As the voter suppression “robo call” trial unfolds in Federal Court in Ottawa this week, two key players here in the riding of Vancouver Island North say the outcome should be of concern to all Canadians.
Across Canada eight voters from six ridings, including Cumberland resident Yvonne Kafka, are seeking to have the May 2011 federal election results overturned because of a widespread automated telephone campaign to mislead voters about where they were suppose to vote on election day. All six ridings were won by the Conservatives.
“I am a Métis and I love Canada,” Kafka told the Mirror. “I am standing up for what I believe in. Average Canadians have to stand up for their rights.”
One of the named respondents in the case is NDPer Ronna-Rae Leonard, the candidate who lost the election here to Conservative John Duncan by 1,827 votes. She says: “At the end of this process I hope there will be rules and parameters established that regulate how we conduct election campaigns.”
“People are cynical about the political process. But, we’re all in this together and we will get to the bottom of it. It’s about upholding democracy.”
The lawyer representing the voters, Steven Shrybman, has been arguing that the six Conservative MPs should lose their seats because of a targeted campaign of voter suppression that constitutes electoral fraud.
He says court documents describing a number of Elections Canada investigations, evidence from a robo call centre staffer who says she made misleading phone calls and polling data showing widespread suppression are consistent with his clients’ assertion that misleading calls influenced the outcome of the election in their ridings.
During the election campaign period Kafka received a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Conservative Party of Canada asking if they could count on her vote. She said she would not be voting Conservative.
Then, just before voting day she received another phone call with a pre-recorded message from someone purporting to be from Elections Canada informing her that her polling station had been moved. She contacted Elections Canada and was told that she should vote at the location on her voter card.
The Council of Canadians is paying the legal fees on behalf of the eight applicants. Kafka makes no apologies for the help. “What average citizen could afford to be in this fight?”
Elections Canada has been investigating robo call allegations for months, but does not have the authority to overturn the election results.