The investigation of Michael Sona for allegedly orchestrating the fraudulent robocalls that were made in the riding of Guelph prior to the last federal election is continuing in Ottawa. In recent testimony six Conservative staffers said Sona bragged to them about a scheme he hatched to place automated calls to over 7000 voters in the Guelph riding prior to the election. The calls were identified as coming from Elections Canada, and incorrectly informed the voters that their polling station had been moved.
The people who were contacted were on a confidential Conservative Party list of non-party supporters, but according to the testimony of the staffers Sona said he’d actually obtained a list of Liberal supporters from a friend in the Liberal party who “owed him a favour”. Sona then went through all the rigmarole of obtaining an unregistered cell phone under the name Pierre Poutine, contacting the automated calling service RackNine in Edmonton using a computer in the office of Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke, and contracting with RackNine to have the calls made.
You can read more on the staffers’ testimony in this CBC report. Initially, the staffers’ identity was subject to a publication ban. But that ban was lifted yesterday. The list published by CBC indicates that all six are loyal Conservatives. The picture they’re essentially painting with their testimony is that Sona was acting on his own as a rogue Conservative staffer when he masterminded the robocalls scheme.
I suppose that’s possible. But according to this PostMedia report by Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, from the moment Elections Canada began its investigation into the scandal a few days after the election ended the Conservative Party engaged in a variety of obstructionist tactics to thwart investigators. Conservative national campaign manager Jenni Byrne and high-ranking party lawyer Arthur Hamilton were both involved, and the tactics included advising staffers not to meet with Elections Canada officials.
It’s also been established that fradulent robocalls were made to non-Conservative supporters in other ridings besides Guelph. Did Sona mastermind those calls too, or were rogue operatives active in other Conservative campaign offices? Again, I suppose that’s possible — as opposed to the more straightforward explanation that the robocall campaign was part of a broader Conservative strategy. But at this point, Sona is being fingered as the ultimate fall guy for the robocalls scandal by the Conservative Party.