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Records show Sona on a beach when Conservatives claim he confessed to robocalls

At the same time as some Conservative party staffers allege meeting with Michael Sona and reporting that he told them of his involvement in the robocalls controversy in the riding of Guelph, travel records show that Sona was vacationing on the island of Aruba.

Sona is charged with violating the Elections Act in a controversy stemming from the 2011 election wherein robocalls directed voters to the wrong polling stations.

Some of the most damaging testimony, according to a sworn statement by Elections Canada investigator Allan Mathews, comes from Rebecca Dockstaeder, who worked for CPC MP Chris Warkentin.

According to the Mathews document, Sona allegedly came by her office and that of another Warkentin staffer, John Schudlo, and boasted of his robocalls work "a week to 10 days" after the May 2, 2011 election. That would mean between May 9 and May 12.

However, travel records show that Sona flew on U.S. Airways to Aruba, in the Caribbean, on May 7 and only returned late on May 14, a Saturday. He was not back in his office -- he worked on communications for Tory MP Rob Moore -- until May 16, the Monday.

Norman Boxall, Sona's legal counsel, is aware of the discrepancy, but said yesterday he would not be commenting "at this time."

Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton, who arranged for the staffers to testify and sat in on the sessions when they did, did not respond to an email asking for an explanation.

Though some of the staffers also allege Sona was responsible for making the fake Guelph robocall, the calls went out in both official languages. Sona barely speaks a word of French, however, raising the question of how he could have made a bilingual recording.

According to the Mathews document, which is called an Information to Obtain a production order (ITO), Dockstaeder claimed Sona told her and Schudlo that he obtained a list of phone numbers of Liberal voters and recorded a message impersonating Elections Canada.

She claimed that Sona spoke of "buying a 'burn phone' with cash and that he said he had bought a Visa card with cash so that it could not be traced as with a usual Visa card." Sona closed their office door, the ITO says, and "he then went on to describe to us what sounded very very similar to the story that we'd been hearing about these robocalls."

Dockstaeder said Sona worked with a friend on the scheme which raises the possibility, though she didn't reference the language question, that this person could have done the recording in both languages.

Her office colleague Schudlo, who says the meeting with Sona was a week after May 2, alleges Sona "spoke of purchasing a disposable phone and somehow went online to make calls to voters that their normal polling stations had been changed.

Sona has denied the charge against him and has told reporters he is being framed and set up as the fall guy for an attempted vote-rigging operation by the Conservatives that, he says, went far beyond the riding of Guelph. The Conservatives deny any role in orchestrating such a scheme. Guy Giorno, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said any such action would be "despicable."

According to the ITO, another Conservative staffer, Mitchell Messom, said he met with Sona within two weeks of the election, meaning May 16 by the latest. According to the ITO, Sona told him about using a burner phone registered to Separatist Street in Joliette, Quebec, a fictitious address used by someone who registered under the phony name of Pierre Poutine. At a later meeting with Sona, Messom was accompanied by Tyler Barker. Barker recalls Sona spoke of making crank calls to Liberal supporters "but in no way did he say that he had any systematic form of vote suppression employed."

Two other staffers met with Sona well outside the dates he was in Aruba. One of them, Benjamin Hicks, said Sona spoke of using a computer and a cell phone to direct automated calls to identified liberal supporters.

Elections Canada has heard complaints of dirty tricks in the 2011 election from over 200 ridings. Many of the grievances don't amount to much, sources say, but a substantial number are thought to be of a serious nature. A source with knowledge of the Elections Canada probe said investigators are handicapped because they are being blocked from gaining access to Conservative party records. As a result, he said there is only a small chance of charges beyond those against Sona being laid.

Lawrence Martin reports for iPolitics, where this story first appeared.

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