Campaign Capers: The view from under the bus


This past week Michael Sona publicly declared his membership in a very large club: people who have grown impatient waiting for Elections Canada. Beyond that and his claim to be completely innocent of any attempt to suppress votes in Guelph, there's not that much to take away from his interview with the CBC's Evan Solomon.

Sona first came to national attention because of a special polling station that had been set up at the University of Guelph. Conservatives discovered that there was a problem with the poll's registration and decided it should be shut down and Sona was the staffer who showed up on the scene to make that happen. The resulting confrontation made the news and he now feels that the notoriety he gained from that incident made him an easy target when the time came to point fingers regarding vote suppression efforts in Guelph. Which makes this interesting:

He said Fred DeLorey, the party's communications director, told him to intervene at the university polling station, over Sona's objections that the optics would not serve the party well.

When the fraudulent robocalls in Guelph began making headlines in February, Sona's name surfaced in a Sun News report courtesy of Brian Lilley and an anonymous Conservative source. Shortly after that we learned the resignation he had submitted to the CPC MP he was working for, initially declined, had suddenly been accepted after his employer got a call from CPC HQ.

And not too long after that, Peter MacKay was standing on the floor of the House of Commons ensuring that Michael Sona's name would appear in Hansard as the person everyone was assuming was responsible for attempting to deceive voters. Sona had become the central player in the talking point Conservatives were using to deflect questions about the story.

It's interesting that you had a bunch of people come out and point the finger at me, officially to Elections Canada, only after my name was leaked to the media by anonymous sources.

If that's supposed to suggest that those people know more than they've admitted, it really doesn't. For the people in question, politics is always top of mind. The first priority is always to protect the leader and the party brand. At the first hint of scandal the immediate reaction isn't to find out what's really happening; the immediate reaction is to prepare a communications strategy to minimize the political damage and worry about the truth later. Sona was a target of opportunity and once his name became associated with the story it was just too easy to keep invoking it.

Eight months later he's tired of waiting for Elections Canada to clear his name and has decided to begin talking to the media. In the process of proclaiming his own innocence he does add a bit of context to the story.

Sona said the Conservative Party headquarters was closely involved in the local Guelph campaign.

"We were a target seat for a while and there was a lot of direction from headquarters," he said, with people often dropping into the campaign office or offering advice.

But beyond that... yes, it was already generally accepted that whoever was responsible for setting up the fraudulent calls would have required access to CIMS, the Conservative Party's voter tracking system. And yes, we already knew that the access logs for that system should reveal the identity of the user whose query would have provided the call list in question. But that evidence hasn't materialized and Sona can't explain that. He's not naming names and when Solomon does by bringing Andrew Prescott's name into the conversation, Sona's response seems designed to let Prescott off the hook.

He's not always the best when it comes to security or things like that. I'm not sure if maybe he's left his computer open and someone else could have done something. I'm not sure about the specifics of it.

We're no further ahead in terms of having testimony or evidence that would prove anyone's guilt in the actual violations of election law. The only other news here is Sona's contention that EC has actually completed its report on Guelph. How does he know? Why would they tell him? Or has he read too much into something someone else said?

A funny thing happened one day in Labrador. At almost the same moment — at least on the same day — six different people decided that Conservative candidate Peter Penashue was their choice for MP and that they felt strongly enough about it to get their chequebooks out to help finance his campaign. Now considering how many people there are in Labrador perhaps that doesn't seem all that funny. How about if I told you that they all sit on the same company's board of directors? And that they all came to this realization two days after the election when Penashue had already been declared the winner?

The CBC has a photo of the deposit slip showing a single line item for an amount of $5,500, the total of the six donations. And from a subsequent CBC story:

[Evan] Solomon ... reported that the deposit slip in Penashue's 2011 election file came with an accompanying document explaining who the $5,500 donation came from.

The document is said to explain that the single deposit from Pennecon Ltd. represents individual donations from six partners in the company.

Elections Canada is said to be examining the document.

Corporate donations are illegal in Canada. It's also illegal to funnel donations through another person.

All of this is in addition to questions that have previously been raised about Penashue's campaign financing, including, though by no means limited to, approximately $18,000 worth of air travel that was generously "written off" by a regional airline.

Until now, the Conservative position has been to blame it all on inexperience in the form of administrative errors committed by volunteers working for a first-time candidate. But if you follow the second of the CBC links, you'll find that the party is now taking this seriously enough to be sending their own delegation to Labrador to have a look around. Peter may have a problem.

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New development today:

"...In an affidavit sworn Aug. 8, 2012, Andrew Langhorne, the company's chief operating officer, provided a script used by its callers that asked voters to confirm they knew where to vote on election day and said, "Elections Canada has changed some voting locations at the last moment."

But only one of the ridings actually had changes to its polling stations, says a lawyer representing the voters who mounted the challenge..."

Thanks. I'd just seen that myself about five minutes ago.

There's also been a document release by the Council of Canadians. That page on their website has links to pdfs of the factum -- a 140 page document prepared by Steven Shrybman that lays out the applicants' case -- and the Applicants' Record Book which is a complete list all the supporting documents that have been filed. Just a little light reading.

I've always maintained that RMG has a heavy hand in all of this. Remember that Thunder Bay call centre worker who explicitly said they were given scripts to redirect voters to the wrong polling station?

Alison at Creekside did some digging on RMG back in the day:

Remember this blogger: (He seems to have disappeared!?!)

I don't know what happened to him, but I think Tracey Kent tweeted that he wasn't who he appeared to be, or something like that.

I wish I had time to read that factum, it looks interesting.

Remember that Thunder Bay call centre worker ...

Annette Desgagne. She's listed as supplying an affidavit in the Applicants' Record Book. Twice.

Remember this blogger...

I was never sure how to take him. He made promises he didn't keep.


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This page contains a single entry by pogge published on November 4, 2012 2:39 PM.

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