitted by the CoC, I hadn't seen this Globe and Mail report. I want to double back to pick this up:
...the company's chief compliance officer had reviewed Ms. Desgagne's calls to voters in the disputed ridings and found she properly identified herself "on the majority of the relevant calls" and did not provide incorrect polling station addresses.
Does this mean there are recordings of those calls that were still available for review after Desgagne went public with her side of the story? Those should still be available, right? Can we hear them? Wouldn't they answer a number of questions?
Since then it's been reported that the main event has been scheduled for Dec. 10th to Dec. 14th. There is still a hearing planned for Sept. 18th to review submitted evidence and to consider both a motion from the Conservatives to force complainants to put up what amounts to a $250,000 security deposit, and a request by the complainants for information from Elections Canada — a request EC won't respond to unless the court compels it.
Dean Del Mastro
On Monday The Hill Times published a piece that reviewed the back and forth between NDP MP Charlie Angus, who has requested that Justice Minister Rob Nicholson intervene in the Del Mastro investigation, and Nicholson who maintains that the federal Director of Public Prosecutions is not an investigative body and has no business being involved at this point. The new information provided is that Angus has written back to Nicholson but it's really just to reiterate the same arguments.
The point Angus makes, that the DPP was created to "hold politicians to account", is actually not a very strong one when you consider that the matter he's referring to is the reimbursement scheme that saw supposed campaign donors repaid by Deltro Electric, a company owned by the Peterborough MP's cousin, David Del Mastro. The problem here is that nothing in the evidence we know about directly implicates Dean Del Mastro. I don't think Angus is going to get anywhere with this. Meanwhile, as usual, there's been no comment from EC about their own investigation.
I wasn't really following this story but after watching the video that Nancy Leblanc posted on Tuesday, I can't help myself. Watch Penashue provide exactly the same non-answer to half a dozen questions. Consider that this man isn't just a member of parliament but a cabinet minister. It is to weep.
I believe questions were first raised about the financial aspects of Penashue's 2011 campaign back in July. There's the matter of a loan to the campaign from the Innu Development Limited Partnership, an organization to which Penashue has personal connections. Paperwork filed with Elections Canada shows the loan was interest free but Penashue insisted that was an error.
But then problems with the paperwork submitted to Elections Canada present a whole different set of issues, including spending over the limit and missing expense records. My favorite angle on the story so far is the subsequent appointment of Penashue's campaign manager, Reginald Bowers, to "the federal-provincial board that regulates Newfoundland's offshore oil sector." Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver described him as a "capable appointee with decades of experience in regional economic development." That capable appointee bounced two cheques, apparently exceeded the spending limit by around $4,000 and couldn't figure out that travel expenses related to campaigning are, you know, actual expenses that should be recorded.
It was interesting to see the quote from an Elections Canada official in that last article about the difficulties involved in managing a campaign. Are we to believe that the party responsible for an extensive manual on obstructing parliamentary committees has no manual for campaign managers?
As Penashue went to great lengths to assure us, a submission has been made to Elections Canada and he's hopeful that he can work with the agency to resolve all of the outstanding issues. We'll see. Hopefully.
Elections Canada and Democracy Watch
About a month ago we learned that Elections Canada had decided not to pursue an investigation into a complaint about foreigners — specifically Americans — interfering in our electoral process. If you don't recall the specifics there's more information and some links in this post, beginning at the fifth paragraph. Democracy Watch took exception to EC's decision and the logic behind it and wrote to the agency asking for clarification on the ruling and specifically on the meaning of the words "induce" and "inducement" which appear repeatedly in the legislation that governs our electoral process. At the same time, they took the opportunity to point out that they had requested information on as many as 3,000 complaints that Elections Canada has received over the years and to call for a public inquiry into the agency's enforcement practices.
In the absence of a satisfactory answer to its questions, DW has now released the text of their letter to the media and is renewing its call for both clarification on that ruling and for a public examination of the way EC has been conducting the business of responding to complaints. The Democracy Watch media release is here on their site. Kady O'Malley at the CBC picked up on the story, as she did the first time around, and has the text of the letter Democracy Watch originally wrote. O'Malley finished her post with this:
I'm crossing my fingers that Democracy Watch wins this round, if only so we can finally have a definitive answer to the question of what constitutes "inducement" under the act.
I'm hoping DW wins more than just a concession on that issue. I'd like an explanation of the purpose served by keeping the disposition of those 3,000 complaints a secret. In the course of reading the arguments Charlie Angus made to Rob Nicholson in that Hill Times article mentioned above, I was reminded of this:
Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.
That apparently dates back to a case in the English courts almost a century ago. It's invoked on a pretty regular basis because it's true.
How can justice be seen to be done if the complaints made about possible violations of the law and Elections Canada's handling of them remain secrets? Much has been said recently about maintaining faith in the electoral process. I can well understand the need to be discreet about ongoing investigations, but how does that apply to closed cases? Keeping us in the dark won't maintain our faith; it will erode it.