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Call for withdrawn NDP candidate likely illegal: advocate

The election eve call that encouraged Saanich-Gulf Islands residents to vote for a withdrawn candidate may well have been against the law, according to an advocate for fair elections.

“Elections Canada . . . will be negligent if they do not investigate and prosecute whomever arranged the calls,” said Duff Conacher, the co-ordinator for Democracy Watch, in an e-mail.

The Canada Elections Act says “Every person is guilty of an offence who . . . by any pretence or contrivance . . . induces a person to vote or refrain from voting . . . for a particular candidate at an election.”

In Saanich-Gulf Islands, as the Tyee reported, a call went to residents the evening before the election encouraging them to vote for Julian West, an NDP candidate who had dropped out of the race. The call appeared to be coming from NDP riding association Bill Graham's phone number. He said he did not place the call and he had already sent a letter to NDP members saying the association was not backing any of the remaining candidates.

“Given that West had withdrawn as a candidate, the calls were a 'pretence or contrivance' that very likely induced at least one voter to vote for West, and so whomever arranged the calls violated the Act,” wrote Conacher. “Whomever arranged the calls must have known that West was no longer a candidate.”

Whoever paid for the calls may also have broken the third-party advertiser rules, he said, since they likely did not register the spending.

Elections Canada should work with the RCMP and the federal director of public prosecutions to investigate, he said. “It should be easy to find out who ordered them from the phone company through a search warrant.”

Graham has said he complained to Telus, the RCMP and Elections Canada. A spokesperson for Elections Canada said the agency neither confirms nor denies when it is conducting an investigation, but any results will be made public.

Conservative Lunn beat Liberal Briony Penn by some 2,600 votes. The NDP's West, whose name remained on the ballot, received 3,667 votes, despite not running a campaign.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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