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Alberta firm at centre of robo-call probe sues bombastic NDP MP

NDP MP Pat Martin speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on March 1, 2012.

CHRIS WATTIE/Chris Wattie/Reuters

NDP MP Pat Martin has been sued for defamation by an Alberta robo-caller that was hired to transmit misleading polling information to voters in Guelph during the last election.

RackNine Inc. filed a statement of claim in Edmonton Friday alleging that it has fully collaborated with the ongoing Elections Canada investigation into the matter and has not engaged in any irregularities. RackNine was used to send out robo-calls in the Ontario riding last year, but the company said any wrongdoing was the work of the unidentified political operative who created an account with the firm and paid for the calls to be sent out.

Mr. Martin attacked the company in a number of public appearances, pointing to its ties with right-wing political parties and linking it to the illicit activities. In its statement of claim, RackNine quotes extensively from recent statements made by Mr. Martin, who has been his party's point-man on the robo-call controversy.

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On Feb. 23, Mr. Martin compared RackNine to Groupaction Marketing Inc., a company whose president has been convicted of fraud in relation to the sponsorship scandal that hurt the Liberal Party in the 2000s.

"I predict that RackNine will become the Conservative Party's Groupaction, and I predict that we will find that the sheer magnitude and audacity of the 'RackNine rascals' will be enough to make Richard Nixon blush," Mr. Martin said at a news conference.

RackNine alleged in its statement of claim that Mr. Martin's comments "carried the innuendo that [the firm]had committed criminal activity, fraudulent activity, participated in a conspiracy, intimidation, sabotage and/or deceit."

On Friday, Mr. Martin said RackNine is acting too quickly, without giving him the opportunity to respond to its recent request for an apology.

"Seems a bit premature to file before you've even had a response from the person you're demanding an apology from," Mr. Martin said in an email. "I guess its standard libel chill, slap suit stuff. Silence your critics with your chequebook."

In a recent statement, RackNine president Matt Meier insisted his firm has collaborated with Elections Canada from the start and has done nothing wrong, comparing itself to a car-rental company whose vehicle was misused by one of its clients.

"RackNine is a non-partisan firm, free from any party affiliation, bias, or designation. We couldn't possibly have known that the fake calls were made using our services," Mr. Meier said in the statement. "RackNine does not monitor outgoing calls made by customers through the automated service, we just provide the software and hardware platforms."

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Elections Canada has determined that someone hiding under the alias of "Pierre Poutine" used a disposable cellphone to create a RackNine account in the days leading to the May 2 election. The account was then used to call thousands of voters in Guelph to direct them to the wrong polling station.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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