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Garry Neil, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians answers reporters questions as Steven Shrybman, legal counsel to the Council of Canadians, looks on during a press conference to announce their willingness to take legal action to defend democratic rights on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, March 1, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Garry Neil, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians answers reporters questions as Steven Shrybman, legal counsel to the Council of Canadians, looks on during a press conference to announce their willingness to take legal action to defend democratic rights on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, March 1, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

POLITICS

Conservatives seek to quash robo-call court challenge Add to ...

Seven Conservative MPs are moving to quash a legal bid to force new elections in their ridings, arguing there is no proof that misleading phone calls unfairly swayed the results in their favour in last year’s campaign.

The motions from the Conservative MPs, filed late last Friday, are arguing that the attempts to annul the results in their ridings in the 2011 general election are “frivolous and vexatious.”

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“There are no material facts pleaded which would support a finding that ‘irregularities, fraud or corrupt or illegal practices … affected the result of the election’ ” in the seven ridings, the motions state.

In addition, the Conservative Party is arguing that the legal bid to overturn the election results was filed well after the 30-day limit.

The Council of Canadians, which is funding the legal bid to contest the outcome of the seven elections, accused the Conservatives of being afraid of the process that is unfolding in front of the Federal Court in Ottawa.

“They want to have this thrown out on preliminary grounds,” said lawyer Steven Shrybman, who is overseeing the file for the Council of Canadians. “Rather than to have the issues that we have raised be determined by the court on their merits, they are seeking to have the application dismissed.”

The controversy surrounding fraudulent robo-calls has focused largely on the riding of Guelph, Ont., which is the target of an investigation by Elections Canada. Last week, the Ontario Superior Court also called for a new election in Etobicoke Centre, in west Toronto, following complaints over voter-registration procedures.

But the motions to annul the election results in seven Conservative ridings, filed last month by nine voters, offer another challenge to the ruling party. The complaints argue that misleading, harassing and fraudulent calls made during the campaign had a clear impact on the election, targeting progressive voters in a bid to help the prospects of the Conservative candidate.

The seven ridings named in the motions are: Yukon, Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario, Elmwood-Transcona in Manitoba, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Winnipeg South Centre, Don Valley East in Toronto and Vancouver Island North. All were won by Conservative candidates by margins of 1.3 per cent of the total vote or less, with the exception of the B.C. riding, which the Conservative candidate won by 3 per cent.

The Conservative Party defended its efforts to quash the motions, saying last year’s results should stand. “This is a transparent attempt to overturn certified election results simply because this activist group doesn’t like them,” Conservative spokesman Fred DeLorey said.

The Council of Canadians has commissioned a poll from Ekos, which found that voters in the seven ridings were 50 per cent more likely to have received illegitimate calls than those in 106 surveyed “comparison” ridings, in many of which there have been no allegations of illegal calls.

According to Ekos, about three times as many Liberal, New Democrat and Green supporters as Conservative supporters claimed they were given false or incorrect information about polling station locations in the last two or three days of the campaign.

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