A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for February 2012

[LINK] “Defeated MP suspected dirty tricks used elsewhere”

News like this from the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centree brings a local perspective onto Canada’s growing robocalling scandal.

27 ridings are described in the CBC article as having been subject to this, but I’ve heard mention of upwards of forty ridings having seen robocalling. For comparison, the Conservative Party has a majority of 16 seats in parliament.

If these allegations are true, the potential for chaos is substantial. How many by-elections would there be? Just what would happen?

A former Toronto MP who lost a razor-thin election contest in Etobicoke Centre last year says he is not surprised to hear of claims that so-called dirty tricks may have been used in dozens of ridings across Canada.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who served for three terms as a Liberal MP, told CBC News that he has long suspected that he wasn’t the only candidate who heard about suspicious events during the last election.

He has alleged in an application filed in Ontario Superior Court that there were “widespread incidents of mistake and error, voter intimidation and active voter interference” that contributed to the final result in Etobicoke Centre, in which he lost to Conservative candidate Ted Opitz by fewer than 30 votes.

[. . .]

The Liberals have said that Etobicoke Centre is among 27 ridings where “false or misleading” calls were reported to the party during the election.

While Wrzesnewskyj said the wider allegations being raised by the Liberals and New Democrats are “disturbing,” he believed the alleged irregularities and incidents in Etobicoke Centre did not occur in isolation.

“Just by the nature of the allegations, it spoke to — potentially, if this is proven — to a meticulously planned-out system of suppressing vote,” Wrzesnewskyj said in an interview on Sunday.

“And let’s be clear here, what we’re talking about. It’s disenfranchising Canadians, taking Canadians’ right to vote away from them in an incredibly underhanded way.”

[. . .]

Prior to the election, Wrzesnewskyj had served as the MP for Etobicoke Centre for nearly seven years.

But Wrzesnewskyj was defeated, finishing behind his Conservative opponent. The result was subject to a recount, but was upheld and Opitz became Etobicoke Centre’s new MP.

Wrzesnewskyj subsequently filed an application that seeks to void the result of the previous election in Etobicoke Centre and hold a byelection within six months of a court order.

[. . .]

Wrzesnewskyj’s application claims that Elections Canada staff working in Etobicoke Centre during the last election made “numerous discrepancies and significant errors” that “affected more than 50 per cent of the polling stations during the vote and which impact on the integrity of the electoral process … and the victory of Mr. Ted Opitz since the votes exceed the margin of victory.”

His application also claims that “there were irregularities, fraud or corrupt or illegal practices” that affected the outcome of the election, some of which he alleges involved individuals connected to the Conservative party.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with , , , ,

[PHOTO] BMV Books, 471 Bloor Street West

The BMV Books located on 471 Bloor Street West in the heart of The Annex was recognized as special as soon as it opened at the end of 2006. At night, the store’s three illuminated stories beckon.

IMG_0586.JPG

Written by Randy McDonald

February 29, 2012 at 10:13 am

[LNK] “Allegations unprecedented, ex-elections chief says”

Ths Ottawa Citizen article is, well. Thanks to James Nicoll for digging up the link.

Canada’s former chief electoral officer says recent allegations of systematic voter-suppression phone calls are unprecedented in the country’s electoral history.

“We have never seen anything like this alleged case in terms of this potential organization and impact in terms of numbers,” says Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada’s chief electoral officer from 1990 to 2007. “People vote twice, people destroy the signs, but this automated means and this use of call centres is the first time the allegations go as far as they are going. They’re serious.”

Last week’s Postmedia News-Ottawa Citizen investigation revealed evidence of fraudulent pre-recorded phone calls made during the May federal election in the riding of Guelph through services provided by the Edmonton-based voice-broadcast company RackNine Inc. Further developments in the story suggest that harassing live phone calls were made by callers posing as Liberal candidates in swing ridings. The Toronto Star reported Feb. 27 that more live phone calls had been made in the Thunder Bay area, with callers phoning on behalf of the Conservative Party to alert voters of purported poll location changes.

Kingsley says all three cases deal with the same violation of the Canadian Elections Act. Section 482(b) of the act finds anyone who “induces a person to vote or refrain from voting or to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate at an election” guilty of intimidation of the electoral process.

Whether the calls were pre-recorded or live is irrelevant, argues Kingsley. He says the harassing phone calls are serious and violate the constitution.

“If someone is representing themselves to be Elections Canada, giving false information, changing the polls, and the purpose is to confuse electors to the extent that you’re attempting to discourage them from voting, then that is against the statute, in my view,” says Kingsley. “This is not small potatoes because what you are trying to do is interfere with the right of Canadians to vote and that is a constitutional right in Canada.”

Regardless of whether they work independently, for a political party, or for voice-broadcasting company, anyone convicted under Section 482(b) faces, on a summary conviction, a maximum $2,000 fine, or a maximum of one year in prison, or both. On an indictment, individuals found guilty face a maximum of five years in prison, a maximum $5,000 fine, or both.

However, Jack Siegel, a Toronto-based lawyer who practises election and political law, says the chances of indictment are slim to none, assuming the file even reaches the courts.

“After 25 years of practising law I’ve seen two or three files hands on where choice was to be made and every case was summary,” says Siegel.

Last November, the Conservative Fund was fined $52,000 by the Elections Act for breaking election laws. Siegel says the fact that the case took the summary route is probably a good indication that, if the allegations of the harassing phone calls went to court, they would follow a similar path. However, he also notes that the direction of the case is ultimately decided by the prosecutor.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 29, 2012 at 4:01 am

Posted in Canada, Politics

[LINK] “Robocalls phone number registered to ‘Pierre Poutine'”

Don’t you miss the days when people committng nefarious deeds would at least try to be sneaky? I miss that kind of respect.

A telephone number used to place automated calls directing voters to the wrong polling station in Guelph, Ont., in the last federal election was registered to a “Pierre Poutine” of Separatist Street, Joliette, Que., court documents reveal.

The documents also show a link between the national Conservative campaign to the call centre through which the automated calls were made.

The documents were sworn by an Elections Canada investigator and filed in Edmonton court to get a production order for Racknine, the call centre used to make the robocalls. A production order requires documents to be made available to law enforcement officials within a specified time.

The allegations contained in the document have not been tested in court.

The investigator is looking into allegations somebody claiming to be from Elections Canada telephoned people in Guelph and falsely told them their polling stations had moved.

Records obtained from Bell Canada “identified the phone 450-760-7746 subscriber as ‘Pierre Poutine of Separatist Street, Joliette, Que.’,” according to the sworn production order.

That number, which belongs to a disposable cellphone, appeared on the call display of voters who received the incorrect polling station information.

[. . .]

The documents show Elections Canada is investigating whether somebody wilfully prevented or tried to prevent electors from voting, or whether somebody tried to persuade voters not to vote for a particular candidate. Both are offences under the Elections Act.

Someone using phone numbers of Marty Burke’s Conservative campaign in Guelph called Racknine 31 times between March 26 and May 5, 2011, indicating his campaign used the company’s services, the documents say. But there is no expense listed for Racknine in the expenses filed by Burke’s campaign team.

Burke filed $87,361.60 in expenses, investigator Allan Mathews notes.

“The return does list [two] other, Ontario-based service providers whose business includes voice-broadcasting services and other telephone work; Campaign Research at $6,215.00 and RMG [Responsive Marketing Group] at $15,000.00,” Mathews says in the filing.

Payments to those companies are consistent with the number of people he interviewed who reported “repeated campaign and voter survey survey calls from the Burke campaign,” Mathews notes.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 29, 2012 at 3:57 am

[LINK] “The Mounting Minuses at Google+”

Amir Efrati’s Wall Street Journal article chronicling the massive problem Google is havng in getting people to use its Google+ social networking system rings personally true. Last night was the first time I’d visited my profile there for any length of time in two, even three months.

To hear Google Inc. Chief Executive Larry Page tell it, Google+ has become a robust competitor in the social networking space, with 90 million users registering since its June launch.

But those numbers mask what’s really going on at Google+.

Google+ is a virtual ghost town compared with Facebook. PC users spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between last September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook. Scott Austin has details on The News Hub. Photo: AP

It turns out Google+ is a virtual ghost town compared with the site of rival Facebook Inc., which is preparing for a massive initial public offering. New data from research firm comScore Inc. shows that Google+ users are signing up—but then not doing much there.

Visitors using personal computers spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook each month over the same period, according to comScore, which didn’t have data on mobile usage.

[. . .]

When Google+ launched last year, the Internet search giant positioned it as a Facebook competitor where people can share comments, articles, photos and videos with specific groups of friends and contacts.

While Google+ has some original features—including “Hangouts,” which lets people start a video conference with up to 10 people—analysts and some consumers say the distinction isn’t enough to lure Facebook members away and persuade them to build a network of contacts from scratch on Google+.

“Nobody wants another social network right now,” said Brian Solis, an analyst at social-media advisory firm Altimeter Group. For those who already use Facebook, “Google hasn’t communicated what the value of Google+ is,” he said.

Granted that I use Google+ more than I use LinkedIn–I visited my profile there for the first time in at least six months–I still don’t have any clear idea as to what Google’s social network does. The best I myself can say is that my friends at Google+ are disproportionately non-heterosexual, to whatever kind and degree, but that sampling effect is the only way Google+ stands out to me.

Ideas, people?

Written by Randy McDonald

February 29, 2012 at 1:32 am

[LNK] “Allegations unprecedented, ex-elections chief says”

Ths Ottawa Citizen article is, well. Thanks to james-nicoll for digging up the link.

Canada’s former chief electoral officer says recent allegations of systematic voter-suppression phone calls are unprecedented in the country’s electoral history.

“We have never seen anything like this alleged case in terms of this potential organization and impact in terms of numbers,” says Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada’s chief electoral officer from 1990 to 2007. “People vote twice, people destroy the signs, but this automated means and this use of call centres is the first time the allegations go as far as they are going. They’re serious.”

Last week’s Postmedia News-Ottawa Citizen investigation revealed evidence of fraudulent pre-recorded phone calls made during the May federal election in the riding of Guelph through services provided by the Edmonton-based voice-broadcast company RackNine Inc. Further developments in the story suggest that harassing live phone calls were made by callers posing as Liberal candidates in swing ridings. The Toronto Star reported Feb. 27 that more live phone calls had been made in the Thunder Bay area, with callers phoning on behalf of the Conservative Party to alert voters of purported poll location changes.

Kingsley says all three cases deal with the same violation of the Canadian Elections Act. Section 482(b) of the act finds anyone who “induces a person to vote or refrain from voting or to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate at an election” guilty of intimidation of the electoral process.

Whether the calls were pre-recorded or live is irrelevant, argues Kingsley. He says the harassing phone calls are serious and violate the constitution.

“If someone is representing themselves to be Elections Canada, giving false information, changing the polls, and the purpose is to confuse electors to the extent that you’re attempting to discourage them from voting, then that is against the statute, in my view,” says Kingsley. “This is not small potatoes because what you are trying to do is interfere with the right of Canadians to vote and that is a constitutional right in Canada.”

Regardless of whether they work independently, for a political party, or for voice-broadcasting company, anyone convicted under Section 482(b) faces, on a summary conviction, a maximum $2,000 fine, or a maximum of one year in prison, or both. On an indictment, individuals found guilty face a maximum of five years in prison, a maximum $5,000 fine, or both.

However, Jack Siegel, a Toronto-based lawyer who practises election and political law, says the chances of indictment are slim to none, assuming the file even reaches the courts.

“After 25 years of practising law I’ve seen two or three files hands on where choice was to be made and every case was summary,” says Siegel.

Last November, the Conservative Fund was fined $52,000 by the Elections Act for breaking election laws. Siegel says the fact that the case took the summary route is probably a good indication that, if the allegations of the harassing phone calls went to court, they would follow a similar path. However, he also notes that the direction of the case is ultimately decided by the prosecutor.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with , , , ,

[LINK] “Robocalls phone number registered to ‘Pierre Poutine'”

Don’t you miss the days when people committng nefarious deeds would at least try to be sneaky? I miss that kind of respect.

A telephone number used to place automated calls directing voters to the wrong polling station in Guelph, Ont., in the last federal election was registered to a “Pierre Poutine” of Separatist Street, Joliette, Que., court documents reveal.

The documents also show a link between the national Conservative campaign to the call centre through which the automated calls were made.

The documents were sworn by an Elections Canada investigator and filed in Edmonton court to get a production order for Racknine, the call centre used to make the robocalls. A production order requires documents to be made available to law enforcement officials within a specified time.

The allegations contained in the document have not been tested in court.

The investigator is looking into allegations somebody claiming to be from Elections Canada telephoned people in Guelph and falsely told them their polling stations had moved.

Records obtained from Bell Canada “identified the phone 450-760-7746 subscriber as ‘Pierre Poutine of Separatist Street, Joliette, Que.’,” according to the sworn production order.

That number, which belongs to a disposable cellphone, appeared on the call display of voters who received the incorrect polling station information.

[. . .]

The documents show Elections Canada is investigating whether somebody wilfully prevented or tried to prevent electors from voting, or whether somebody tried to persuade voters not to vote for a particular candidate. Both are offences under the Elections Act.

Someone using phone numbers of Marty Burke’s Conservative campaign in Guelph called Racknine 31 times between March 26 and May 5, 2011, indicating his campaign used the company’s services, the documents say. But there is no expense listed for Racknine in the expenses filed by Burke’s campaign team.

Burke filed $87,361.60 in expenses, investigator Allan Mathews notes.

“The return does list [two] other, Ontario-based service providers whose business includes voice-broadcasting services and other telephone work; Campaign Research at $6,215.00 and RMG [Responsive Marketing Group] at $15,000.00,” Mathews says in the filing.

Payments to those companies are consistent with the number of people he interviewed who reported “repeated campaign and voter survey survey calls from the Burke campaign,” Mathews notes.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with , , , ,

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