Weeks ago, justice was served when Michael Sona was sentenced to nine months in jail and a year of probation for attempting to prevent voters from casting ballots during the 2011 federal election. As Judge Gary Hearn slammed his gavel on his bench, Canadians across the country knew they were finally safe. Sona’s conviction solved the problem with Canadian democracy. The system was restored. Everything would return to how it had been: perfect. Canadians were reasonably outraged when Sona filed an appeal and expected to receive bail during his new trial. How dare he!
The Crown was quick to set the record straight. Crown attorney Nick Devlin said Sona should not be granted bail because he has committed “one of those rare offences where he’s actually done some damage to the fabric of society.” You heard that right, “one of those rare offences.” The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who tamper with elections. Sona is going to have trouble making friends in jail not because he’s too nerdy, but rather because he’s too evil.
Accepting The Crown’s arguments, it would be a huge mistake to let Sona out on bail because he would…damage our societal fabric again? With an election a year away, we can only imagine how many times he could single-handedly orchestrate another countrywide vote suppression campaign before the writ drops. Actually, there’s no need to imagine; the answer is zero. Those campaigns can’t happen on days when there isn’t an election.
So why is it bad to let Sona out on bail while he appeals his sentence and possibly his conviction as well? It isn’t clear. He isn’t a violent or dangerous offender, nor is he likely to offend again in the near future. He isn’t about to rejoin a criminal network of robocallers—his two buddies are long gone. Andrew Prescott, the deputy campaign manager in Guelph, where Sona was based during the 2011 election, testified against both Sona and Guelph campaign manager Ken Morgan in exchange for immunity. There’s no way he’s reconnecting with Sona. There’s no way Sona is reconnecting with Morgan, since Morgan moved to Kuwait during the robocalls investigation. How the hell did we let a man who may have been involved in the scandal move to Kuwait during the inquiry? Oh right, Elections Canada can’t compel testimony, so he had a right to remain silent and to move to Kuwait. The Fair Elections Act fixed that little problem! No, wait, it didn’t.
Guess what? Sona received bail. That shouldn’t be remarkable news because there are so few reasons to keep him locked up. Even if he was the only guy involved in the scam, and even if he plans to do it all again, the only thing he could do right now is call MPs and tell them their votes have been rescheduled (or moved to the A&W in the Rideau Centre). His Conservative Party is already in power, so it’s hard to see why he would bother. Forgetting The Crown’s tenuous assertion that he alone damaged the fabric of Canadian society, there is little evidence that he has any intention or ability to fiddle with an election while his appeal is heard. Canadians should let him breathe fresh air while the courts juggle his fate, and hope that some greater truth emerges in the process.