In May 2, 2011, it was the 41st general federal election. That was the day that Stephen Harper won his first and only majority government, and while that did shake up the normal political order, it was not the only thing that happened that day to reverberate in Canadian political culture. Remember Pierre Poutine? Remember Robocalls? Well this is the day for a little political unsolved mystery.
On Election Day 20211, thousands of people around Guelph received a robocall telling them that their polling place had been changed to the Shops of Old Quebec Street downtown. This was, to use the modern parlance, “Fake news.” We don’t know how many people fell for it, but we know that some people did. We also don’t many know how many ridings this and similar schemes happened in, but it was at list six, and likely dozens more.
But Guelph was where everything would come to a head, and it was the only place that someone would ever pay a price for the crime. At some point, the name of a young Conservative staffer named Michael Sona was leaked to the media, and that become the only name. Several years later, Sona was charged and convicted for the Guelph robocall, and he’s been the only person to have ever been taken to court for it even though the convicting judge said in his decision that Sona hadn’t acted alone.
The fact of the matter is that this is something that could happen again tomorrow. There was no hacking required, or state-sponsored cyber security apparatus, and on top of that, the perpetrators know that there’s not much in the way of legal deterrents. So this week’s show will remember that fateful day ten years ago, and the political controversy it launched, and there is no greater local resource on this than Susan Watson who’s spent much of last 10 years trying to make sure we never forget May 2, 2011.
So let’s gig into the unanswered questions from the Robocall scandal on this week’s Guelph Politicast!
You can revisit the coverage of the Robocall scandal, but you may have to call up the old Blogspot version of Guelph Politico in order to find it. If you would rather watch the movie version, you can rent Peter Smoczynski’s documentary E-Day Canada: When Voter Suppression Came Calling for $3.99 on Vimeo.
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Photo Credit: Press conference demanding further action on the robocall investigation in 2015.