The Conservative candidate whose Ontario riding is at the centre of an investigation into deceptive robo-calls in last year's federal election says he doesn't believe anyone from his campaign team is behind the scheme.
In an e-mail to the Guelph Tribune, Marty Burke said he doesn't know who is responsible but would be "shocked" if the Elections Canada probe traces the automated calls that directed Guelph residents to the wrong polling station on voting day to his campaign team.
"I have absolutely no knowledge of who made such calls or how and why they were made," Mr. Burke said in his first public comments about the investigation. "I do not believe there is any connection between these calls and any member of our hard-working, dedicated campaign team. I would be shocked to find out otherwise."
Elections Canada has received 700 specific complaints about misleading calls since reports of its Guelph probe surfaced last month. Its investigation has focused on the riding of Guelph and the local Conservative campaign, but data gathered by media and opposition parties show voters elsewhere also received calls directing them to the wrong polling station in their communities.
According to court documents, the elections watchdog believes a political operative hiding behind the alias "Pierre Poutine" is behind the calls to Guelph residents, engineering a scheme using automated calls and a disposable cellphone to trigger the misleading messages.
Mr. Burke told the Guelph Tribune he spoke with Elections Canada only recently, after he filed a complaint about automated calls from the Guelph Liberal campaign. The calls, which attacked Mr. Burke as anti-abortion, weren't properly identified as Liberal-funded messages.
"A week ago, I volunteered to make a witness statement to Elections Canada with regard to these calls in order to aid their investigation," he said of the "Pierre Poutine" calls. "This led to a brief meeting at which I had very little information to offer."
Mr. Burke, an airline pilot who was a rookie candidate in last May's election, lost to the Liberal incumbent, Frank Valeriote, by about 6,200 votes.
His email to the Guelph Tribune follows verbatim.
Here are my comments on the two illegal robocall circumstances in Guelph:
Illegal poll location robocalls- I have absolutely no knowledge of who made such calls or how and why they were made. I do not believe there is any connection between these calls and any member of our hard-working, dedicated campaign team. I would be shocked to find out otherwise. A week ago, I volunteered to make a witness statement to Elections Canada (EC) with regard to these calls in order to aid their investigation. This led to a brief meeting at which I had very little information to offer.
Illegal, anonymous smear robocalls- Two weeks ago, hard evidence came to light that an illegal, anonymous smear robocall was sent to thousands of Guelph households two days prior to the election concerning my position on the abortion issue. The content of this recorded voice message are now well documented. It appears to have broken several EC laws as well as CRTC laws. For this reason, I filed a formal complaint requesting that Elections Canada investigate this matter- you have this complaint. After this illegal message was made public, Guelph Liberal candidate Frank Valeriote confessed that his campaign had created and sent this message throughout Guelph.
I decided to speak publicly about these calls after first assisting EC and in order to counter allegations and innuendo being spread by others.
It is my understanding that the two robocall situations are being handled as separate incidents by EC.