Pierre Poutine’s misleading phone calls to Canadian voters during the 2011 federal election call for a “huge investigation,” Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff said in an email.
“Something seems to have gone on, on a scale I’ve never seen before,” Ian Brodie, chief of staff from 2006 to 2008, wrote to Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin in an email he intended to be private.
Martin, who mistakenly thought the conversation was on the record, published a story using Brodie’s comments. The original story was removed from iPolitics.ca at Martin’s request.
“The genie was out of the bottle,” Martin said in an email to the Star on Saturday.
Brodie is Harper’s second ex-chief of staff to condemn the robocall scandal, but the first to suggest that it could have been intentional on a wide scale, or as he wrote in an email, “a national effort at subterfuge.”
The calls, many of which occurred in the Guelph riding, could be “a very devious local effort that could well lead to charges against several campaign volunteers,” Brodie wrote.
Brodie’s comments stand out from the stance of the party he used to work for. While officials have admitted something went awry in Guelph, the Conservatives maintain that their official campaign was not responsible.
In early March lawyer Guy Giorno, another Harper former chief of staff who replaced Brodie, told CTV that “suppression of vote is a despicable, reprehensible practice and everybody ought to condemn it.” Giorno denied that any “dirty tricks” could have taken place without his knowledge.
Liberals and NDP have criticized the party for withholding information from Elections Canada as it investigates a score of issues from the 2011 general election.
The Conservatives have maintained they are fully cooperating with Elections Canada, which they say has the power to obtain any records necessary for the investigation.
More than 700 people from across the country have complained of specific instances of fraudulent or improper calls, Elections Canada announced Thursday.
It is alleged that someone with the Conservative campaign set up a robocall account designed to send Liberal or NDP voters to the wrong polling stations.
Elections Canada will examine all complaints and submit a report to Parliament. There is no clear time frame on the investigation.
Those convicted of compelling a person to refrain from voting can face a $5,000 fine or five years in prison under the Canada Elections Act.