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Feb 29 2012

Conservative election dirty tricks in Waterloo; possibly elsewhere

Our good friend Steve Thoms, a.k.a Some Canadian Skeptic, is apparently interviewed in The Record discussing some dirty tricks by Conservatives in our recent national election.

I know, shock and horror, how could the Conservative Party of Canada have to resort to foul play to win an election when they are so obviously the paragons of all that is light and just and true in this world?

After the news broke last week that Elections Canada is investigating complaints from Guelph residents about receiving calls on Election Day in an apparent effort to dissuade Liberal voters from casting a ballot, the story broadened over the weekend. A company that did campaign work for Conservatives, including the prime minister, was linked to harassing or misleading automated phone calls received by voters in some 18 hotly contested ridings just prior to the May 2 election.

Bobbi Stewart, the NDP candidate from the Guelph riding at the centre of the controversy, has also come forward, saying her team also received complaints during the campaign.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said over the weekend dirty tricks are responsible for his party’s candidates losing in at least 27 ridings. Rae has called for an emergency debate in the House to discuss the issue. Both opposition parties have said the tactics, if proven, are akin to voter suppression.

NDP MP Pat Martin said he’s aware of at least 34 ridings that experienced similar tactics.

Martin also said last week the full-extent of the scam “will be enough to make Richard Nixon blush.”

Yeah, no kidding. I was surprised so many people would go for the Conservatives, and that voter turnout was so low on an election where people were about to hand the CPC a majority (of 39% of voters, out of ~60% of eligible voters actually casting votes, meaning something like 22% of the voting populace is somehow a majority mandate!). If it turns out that voter turnout was low because of robocalls and voter suppression tactics, this is nothing short of the murder of our democracy. Considering all the damage the Cons have done in their first year in majority and how much more they promise to do, I am not very optimistic about Canada any more. And it takes a lot to dissuade me from optimism.

Elizabeth May doesn’t mince words in identifying the problem, despite the Cons’ declaration of innocence.

“There’s a culture inside the Conservative Party that we’ve never really seen in Canadian politics. It’s a culture of win at all costs and the do whatever you have to win, just as long you don’t get caught.”

“It sounds kind of hokey, but it’s un-Canadian.”

Steve’s part of the story:

Stephen Thoms worked as a deputy returns officer on Election Day in Kitchener Centre, which was considered a crucial riding for the Conservatives to hold to achieve their majority.

Thoms said he had between 15 and 20 citizens approach him on May 2 to ask whether they were at the right polling station, saying they’d been called and told their polling stations had changed. He reported it to his supervisor, who said he’d already heard that a lot.

The riding is held by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, who could not be reached for comment.

“When it happened I kinda had this suspicious feeling, but we were so happy we weren’t going to make bones about it . . . we also weren’t supposed to be political so I wasn’t even going to talk to the person next to me about it,” Thoms said Saturday night. “Looking at it now, I’m fairly certain it happened at my station and it seems to be happening across the country.”

Thoms said that while, as political science graduate, he may hold ideological stances, “I have no interest in party politics.”

The only ideological stances I’ve known Steve to have are those predicated on evidence and his finely-tuned moral compass. If he’s excoriating the Conservatives it’s not because he’s a raving liberal with an ideological bent, like me. It’s because there’s actually something dirty going on.

The fact is, I’ve only become an ideological liberal because of bullshit like this. My actual political perspective is rather centrist when you dissect it; the problem is that the parties and the politics in this country are swinging way too far to the right in an effort to emulate all the worst aspects of the Republicans in the States, so any centrist looks like a raving liberal by comparison. I’ll take the label if it means being against the kind of bullshit fascist nonsense the Cons have implemented under Harper, and will continue to implement unabated for the next three-minimum years. Knowing that Harper has the ability and every reason to delay the election as long as possible in hopes of spinning things positively to prevent losing his majority government, til the mandated five-year period, I strongly suspect we’re in for at least four more years of this evisceration of everything that makes Canada great.

And even then, who knows whether the next election results will actually reflect the will of the people, now that Harper has brought the right wingers to realize that they can play dirty and get away with it? The pandora’s box has been opened. Canada has been transformed, for the worse, by a single man and his singularly un-Canadian vision.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    jamessweet

    “There’s a culture inside the Conservative Party that we’ve never really seen in Canadian politics. It’s a culture of win at all costs and the do whatever you have to win, just as long you don’t get caught.”

    “It sounds kind of hokey, but it’s un-Canadian.”

    Dare I say it? It’s about as un-Canadian as apple pie…

  2. 2
    sambarge

    These tactics undermine democracy in Canada. That’s not hyperbole; that’s the truth. We need to know if this is true and, if it is, who ordered it.

  3. 3
    ischemgeek

    Though this makes me sound like a person much older than I am, I remember a time not too long ago when I felt some surpise when something like this came up. I naievely thought that Canada was better than that.

    Apparently not.

  4. 4
    peicurmudgeon

    I find all of this incredibly upsetting as well. It just keeps getting worse and worse. In the US, the louder a politician screams ‘family values’ the more likely they are to have no respect for family at all. In Canada, the screams are about transparency and honesty, but the hypocrisy is just as blatant.

  5. 5
    VeritasKnight

    I doubt this swayed the election, I really, truly do. Only because, in general, Canadians aren’t that stupid. We’re pretty good with knowing what’s bullshit and what’s not. Most of the ridings, according to the CBC, ended up in Liberal hands.

    That’s not the point.

    The point is that they cheated and undermined our democracy. I can handle a lot of fuckups from a politician, I really can. What I can’t handle is toying with our basic representation. This is nothing short of treason, in my opinion – not a word I use lightly.

    Should we “re-do” the election? Maybe a few byelections. But what we should do is never, ever let anyone forget that winning was so important to the Conservatives that they didn’t want to do it honestly. They tried to cheat.

  6. 6
    ash

    “The fact is, I’ve only become an ideological liberal because of bullshit like this.”

    Yep, pretty much my story too. True of many of my friends these days. That’s a good thing. I don’t even recognize the dude I was before I started publicly giving a damn…

  7. 7
    Susannah

    of 39% of voters, out of ~60% of eligible voters actually casting votes, meaning something like 22% of the voting populace is somehow a majority mandate!

    And considering that of that measly 22%, a good proportion believed Harper’s promises, like help with childcare, fixed election dates*, protecting the environment, etc.. People have said to me that if they knew what he stood for, they would never have voted for the Cons.

    *(By the way, Harper & Co.; that was “fixed election dates” you promised, not “fixed elections”. There’s a difference. Really.)

  8. 8
    sinned34

    Having grown up in the Reform movement (I’m ashamed to admit I voted Reform twice and Alliance once), I have to say I’m not really shocked by these revelations. There was so much talk of the Reform party representing the “silent majority” that was being suppressed by the Liberal Powers That Be (the Senate, the media like the CBC and CTV, Quebec, etc) that they were obviously fostering a culture that winning at any cost was acceptable.

    What wound up being the death knell for my conservative political views was critically examining what passes as conservative thinking. After I learned how much of it was based on lies, misdirection, and empty rhetoric, I began my slow trudge towards the center left of the political continuum.

    Granted, there are lying politicians on the left side of the spectrum as well, but at least most liberals don’t hold their politicians up as good Christian paragons of virtue that will return this country to Jesus and bring about God’s blessings by forcing school children to pray Protestant prayers and kicking out the French people.

  9. 9
    P Smith

    I wonder if the Governor General has the power to dissolve parliament and call an election.

    Or at least, force by-elections in ridings where harassing calls were proven to occur. It would be nice. Minority governments govern better than majorities.

    .

  10. 10
    ischemgeek

    @P Smith:

    Yes, he does. If he wants to. Not sure if it’d go over well, but he does have the power to do so. See Section V of the document in the link.

    IANAL, but as far as I know, the letters patent of 1947 are still in effect with regard to the role of the GG.

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