Banff-Airdrie: The Conservative party goes CSI

The Conservative party seeks forensic analysis to confirm its secret recording

Adrian Wyld/CP

Adrian Wyld/CP

Unwilling to walk away from a minor controversy, or finding themselves with a surplus of time and money, the Conservative party apparently sought out an audio analyst to determine whether the Liberal candidate in Banff-Airdrie said what the Conservative operative who secretly taped him says he said. And the analyst says he’s “75 to 80 per cent” sure that it is the Liberal candidate speaking in the surreptitiously recorded clip. The full report of the analyst is here.

The analyst apparently had access to that clip and a video posted to YouTube by Marlo Raynolds, the Liberal candidate. The analyst doesn’t seem to have had access to any audio of Tam McTavish, the individual who says it’s he who can be heard speaking, not Raynolds. But McTavish says he is willing to provide evidence of his speaking voice.

For his part, McTavish said he’d be happy to provide the expert with another audio sample of his voice, repeating word for word what is said in the disputed audio. “But this is getting silly. It really is as simple as everyone who knows me recognizes it (as me),” he said.

And there is apparently already secondary evidence that points to McTavish.

Raynolds confirmed he’s the one speaking at the start of the audio recording, expressing his opposition to income splitting. But he and McTavish both say it’s McTavish toward the end.

The speaker starts talking about Planet Money, a National Public Radio podcast, just before the recording ends. McTavish said that’s one of his favourite shows. Raynolds said he’d never heard of the program until that moment.

I presume the Conservative party’s next step must be to prove that Raynolds was at least familiar with Planet Money.

This is not, oddly enough, the first time the Conservative party has resorted to forensic audio analysis, though their record in this regard is somewhat questionable. Five years ago, Conservatives claimed that a tape of the Prime Minister discussing the situation of Chuck Cadman had been doctored. But a court-ordered analysis of the tape later undermined that claim. (The Prime Minister ultimately dropped his related lawsuit against Stéphane Dion.)

This matter of Raynolds surely can’t be resolved without a full and independent royal commission. Though, taking inspiration from a reader’s suggestion last night, I might note that all of this confusion might have been avoided from the outset if Conservative operatives were simply outfitted with hidden body cameras when they engage in partisan reconnaissance.

Regardless, it is heartening to see our political actors showing such interest in accountability, thoroughness, investigation and scrutiny. Now, if we could just focus that energy on public policy.

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