The Guelph Mercury's choice of male Newsmaker of the Year was the disappointingly pedantic choice of Cardinal Thomas Collins, but really, did any Guelphite get more press in 2012 than Pierre Poutine?
Of course, as Scott Tracey pointed out in his column, there's no way to know if Pierre is a male, or even a Guelphite, but let's just make that assumption, especially given the fact that Elections Canada's suspect pool is all male, and were working in the Guelph area. And let's face it, on the one hand we have someone -alias be damned - who was part of systematic attempt to undermine our democracy, and on the other we have a man who got a promotion. Granted that promotion was to the College of Cardinals, but how many people in a given year get a promotion? Even I got a promotion this year.
I won't go so far as say that the Mercury copped out, but the robocall scandal represented, to me anyway, the most important political story in Canada in 2012. And even though the story has fallen off the front page for the most part, before we launch into the new year, there's still some developments to discuss.
First, there's what's happening locally. Marijuana Party candidate Kornelis Klevering made news again this past week by saying that he's prepared to take his challenge of local election results all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Klevering, who was out of the country when the robocall scandal broke in February, brought a motion to Federal Court earlier this year to have Guelph's 2011 Elections results overturned due to the widespread attempt to defraud Guelph voters, by the robocall perpetrators. In October, a lawyer for MP Frank Valeriote, Guy Regimbald, brought a motion to have Klevering's claim dismissed on the basis that he waited too long to file and that the robocalls had no effect on the election outcome anyway. Federal Judge Martha Milczynski has not yet ruled on the motion.
But one of things that maybe in Klevering's way of moving forward is six other cases being heard by a Federal judge who's being asked by eight voters to overturn election results in six ridings: Vancouver Island North in British Columbia; Yukon; Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan; Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba; and Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario. Final arguments were heard in those six cases the week before Christmas, and the decision is now in the hands of Justice Richard Mosley, who likely won't render a decision until sometime later this winter, or possibly even later than that.
How Mosley may rule is an either/or proposition as he cited the Supreme Court's ruling in the case against Ted Opitz, the Etobicoke-Centre MP whose 2011 election result was the first one contested following the Elections Canada's investigation into the robocalls, before adjourning: Was there even one person in each of the contested ridings where that person was desuaded from voting as a result of the robocalls?
“We have the onus to establish beyond the balance of probability, that fraud occurred, and affected the outcome of the election, which the Supreme Court has told us means that at least one voter didn’t cast a vote,” said Mosley.
On the other hand, perhaps the Conservatives' own contempt at the process will have have an effect on Mosley. Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton has been out front all year trying to tell anyone that will listen that those trying to pin the robocalls on Conservative Party operatives are merely dining on sour grapes. In court, Hamilton said that the real point of these hearings is so that the Council of Canadians can tar and feather the prime minister and his party. “Just the fact this is being talked about to the extent that it is, can erode the credibility or erode the brand, which is Prime Minister Harper or the Conservative party, that’s its own victory, and the final outcome is of no moment,” he said.
Hamilton has been very quick to call any attempt to investigate the robocalls a waste of time or frivilous, and that goes for comments both in court and in the media. If you don't think open contempt for the court process doesn't cost the defendent, then ask Rob Ford. Justice Charles Hackland said following his decision to have Ford removed from office that he had probably judged Ford the more harshly for the Mayor's seeming disdain for finding himself before the court on such charges.
Still, the Supreme Court's standard may hold up. But for the Council of Canadians, it seems that producing awareness in the voting public is a good enough fall back if court challenges fail. “People who might have got a call like that and thought nothing of it will not respond like that again in the next election,” C of C lawyer Steven Shrybman told reporters. “And our long-term goal is really just to be sure that this never happens again, that Canadians can feel confident on election day, that it’s a free and honest election.”
As for Klevering's court action, he faces the same uphill battle it seems. As the Year of the Robocall comes to a close, Shrybman's words seem to be not only prophetic, but really the only tangible result we'll see from this mess save for an independent, public inquiry, which we're unlikely to receive.
It's doubtful we'll ever know who Pierre Poutine is/was, and all the suspects in question have either left town or remained tight-lipped on the subject on the advice of attorneys. I've said before that I doubt we'll ever find out with absolute certainty who Poutine was, but his influence on politics in this country and our electoral process will be felt for years to come. That's not exactly the same as being lucky enough to elect the next pope, but it will probably affect us all to a greater degree.