Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

An Elections Canada ballot box. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes


A three-year probe into allegations of fraudulent federal-election robocalls in 2011 has come up empty, with investigators finding no proof of an orchestrated scheme or intent to deceive voters beyond one pocket of southwestern Ontario.

Thursday's long-awaited report from commissioner of elections Yves Côté was immediately cited as vindication by the Conservative government, which has long been under suspicion amid reports of non-supporters being directed to the wrong polling stations in the 2011 vote that vaulted the Conservatives to a majority.

Opposition critics say the report simply proves Elections Canada needs greater investigative powers – a point Mr. Côté himself stressed in his executive summary.

Story continues below advertisement

"Having carefully examined all of the evidence, the commissioner found no reasonable grounds to believe that an offence under the [Elections] Act has been committed," Mr. Côté's report asserts.

His conclusion is supported by an independent review by Louise Charron, a former Supreme Court justice who was paid by Elections Canada for her expert opinion.

The release of the 32-page report comes against the backdrop of a bitter parliamentary battle over contentious Conservative changes to federal elections law. Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic Reform, said the findings prove the Conservative party ran "an honest and ethical campaign" in 2011.

"We followed all of the rules and we won fair and square," Mr. Poilievre said Thursday before an unflinching speech defending his proposed Fair Elections Act.

"That is what we've been saying all along and those who've been making baseless smears ever since have been once again proven wrong in the process."

Mr. Côté's investigation was separate from allegations of misleading robocalls during the same election in Guelph, Ont., where a young Conservative campaign staffer, Michael Sona, faces Elections Act charges for his alleged role in voter suppression calls that impersonated Elections Canada.

Despite tens of thousands of citizen complaints after media reports surfaced regarding the investigation in 2012, the commissioner said it all boiled down to 1,726 complainants in 261 electoral districts.

Story continues below advertisement

Of those, Mr. Côté's team was only able to track the incoming call numbers for 129 complainants due to a variety of investigative impediments.

From that limited sample, investigators found "overall, no discernible pattern of misdirection."

And while some people did receive misleading phone calls, that alone is not sufficient to press charges, the report concludes.

"There must be evidence of intention to prevent the elector from voting, or by some pretense or contrivance, to induce the elector to vote or not vote for a particular candidate.

"No such evidence was found."

Charlie Angus, the NDP ethics critic, said the message is clear: "If you're obstinate enough, if you refuse to co-operate, if you drag things out – well, look what happens."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Côté reported that at least one key witness simply refused to be interviewed, while a number of unnamed persons and "entities" were slow and unwilling to assist investigators.

"Elections Canada said they didn't have the tools, they said they needed to be able to compel witnesses – and we're seeing a government that's actually stripping Elections Canada's ability even further" in the proposed elections bill, Mr. Angus said.

Liberal critic Stéphane Dion sounded a similar note.

"Why we need to be concerned is because the current bill of Mr. Poilievre will not correct these shortcomings," said Mr. Dion.

"It will do nothing to improve the capacity of the commissioner to succeed in the future."

Mr. Côté's report castigates the Conservative party for calling electors to inform them of their polling station after Elections Canada expressly told all parties not to do so. Those calls went ahead "despite ... their knowledge that a small percentage of electors would be given incorrect information," Mr. Côté said.

Story continues below advertisement

Elsewhere in the report that party is identified as the Conservative Party of Canada.

Duff Conacher, a co-founder of the group Democracy Watch, likened the case to the recent RCMP decision not to recommend charges for former Harper chief of staff Nigel Wright's secret $90,000 payment to Sen. Mike Duffy.

"Allow the courts to draw the line," Conacher said. That's what they're there for."

The investigation was complicated by the amount of time it took for many people to report the suspicious calls, which caused memories to fade. Media coverage may also have also coloured recollections, said Cote. And the failure of major telecom companies to preserve call records meant it was impossible to check the source of calls for the vast majority of the 1,700-plus complainants.

Charron, in a four-page appendix to the report, cited these impediments as well as the "inordinate delays and at times inexplicable resistance to providing the requested information," to investigators.

"I am unable to say if the result of this investigation might have been different in a world where none of these investigative challenges existed," concluded the former Supreme Court justice.

Story continues below advertisement

"My overall sense is that it would not be."

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies