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Systemic approach to voter interference 'extremely worrisome': Trudeau

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau talks with reporters as he visits a shopping mall in Halifax Friday.

ANDREW VAUGHAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau talks with reporters as he visits a shopping mall in Halifax Friday.

HALIFAX - Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says it is "extremely worrisome" that there was a systematic approach to interfering in the right to vote in the robocall scandal.

Trudeau, who was glad-handing at a Halifax mall today, reacted to a Federal Court decision that found fraud was involved in the robocalls.

But Judge Richard Mosley concluded in his ruling Thursday that the scale didn't justify wiping out the results of voting in six federal ridings in the 2011 election.

The ruling cleared the Conservative party and its candidates of any effort to mislead voters, though it found the most likely source of information used to make the misleading calls was the party's database.

Trudeau said the court's findings concern him.

"So the fact that there was a systematic approach to doing that is extremely, extremely worrisome," he said. "The fact that it was tied in to the Conservative database as well is an indication of tremendous concern."

The Conservatives issued a statement Thursday noting the ruling found no evidence of wrongdoing by the party or any of the candidates or campaign teams involved in the challenge. The statement also blasted the advocacy group that bankrolled the challenge.

"The Council of Canadians court challenge was a transparent attempt to overturn certified election results simply because this activist group didn't like them," the statement said.

Speaking in Winnipeg, senior Manitoba MP Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he had not fully read Mosely’s decision on the matter of alleged misuse of the party’s database.

"What the judge also said is that there was no involvement by the Conservative Party of Canada, by MPs, by even any of the authorized campaigns," Toews said.

"All data is utilized I believe in an appropriate way. If you look at how I use my data in the course of an election, I use it very, very carefully. It’s not simply shared and we have very stringent controls in place. The problem that you have in any party, whether they’re Liberal, New Democrat or Conservative, is that you have a lot of volunteers, so we are constantly educating our volunteers about the utilization of information."

The council paid the legal bills of the eight voters who launched the challenge and took solace in the judge's finding that fraud did occur.

"What we can do with that I think is to demonstrate that there was very shady business going on," said executive director Garry Neil.

The complainants are considering whether to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. If they do, the council will continue to cover the cost, Neil said.

The voters who launched the challenge were among those who say they received misleading and harassing robocalls during the campaign.

The six ridings in question are Vancouver Island North in British Columbia; Yukon; Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan; Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba; and Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario.

Elections Canada is also probing fraudulent robocalls, stemming from complaints that have surfaced in 56 ridings across the country.

- With files from Bruce Owen

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