|National Post Editorial Cartoon|
Obviously, it was big news earlier this week when it was announced that Michael Sona would be charged in relation to the robocall scandal that has many Canadians concerned about the safety and validity of their democracy. The single solitary charge under the Elections Act, that Sona alleged to “wilfully prevent or endeavour to prevent an elector from voting at an election,” will be heard in court early next month, but astute politicos are wondering what the long term implications may be.
For Michael Sona, I think it's safe to say his political career is over. Even if he manages to avoid jail time or heavy fines, and even if he manages to skate on getting being convicted, it's going to be very hard for him to get a job in politics, for any party, in the future. Even his beloved Conservatives aren't going to take him back, especially when he's been crying very loudly - on his own and through an attorney - for a full public inquiry into robocalls. As Sona's been thrown under the bus, he too will throw under the bus the others involved in Marty Burke's Guelph campaign, especially considering that he had no access to the CIMS database, a key piece of Pierre Poutine's stratagem.
Which brings us to Andrew Prescott, the deputy campaign manager for Burke 2011 and one of several high-profile Conservative operatives who pulled up stakes and got out of "Dodge" after the robocall scandal blew up last year. The artist formally known as "Christian Conservative" now goes by "Christian 'Independent'" after having, in his words, been "exiled." That was on Monday, March 25. Two days later, Prescott jumped on the backbench revolt bandwagon and asked his fellow bloggers (he didn't specify if they need be Conservative or not) to "DM me (@ChristianConsrv) if you'd like to chat."
No word yet on if anyone wanted to chat with Prescott because the day after news of charges against Sona broke Prescott posted to Twitter, "3... 2... 1... VACATION!!! Out of cell coverage, see ya on the flip side!" I'm not sure if by "flip side" he meant "extradition court" but his sudden shift into vacation mode, in addition to his self-described exile from the party he named himself after and took such pride in being a part of, suggests a man that doesn't want to deal with the new reality. One might almost feel sorry for him had it not been for all those years of calling people "Fiberals," and conjuring to mind the proverb about people in glass houses.
(And incidentally, it was this time last year that a blogger named Brian-Michel LaRue identified Prescott as Pierre Poutine and indicated that he had inside information that confirmed that hunch. Nothing has since materialized though.)
Of the other Pierre Poutine suspects, Ken Morgan recently tweeted twice in one day. Morgan, you'll recall last fall, took a teaching job in Kuwait just as the Elections Canada investigation was coming to a close. On March 21, he posted to Twitter that, "Jenn's funeral is today. Wish I could have been there," and "Missing Canada today. Family, foods, smells.....and even politics." I wonder if today he's missing the politics.
As for the other members of the Burke campaign team whose names have floated in and out of the investigation, they've been keeping an equally low profile. Matthew McBain, who Sona was directed to for “looking about doing some stuff that might not be okay," continues to Tweet with relative impunity. John White, the campaigner who directed Sona to McBain has already given testimony to Elections Canada, as has Chris Crawford, who was working for Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue until the minister resigned last month following allegations of illegal campaign donations made during the 2011 campaign. The remaining name associated with Pierre Poutine, Trent Blanchette, who has a long standing association with both Sona and Prescott, has followed the Morgan example and refused to speak to Elections Canada.
Meanwhile, RackNine CEO Matt Meier was recently in the news again, and yes, it was robocall related. Under the banner "Chase Research," Meier gave voice to a robocall push poll sent out to Saskatchewan homes telling citizens to get angry and rebel against proposed changes to the current riding boundaries in the province. After initially claiming they had nothing to do with the robocalls, the Federal Tories eventually conceded that they were behind them after Post Media had forensic voice analysis done on the call.
Which brings us to the man behind whom all these men gathered around: Marty Burke. In one of his Kafka-like written communiques to the Guelph Tribune, Burke said, "I am very surprised that this charge has resulted from the EC (Elections Canada) investigation." Adding in his e-mail that, "I am sanguine – as I am sure Michael must be as well – with regard to the final outcome. A charge is not a conviction – not even close."
In classic Burke form, he also include a broadside against Guelph MP Frank Valeriote continuing their Maple Leafs-Canadiens like epic rivalry that only Burke seems to have any investment in anymore.
“The 2011 Liberal campaign in Guelph was caught, charged and fined thousands of dollars for misleading Guelph voters,” he said, referring to a $4,900 fine by the CRTC (AKA: not Elections Canada) for failing to identify the source of a robocall criticizing Burke's stand on abortion rights. “This fact has been shamefully downplayed,” he added.
Well if Burke read the papers rather than living in his Valeriote-hate powered bubble he would know that that fact hasn't been downplayed at all. In fact, it's been up-played since the fine was issued last summer everytime someone's questioned a member of the Conservative government or their surrogate about the misleading robocalls that violated Canada election law. And that's one of the interesting implications. This isn't a "Yeah, but we weren't the ones charged..." scenario anymore. There's a charge on the books, and the one being charged worked for the Conservatives. That's going to be hard for the Conservatives to duck in the coming months, but don't think that they won't try.