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Robocalls applications could mean by-elections

March 28, 2012

The Council of Canadians is supporting a number of individuals who have commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court challenging the federal election results in seven ridings. The challenges, made under the Canada Elections Act, allege “irregularities, fraud and other activities which affected the outcome of the elections” in the ridings. The result of the legal challenges could mean by-elections in those ridings.

Steven Shrybman, who represents the individual applicants, tells  that “this has never happened in Canadian history, at least not in relation to criminal activity. Previously overturned elections were based on technical issues. ‘We are in uncharted waters here,’ Shrybman says.”

The Council does not believe that it is necessary to demonstrate that the number of voters who did not vote as a result of misleading robocalls was greater than the margin of victory. Rather, it is of the view that the applicants must only show there was sufficient illegality that it is “reasonable to conclude that the results of the last election, in the ridings in question, were not legitimate.” In proving their case, the applicants may seek to rely on a recent study showing that “in those ridings where allegations of robocalls emerged, turnout was an estimated 3 percentage points lower on average.”

The research could help establish a basis for nullifying an election in a given riding, even if the “applicants” could not produce “defrauded” voters in a number greater than the margin of victory.

“The fact is that people who did not vote because they were misdirected by robocalls may not be very interested in coming forward,” Shrybman explains, “They may find it embarrassing, or it may be something they would rather forget. What we have to show is that the robocalls caused a certain degree of non-participation, which had an impact on the election result.”

As Shrybman told the CBC, “We ultimately don’t care who may have been behind the dirty tricks … What we care about is the impact those dirty tricks have had, or may have had on the result of the election.”

The legal challenge has also been reported in the Toronto Star.

Shrybman was also interviewed on CBC radio.


Steven Shrybman

Practice Areas

Public Interest Litigation