Elections Canada investigates call complaints in 56 ridings

Elections Canada investigators are tracking complaints of misleading or harassing phone calls in 56 ridings during the 2011 federal election campaign, newly released court documents show.

That's nearly one-fifth of Canada's 308 ridings.

The documents show exactly how widespread the investigation has become since it was first revealed that the election agency was looking into allegations of misleading phone calls in Guelph, Ont. The documents, known as information to obtain a production order, cover phone records for customers of Vidéotron in Quebec and of Shaw in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. A production order for Rogers hasn't yet been publicly released.

Elections Canada investigator John Dickson says in the Shaw production order that he believes the information will help him identify whoever made the calls.

He also says the agency got 99 complaints of misleading or harassing calls before the first media report last February. Once the news broke, the agency got another 1,048 complaints, not including the 252 complaints from Guelph. Some people reported both misleading and harassing calls.

Of the 36 ridings Dickson is investigating, a Shaw security official said the same incoming phone number called "at least several" of the complainants on May 1 and 2, 2011, at least six times, he wrote in the production order.

There are complaints from another 217 people in 31 of the 36 ridings who weren't Shaw subscribers, he said.

In the House of Commons Friday, New Democrat MP Craig Scott said what happened in Guelph was "clearly not an isolated incident."

"Conservatives can no longer pretend that this is just a few rogues in Guelph," Scott said.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre provided no new explanation, referring only to the party's co-operation with investigators on the Guelph allegations.

However, the production order shows it's taking months for the party's lawyer to arrange interviews for Dickson. He first spoke with Arthur Hamilton on Aug. 7, in a phone call in which Hamilton asked Dickson to go through him with any requests.

"On Aug. 30, 2012, I spoke with Mr. Hamilton by telephone and discussed with him the issue of whether the Conservative Party or its candidate in several [electoral districts] noted herein made such calls. He advised me he would look into the matter and reply," Dickson wrote.

"On Sept. 20, 2012, Mr. Hamilton advised me he will put the request forward for a response. On Oct. 2, 2012, Mr. Hamilton advised me that he will attempt to arrange for me to speak directly with the appropriate campaign official. On Oct. 30, 2012, Mr. Hamilton advised me that he anticipates being able to facilitate such meetings in the near future."

Conservative officials have repeatedly denied any link to the misleading phone calls and say they ran a clean campaign.

The records were released as part of a Federal Court case in which six applicants, backed by the Council of Canadians, are challenging the election result in their ridings. That case will be heard Dec. 10.

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