Monday, April 02, 2012

RoboCon : The Very Significant Alligator Under the Bed

Kady did such a brilliant live-blog of Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand's appearance before the Procedures Committee last Thursday that I didn't get around to watching it all myself till today.  But now that I have, I think the extraordinary lengths to which the Cons on committee were willing to go to try to shift the blame onto Elections Canada requires a fuller transcript.

As PLG points out at Pogge :
"we know the Pierre Poutine phone alone resulted in 6,700 calls to voters, but these calls only resulted in 70 complaints. So, 800 complaints clearly doesn't indicate only 800 calls.If the ratio held it'd be around 80,000. But I'd figure the ratio in other ridings would actually be higher--since publicity about the whole deal would have been especially intense in Guelph, leading more people to actually come forward. So who knows how many fraudulent calls were actually made--I'd say likely well over 100,000."
So here, given that the PROC committee does not have a transcript up yet, is a partial one for posterity and committee geeks :

Con MP Tom Lukiwski opened with a tirade against a Lib staffer who alerted voters to the fact that Con Marty Burke is reportedly anti-choice without identifying herself in the tagline as a Lib staffer.
Tom's talking point already handily debunked two weeks ago here. 
Next up :
Con MP John Williamson : "800 strikes me as potentially just a few errors per riding in the grand scheme of potential voters. What's your sense of the numbers?" 
Mayrand : "We know in the case of Pierre Poutine that there were at least 6,700 calls placed... What is troubling here is that there were definitely calls that were placed on behalf of people, falsely placed on behalf of people including Elections Canada. When you talk about 800 complaints you're talking about specific allegations with respect to calls received by electors."
Con MP Harold Albrecht of Kitchener-Conestoga amusingly tries to make the case that his party might contact a voter early on in the campaign and receive a response of overwhelming support but that by week five of the campaign that voter might changed his mind and it's possible that voter might perceive a follow up call on election day as harassment. 
Which of course has fuck all to do with pretending to be from EC and directing people to non-existent polling booths or calling people up and being rude or offensive while pretending to be from another party. 
Albrecht : 
"800 complaints in 70,000 polling stations - that's roughly one complaint per 100 polling stations"
Lukiwski :
"If we're looking at only 800 complaints, reasonably founded complaints, over roughly 200 ridings, that's maybe as little as one complaint lodged in a riding or as many as seven complaints in another riding. But based on the election return ... since there's a court challenge in seven ridings, and we're only talking about perhaps an average of four complaints, in other words perhaps as little as four examples, even if they were verified, of a voter receiving a vote suppression or misleading phone call trying to get them to another voting station, or to try and prevent them from voting in itself, what is the level that is required to overturn a result? It wouldn't seem to me that if we're talking about only four complaints, even if they were legitimate, per riding, that that would be enough to overturn an election result. What would it take to actually have you look at even considering the possibility of overturning an election result?"
Mayrand : "The responsibility to overturn an election lays with the court. The court will decide." 
Lukiwski : "But in your opinion ..." 
Mayrand : "My understanding of the legislation is that there has to be a demonstration that the result of the specific election, riding election, were affected by the irregularities claimed by the plaintiffs."

Con MP Bob Zimmer, Prince George Peace River : 
"We're hearing about deliberate acts that are attempting to dissude voters from voting or sending voters to wrong polling stations - I would suggest to moving to more of the non-deliberate acts and we mentioned earlier that there was 84% in terms of accurate calling lists or voters lists, [Note to Bob : EC does not have or give out phone numbers] but that still remains 16% in error and I guess most of us and me I was alarmed to see that number. And you had said that 700,000 were updated but that still leaves 3.1 million in error, and I guess just for Canadians' confidence, and I know that's why you're here, can you relay your confidence in the system with that high amount of error? Can you give Canadians a sense of confidence that we still have a good system? And I'll go back to your numbers of four per riding in terms of complaints, of actual calls, so we see quite a discrepancy in numbers there of significant amouts of errors - 3.1 million as opposed to four per riding in terms of net complaints. So there's quite a gap there like you had stated. How can Canadians still be confidant in the Elections Canada system?"
After pointing out that Canada's electoral system is a model around the world,  
Mayrand :"I would point out that a single elector being misdirected from his poll is a serious offence. At the end of the day, that's what investigations are about... "
Zimmer : "Deliberately or even really if its done non-deliberately - if it's an accident ..." 
Mayrand : "One thing I can assure Canadians and the committee is that calls made on behalf of Elections Canada are not errors. I'm sorry, this is not an error. That's a deliberate attempt to thwart the right of an elector."
Zimmer : " But if ridings are given incorrect data and are responding to that data and Canadians are responding to that data and going to the wrong polling stations as a result of incorrect data, that, simply put, that's ..."
And his time is up. 

Laurie Hawn
"This circus, and it is a circus, is undermining, notwithstanding the legitimacy of the processes that need to be followed in order to get to the bottom of it - nobody argues with that -  the circus aspect of this process has served to do nothing but unfortunately degrade the trust of Canadians in their system."
Hawn : Afghanistan, Haiti, blah, blah, blah, after which Lukiwski returns for yet another bout of whine about the Lib staffer busting out Con Marty Burke's alleged anti-choice creds.
Finally, the alligator under the bed makes its appearance :

Con MP Scott Reid
".. Is what we've heard an indication of some kind of alligator under the bed? Is something bigger going on or not? The assertion has been at least implied that there's widespread fraudulent either voter suppression or impersonation of Elections Canada or something of that sort. But what strikes me is if there's really an alligator under the bed, that I wonder if the alligator under the bed simply isn't a widespread problem with trying to figure out where people actually live in order to contact them in a way that uh - you can see there is a distinct problem here.  The normal voters list, the normal number of voters who are put in the wrong location, is 16%. You indicated that after you go through and issue the final voters list, it comes down to 12% error rate? Is that correct? That's still millions of Canadians and I know from experience I've picked up that final voters list myself in the last election from my riding. .. It was about 48 or 72 hours before Voting Day so you can understand it's hard to get that data, input it, and that sort of thing, any kind of actual ...In our case we do more print communication - you can't get that out with the list. As a final note - this is not something that Elections Canada has done but I'll make the point - from the last provincial election, Elections Ontario put myself and my wife - we live in the same house - in two different ridings. So things like this occur all the time. It is as a practical matter very difficult to overcome that problem. I think there is a widespread problem here that leads to many of the kinds of complaints you've heard ."
Mayrand : "The list is not perfect and I don't think it will ever be ... people move all the time, things happen. That being said, I still can't reconcile the idea that people pretending to be Elections Canada tried to misdirect people."
Scott Reid : "... but I think I'm right in saying that the number of instances you're going to find of that as a proportion of the total number of complaints people are raising will be very very small."
Just dying to get to the bottom of this, aren't they?
Final obfuscations with bonus veiled threat from Mr. Creosote ...
Dean Del Mastro : "Just to kinda tie things up here - Mr. Mayrand, thank you for your appearance. You've indicated that in the 308 election results you stand behind your determination of each and every riding - that's part of your report that you've already made to this committee and I thank you for that. You've indicated in your report that you find it troubling to hear sometimes sweeping and vague allegations of irregularities being made public many months after the election and not supported by specific facts. We find that troubling as well - we've referred to that as the unsubstantiated smear campaign. 
Uh and I'd also like to point out that we've got a couple of former very significant - well, police chief and a commissioner of the OPP - that have been involved in some very significant investigations and one of the things that they're concerned with are some of the leaks. And I really wanna say that I appreciate your commitment and your comments specifically with respect to keeping these things in the strictest confidence. I can tell you that there's been harm, there's been harm to individuals, there's been harm to companies, even though for example the member from Winnipeg Centre has apologized for a number of the outlandish things that he has said in the NDP, there has been real harm done. Can you just confirm to the committee that you're going to work to make sure that no leaks are occurring from Elections Canada because there's a number of folks in the media that have in fact came forward and indicated to me that they feel Elections Canada has been the source of some of these things, or folks within Elections Canada. Can you just confirm that you're going to echo your comments to this committee that things will be kept in the strictest confidence...."
Mayrand :  "Another case of vague allegation here.[Room erupts with laughter] I can assure you - no, seriously, seriously  - again, there's no source leaking from Elections Canada if that's the allegation. I can attest to that. I think some should be checking their sources."
Committee ends with an all-party agreement to call Al Mathews, the guy heading up the actual investigations, some time before June. 
Maybe he can locate the very very significant alligator under the bed.

Fun fact : Committee members Tom Lukiwski, Harold Albrecht, Scott Reid, and Bob Zimmer are all from ridings where alligators of electoral irregularities have been alleged.

The most significant alligator of all : The Accountability Act of 2006 rescinded the authority of Elections Canada to prosecute offences under the Elections Act and gave that authority instead  to the Director of Public Prosecutions under the  Attorney General of Canada :
"The Director is given responsibility, in place of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, for prosecutions of offences under the Canada Elections Act."


Anonymous said...

alligators of electoral irregularities
heh - sounds like something out of winnie the pooh.

thwap said...

This is a sad farce. They made tens of thousands of calls. They committed tens of thousands of acts of electoral fraud, but they're chopping up everything to make it sound like there were a few hundred over-zealous staffers across the country making honest mistakes.

They should be hauled out and told in no uncertain terms that they're lying criminal scum.

kootcoot said...

"Mayrand : "The list is not perfect and I don't think it will ever be ... people move all the time, things happen. That being said, I still can't reconcile the idea that people pretending to be Elections Canada tried to misdirect people."

It is comforting to think that he has a sense of priority and proportion, while Mr. Creosote and friends are flailing about trying to explain away the unforgivable by overtaxing their low functioning math abilities!

Anonymous said...

Elections Canada does not include the voter's phone number in the voter list. The Conservatives would have had to merge voter phone numbers with voter names - not addresses - after they had received the EC voter lists.

The idea that the Conservatives fraudulent calls were made because of inaccurate addresses supplied by EC is ludicrous.

But, as Tom Flanagan said, as long as the lie is plausible, the base will accept it.

Purple library guy said...

Actually, the base seems fine with accepting utterly implausible lies. It's the only-kind-of-firm Con voters that need plausible ones . . . and there are signs that the lies they're working on this file aren't really plausible enough for the softer supporters to swallow.

Saskboy said...

Liekiwski is also from a Robocall/livecall riding.

Alison said...

Tahnks, Saskboy. Added. And thanks for your very generous links lately.

Anonymous said...

Hello Alison: great work on this very important issue. Just a note about the last few lines there..about the Elections Canada commissioner being called..Al Mathews, you have there. Yes, he is one of the lead investigators, and especially in the Guelph thing but alas he isn't bumped up to Commissioner. It is the Commissioner of Canada Elections the committee was going to try and get before them as well, as he, Mr. Wm. Corbett, is the guy the complaints go to. I even was one of the people submitting a complaint now over a year ago, about North Dakota calls to here, Ontario, our home, but anyway, so I didn't even know that either. And no, we still do not know who did that, or why but not for lack of me writing even the North Dakota government and phone regulators. Nope. Will keep you posted though, and man, I wish that alligator would rise up and take a great big nip out of someone's rear..oh, that would the ones in charge now yes? And that is why they probably won't like any new legislation with teeth MR. Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer, will present. Hope the public makes their wishes known to make sure that EC isn't gummin' it, and maybe then some might be seeing the inside of all those new jails : the special section for robocon marketeers and their ilk. I don't want to be a cimsy barcode. Keep up the excellent work..we need more info out here.Many thanks. From an old lady in Ontario, grumpy granny.

Alison said...

Thanks for the correction, grumpy granny - now if I could just get into Creekside to put it right. Sigh. This happens every so often.
I hope EC isn't "gumming it" too.
Not subpoenaing CIMS right away is puzzling. Could be evidence of "gumming it". Could be not possible to access if on foreign servers.

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