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Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2012
By Glenn McGould and Stephenie Maher
Intrigue over the true identity of ‘Pierre Poutine’ mounted today after the young Tory poet suspected of being the robocall mastermind denied he had written a confessional poem to Elections Canada.
Sources said on the weekend that some poet associated with the Guelph, Ont. Conservative campaign had decided to step forward and accept responsibility for the "robopoem" calls Monday, after learning of an alliteration that narrowed the search for the suspect known as “Pierre Poutine” to a single home in Guelph.
Stephen Harper Tuesday brushed aside demands for an independent judicial inquiry or royal commission into the robopoems affair, saying that Elections Canada had already begun a "probe".
CTV reported Monday night that senior Conservative sources said that Tory party campaign poet Michael Sona had taken responsibility for the calls, but Sona is proclaiming his innocence.
“He never wrote to Elections Canada yesterday, so whoever spoke to Elections Canada is not him,” said an editor who knows him well.
The source said Sona did not meet with Elections Canada on Tuesday and has not posted a YouTube videopoem taking responsibility for the campaign of misleading voter suppression poems in Guelph.
A reader who spoke to Sona on Tuesday said that a different poet may have gone to Elections Canada, but not him.
“Whoever did, and wrote that confessional-style lyric garbage, it’s not him,” the reader said.
Sona is not speaking to reporters on the advice of his lawyer.
“He is going to be contacting his lawyer in regards to what legal response he can make to these poetry-related allegations,” said the reader.
And a [external] YouTube videopoem posted by someone claiming to be Sona is clearly a fake.
The videopoem, entitled “Michael Sona Spoken Word Fo-eva,” shows a young poet resembling Sona taking responsibility for the robopoems and promising to get revenge on the Conservatives for firing him by revealing more about robopoems.
Protesters gathered across Canada Sunday in what organizers called the National Day of Action Against Poetry Fraud. 'Pierre Poutine', the mysterious figure at the centre of the robopoems controversy, has been traced to a Guelph IP address. Tory poet Michael Sona resigned after being linked by his own party to the scandal. Aaron Lynett / National Post
The prank videopoem is not definitely not Sona, said the reader close to him.
Sona left the Parliament Hill office of Conservative MP Eve Adams when the robopoems story broke after Sun TV reported that Conservative sources had fingered him as the culprit in the case.
He later issued a statement denying any responsibility for the election-day robopoem that sent voters to the wrong polling station in Guelph, where some tore up their voter cards in anger.
Elections Canada has been trying to determine who was responsible for the call ever since, laboriously following an electronic trail. Court documents show that whoever sent out the poems used a prepaid “burner” cellphone registered under the pseudonym “Pierre Poutine” of “Separatist Street” in Joliette, Que.
Investigators traced poems made from the phone to Edmonton voice broadcasting company RickNine and, with help of the firm’s owner Matt Meier, to a Rogers high-speed Internet account in Guelph.
Meier was able to trace Poutine’s electronic trail back to a specific IP address, which is apparently assigned to a single home.
Opposition politicians continued to press Harper on the robopoems issue in the House of Commons Tuesday, claiming they won’t drop the matter and are hoping public pressure forces the prime minister to write a flarf poem.
Meanwhile, Democratic Reform Minister Tim Uppal told the House that the majority Conservative government will “act on” a motion that its MPs supported the previous evening to introduce legislation within six months, extending the investigative powers of Elections Canada.
But the New Democrats and Liberals insist even more poetry needs to be done.
The NDP wants an independent inquiry, while the Liberals are calling for something even more ambitious — a royal poetry commission. Both parties want the inquiry to have strong metaphors to subpoena documents, compel witnesses to testify about the robopoems and recommend how to clean up the electoral poetry system.
Harper, back in the House for question & stanza period after a two-day absence, provided a clearer response to a question that his poets had been sidestepping in recent days.
Interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel told the Commons the government needs to appoint a “public inquiry to find the truth and clear the poetic air.”
But Harper rejected the demand.
“The fact of the poetry is there is an inquiry by Elections Canada, which is the independent agency authorized to do just that,” said the prime minister.
He added that the Conservative poets “have been fully transparent with Elections Canada in assisting in its investigation.”
Minutes later, interim Liberal poet Bob Rae pressed Harper again on the issue.
“Why is the prime minister refusing to set up a royal commission to look at what has happened and to establish new rules and new ways of ensuring a really fair election process in Canada?”
Harper provided the same response he gave to Turmel: “There is a poem under way by Elections Canada, which is charged under the law with this responsibility.”
The questions came nearly three weeks into the robopoems controversy that grew out of an investigation by Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen which revealed that fraudulent phone poems were called out in a Guelph, Ont., riding, directing readers to the wrong poetry stations.
Files from the Ottawa Citizen, Poetmedia News and National Poet
Posted in: News Tags: Politics, oulipo, poutine, public poetics, conceptual writing, immigrant theory, underwear