The Council of Canadians and the seven ridings
There was a hearing on Tuesday to consider a motion by the Conservatives that would compel the applicants to put up more than $250,000 as a form of security deposit against the possibility that they lose and are forced to pay costs. I posted about that on Tuesday and updated with links to coverage later on in the day. The court reserved judgement and we're still waiting.
There were also to be closed door hearings this week to cross examine witnesses — presumably the witnesses who supplied affidavits for either side. As far as I know, there has been nothing reported on those sessions. If I've missed something, please feel free to yell at me in comments.
Dean Del Mastro. And his cousin, David Del Mastro
McGregor and Maher reported on Wednesday that Dean Del Mastro has had that meeting with Elections Canada. This is according to "a source close to the investigation" who reports that Del Mastro defended his innocence "vigorously." But apparently he has kept a pretty low profile since parliament resumed, skipping the first ethics committee meeting and remaining in his seat during Question Period.
As for the donation reimbursement scheme alleged to involve cousin David Del Mastro's company, the only update on that is that "Elections Canada appears to be conducting a separate inquiry."
If you're not familiar with the details of these stories you might want to follow the link. If you've been tracking this from week to week, there's really nothing else that's new here.
In contrast with Dean Del Mastro, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has had a higher than normal profile this week -- it's democracy week. He did comment on the robocon investigation and here's a direct quote from an online session he did with Globe and Mail readers.
The one thing that I can assure you is that the commissioner's office is diligently pursuing this matter and is sparing no effort in bringing this investigation to completion. This investigation is like peeling an onion - there are many layers, including phony names, false addresses, false phone numbers, proxy servers, hidden IP addresses, to name but a few reported in the media. But rest assured that the commissioner is determined to get to the bottom of this, and so am I.
He also had comments on voter turnout, which is too low, and online voting, which isn't happening in the near future. A separate Globe and Mail article brings us up to date on Mayrand's stated intention to report next spring on proposed changes to election law to deal with "the abuse of technology."
"Generally, the data collected by parties is not subject to privacy legislation so that's an issue that may need to be explored," Mr. Mayrand said.
"We know also that parties are gathering a fair bit of information to target their activities toward various demographic groups. But again, little is known about how this information is gathered, how long it's retained, what happens when there's a breach ... what level of security does exist around access to this information, is it used only for the purpose of election campaigning?
"There are all sorts of questions that arise in that regard."
There's no mention here of having the Do Not Call registry apply to political parties. When they get around to that one, they can count me as a yes vote.
That piece also reviews some of the details of the original robocall case as well as the Etobicoke Lakeshore challenge but if you've been following those stories I don't think you'll find anything new. The article finishes up with concerns about voter turnout.
More worrying to Mr. Mayrand than the allegations of irregularities, is the long-term trend of declining voter turnout, particularly among young people.
He noted that in 1965, 65 per cent of young first-time eligible voters actually cast ballots. That dropped to 58 per cent in 1985 and a meagre 34 per cent in 2004. Furthermore, studies have found that young people who don't vote the first time they're eligible to do so, never vote in subsequent elections either.
Resolving the problem will need a concerted effort "by the whole of civil society" to engage young people, including outreach efforts by political parties and candidates and civic education by the media, parents and teachers.
I suppose it would be outside his jurisdiction to note that part of the problem lies with the antics of some politicians and media figures — certainly not all, but some — that appear designed to treat politics as little more than a sideshow. Not to mention the concerted efforts of our corporate overlords and their elected agents to ensure that government itself has less and less influence on events. But I suppose that's a subject for a separate rant.
We're still waiting on the Supreme Court ruling regarding Etobicoke Lakeshore. I'm surprised at that but again, I wonder if there's a serious debate going on behind the scenes which will produce a split decision. And that's really all I've got unless you count the new campaign by Democracy Watch:
Today, Democracy Watch launched a national letter-writing and petition drive on Change.org calling for politicians across Canada to pass effective laws to stop election fraud robocalls, and to strengthen enforcement of election laws.
"Canadians have heard lots of talk from politicians saying they are concerned about false election robocalls and enforcement of election laws, but it is clear politicians need to be pushed and so we are making it easy for people across the country to add their voice to the call for politicians across Canada to make the changes needed to clean up and ensure our elections are fair," said Tyler Sommers,
There's more at the link. And I guess there's always the possibility that some major development will break about five minutes after I publish.