The news that Elections Canada investigators are aware of the IP address “Pierre Poutine” used to set up the Guelph, Ont., robocall account has convinced a suspect to step forward and accept responsibility for the deceptive calls, sources say.
Whoever set up the account that sent the election day message that deceived opposition voters in Guelph was careful to cover his electronic tracks.
According to sworn affidavits from Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews and sources close to the investigation, whoever sent the fake recorded message used a prepaid credit card to buy a prepaid cellphone, registered an account under a fake name and address with robocall provider RackNine, and used a different fake name and address – Pierre Poutine of Separatist Street, Joliette, Que. – to set up his cellphone.
But the CEO of RackNine, Matt Meier, was able to trace Poutine’s electronic trail back to a specific Internet protocol address, which is apparently assigned to a single home. Sources say that revelation has now convinced someone to step forward and own up to the scheme.
Someone with knowledge of the affair is expected to share information with Elections Canada today.
The young campaigners most often associated with the Guelph campaign in media reports have both repeatedly publicly declared their innocence.
Campaign communications director Michael Sona left his job working for Conservative MP Eve Adams after the story broke, but a few days after leaving, he told CTV News he had no involvement.
“I have remained silent to this point with the hope that the real guilty party would be apprehended,” he said.
A woman who identified herself as Sona’s mother cast doubt on the fairness of investigation on Sunday.
“To me, it’s been a setup from Day 1,” she said, without elaborating.
During a brief conversation with the Ottawa Citizen, she also referred to reports about Meier tracing the Internet address used with the RackNine account. “It’s interesting that Matt Meier found the code when he’s working for the Conservative party.”
Sona stayed at his family’s home in Guelph during the campaign but isn’t living there now, she said.
Deputy campaign director Andrew Prescott, who had an account with RackNine that he used for other campaigns, has also said he had nothing to do with the calls.
After the Ottawa Citizen sought comment from him on Sunday, he sent out a tweet, under his handle ChristianConsrv: “Getting media requests for a story from people who just days ago suggested it implied wrongdoing on my part. An apology first maybe?”
Others who played a role in managing the campaign, including campaign manager Ken Morgan, have not returned repeated messages seeking comment. Riding association president John White could not be reached for comment.
Since the Ottawa CitizenPostmedia News investigation into fraudulent political calls last month, opposition researchers have been tracking down reports of similar calls in other ridings.
The reports, which have not been independently confirmed, say that opposition supporters outside Guelph also recall receiving a recorded message from Elections Canada advising them that their polling station had been moved.
The issue has been a political football for weeks with opposition MPs accusing the Conservatives of being behind a national vote-suppression scheme and the Conservatives accusing their critics of smearing them without proof.