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NEWS: Tories asking court to quash Council of Canadians ’ robocalls claim

Steven Shrybman

Steven Shrybman

Postmedia News reports this hour, “The Conservative Party will ask the Federal Court to throw out a citizen advocacy group’s legal challenge that claims misleading telephone calls in the last election affected the results in seven ridings. Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton told opposing counsel and court officials in a case management meeting that he plans to bring a motion on Friday before the Federal Court of Canada seeking to dismiss the applications brought by the Council of Canadians.”

“In March, the Council filed separate but related legal challenges in ridings in B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Ontario. The litigation claims harassing or misleading calls suppressed the non-Conservative vote and changed the outcomes in these ridings. Under the Elections Act, any elector can launch a legal challenge of the results in his or her riding. If a judge determines that irregularities in the conduct of the vote would have changed the outcome, he can set it aside and trigger a byelection.”

“Council of Canadians lawyer Steven Shrybman said he doesn’t know exactly what the Conservatives intend to claim in their motion seeking to toss out the court action. Hamilton has suggested in the past the court applications as filed would not satisfy the legal standard required to convince a judge to overturn a vote. Shrybman said that, while he hasn’t seen the motions, he has doubts about Hamilton’s position. ‘I don’t think there’s any merit to either of the motions and we’ll vigorously defend,’ he said.”

“The decision on the Conservatives’ motion will be made by a prothonotary, a court official who issues rulings on evidentiary issues and procedural matters.”

“Hamilton also plans to bring a second motion next week that also will ask that the seven cases be thrown out, Shrybman said. Shrybman said that he doesn’t expect the motions will substantially slow down the case and he is hopeful the cases will be heard together at hearing sometime in the fall. ‘The court understands the importance of these cases proceeding through the system without any unnecessary delay and it was intent on hearing the matter expeditiously,’ he said.”

“The Council of Canadians is a left-of-centre organization originally formed to oppose the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. in the 1980s. The Council has filed evidence from a former Conservative Party call centre worker from Thunder Bay who said she made calls to voters telling them their polling station had moved. It has also submitted an affidavit from pollster Frank Graves, who found a statistically significant percentage of people polled in the seven ridings had reported receiving harassing or misleading telephone calls before the election.”

For more on our Democracy 24-7 work, please go to http://canadians.org/democracy247.