Ordered to pay costs, Conservatives go after citizen whistleblowers.
by Samantha Bayard
OTTAWA, June 24, 2013 (Straight Goods News) – Conservative MPs have
filed a claim for costs seeking $355,907.56 from the eight Canadians who
challenged 2011 federal election results as a result of robocalls and voter
misdirection linked to their party's own database.
In May, federal court Justice Richard Mosley ruled that fraudelent calls were made in six ridings across the country and those calls originated with the Conservative Party of Canada's (CPC) Constituency Information Management System (CIMS). He did not find a case to throw out any election results, however, and was forced to dismiss the case.
The Conservative Party is paying the MPs' bills, which seems unfair, given that the party receives subsidies from Canadian
taxpayers in the form of the political contribution tax credits.
"I am satisfied … that the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the CIMS database maintained and controlled by the
CPC, accessed for that purpose by a person or persons currently unknown to this Court," Mosley wrote in his ruling. "The evidence points to elaborate efforts to conceal the identity of those accessing the database and arranging for the calls to be made."
"This is an outrageous amount to request, given that the judge found that voter suppression did occur and that the Conservative Party database was the
likely source of the call lists," said Garry Neil, executive director of the Council of Canadians, which is supporting the applicants. "Each of the applications
included a $1,000 security against costs, clearly a modest amount. Seeking over $350,000 is shameful, given the applicants were serving the public interest in this case."
Neil said the Conservative Party is not only seeking an unreasonable and exorbitant amount, it is seeking compensation for legal tactics that Justice Mosley describe as "trench warfare in an effort to prevent this case from coming to a hearing on the merits."
While the Council of Canadians supported the legal case and many Canadians have contributed to a fund for the applicants, he said the Council has yet to raise sufficient funds to pay the already discounted legal fees the applicants incurred.
The MPs’ bills are being paid by the Conservative Party, while the Council of Canadians is fundraising to cover the applicants’ costs. But unlike the Council of Canadians, the Conservative Party operates with subsidies from Canadian taxpayers in the form of the political contribution tax credits.
The Canada Elections Act allows individual electors to challenge elections results if their Charter-protected right to vote has been interfered with. Given the
costs involved, however, it is impossible for any individual to actually challenge a result unless they are rich or assisted by a public interest organization. An award of costs of this size would further discourage individuals from protecting their rights.
The applicants have fifteen days to respond to the Conservative MPs’ costs submission. The judge will then make his final decision.