This electoral fraud (“robo-call”) story has been interesting to follow, and seemingly so well-covered by bloggers and the mainstream media that I’m not sure what I can add. But why not try, even if it’s mostly to provide links.
The Conservatives broke electoral law in the 2006 election. They’ve admitted it, pleaded guilty, paid the fines. It’s always irritated me, though, that it took so long to prosecute, and had no real effect.
What they did essentially launder money through local riding to be able to run more national ads than they were legally allowed to. I know those stupid Conservative ads influence voters, even only to stay home instead of vote. As one writer put it, negative political ads are a legal form of vote suppression. But they did an illegal amount of it, won the election, and have earned that “incumbency” vote ever since.
It was totally worth it for them to cheat on that election. Not so weird to think they might try it again, in a different way, with their well-stocked election coffers.
One of the weirder stories I’ve read goes back to the previous election, 2008, where in Saanich-Gulf Islands, thousands of NDP supporters received robocalls urging them to vote for the local NDP candidate–who had dropped out the race, but too late to remove his name from the ballot. The NDP pulled in more of the vote than polling had suggested they would, and the Conservative candidate narrowly won the seat.
For this election, people keep saying there’s no real proof, but isn’t the Thunder Bay situation kind of a smoking gun? A call center hired by the Conservatives that on the eve of the election, called a bunch of people and told them incorrectly that their polling station had changed?
And this Conservative defense of “honest mistake”— it’s not much of a defense. If you’re not absolutely sure the polling station has changed, don’t go telling people it has! It can’t be that hard to get the facts straight. Especially when you have very well-stocked election coffers.
And the Conservative claim that they do not engage in fraudulent calls is simply incorrect, as they did exactly that in Irwin Colter’s riding, defending it as “free speech”. The Speaker of the House called it “reprehensible”, and it is currently under investigation by the company’s professional association.
And the Conservatives trying to equate the VikiLeaks thing with this? One guy with a free Twitter account, posting publicly available facts? Not illegal. Not a big use of government resources. Not even all that terribly wrong, in my opinion. At worst, kind of tacky. (As is cheating on your wife with your babysitter, then disputing her claim for support. I’m just saying.)
The Conservatives are calling this a smear campaign, but they only have themselves to blame for how easily we can believe they would do anything to gain and keep power.
For an excellent list of the many “dirty tricks” the Conservatives have pulled, see Lawrence Martin’s Trouble in Toryland: their Dirty Tricks catalogue. Even I was shocked how long a list it was.
And for an extremely eloquent indictment, Daniel Veniez’ Tory Tactics and Our Rotten Political Climate.
The tragic thing is that our means of fighting this seem so toothless. What is Election Canada doing, exactly? We don’t really know. The RCMP? Bigger fish to fry, I guess. An inquiry? As if!
With all this attention, will this seriously be investigate, and will it actually mean something this time? I can only hope. But I’m not really hopeful.