Minimize, defend, accuse

Andrea Gunn
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Conservative ‘dirty-tricks,' Liberal ‘smear campaign.'

Since the robocall scandal has hit the news there's been no shortage of allegations flying around.

Both opposition parties seem to be pointing the finger squarely at the Conservatives, while the Conservatives, who were at first too busy denying anything was happening to point a finger at anybody, are now pointing theirs at the Liberals.

And the whole thing has left this ordinary citizen concerned, to say the least.

For those of you who may not go home after work and watch political shows and news until your eyes bleed like I do, I'll try and summarize the issue as concisely as possible.

Canadians all across the country, of all political stripes, have reported getting calls on election day in May of last year from an automated voice claiming to be Elections Canada. The voice told them their polling station had moved, and directed them to an incorrect location. The calls first raised red flags in Guelph, Ontatio when voters who just left their polling station, or could see it from their residence were getting the bogus calls and realized they were, well, bogus. Since then, there have been other types of calls reported as well. Some Liberal supporters claim have gotten harassing calls from individuals claiming to be affiliated with the Liberal party, some claim to have been called by an actual human being telling them their polling station had changed. There are call centre employees who have come forward, claiming to have been told to distribute this incorrect information.

The numbers of ridings affected as reported in the media range, but the highest count to my knowledge is 47. In some of these ridings, the difference in votes between the winning and losing candidates are in the teens.

The calls in Guelph, which have been under investigation by Elections Canada, were linked back to a company called Racknine, an Edmonton firm that has been hired by the Conservative party in the past to make election robocalls. Automated phone calls are not illegal in themselves, and are used by all political parties in legitimate ways. But some of these specific robocalls, the misleading variety, were traced back to a disposable cellphone registered to one "Pierre Poutine" of "Separatist Street," reported a March 1 CBC article.

Burner cellphones, fake names? Something stinks.

"Who uses a burner cellphone? Dope dealers and Hell's Angels and Tony Soprano use burner cellphones," said Pat Martin, NDP house leader outside the House of Commons on CBC's Power and Politics. He hit the nail on the head. Dope dealers, Hell's Angels, and others with something big to hide.

One Conservative staffer, 23-year-old Michael Sona, has been removed from his role within the party for involvement, but it's not exactly clear what that involvement was.

And Defence Minister Peter MacKay seems to think that's enough.

Various national news sources quoted MacKay as saying the incident was isolated and with Sona reprimanded, the issue need not be investigated any further.

Now, the Conservative government, who as of late seem to be channeled through MP Dean Del Mastero, has done a 180, and seem to be absolutely sure the Liberal party has to be behind the issue.

This is after days of the Harper government's talking heads basically telling everyone who raised questions about the issue that they had no proof and that the only place it occurred was Guleph.

Now, thousands of ordinary citizens have come forward with reports of that strange call they got on election day they thought little of at the time.

I'm not saying there's some masterminded conspiracy theory headed by Harper to win an illegitimate majority government last May, but this is not a lone 23-year-old staffer. This is a big, expensive endeavor that has a lot of power and organization behind it.

Access to huge call lists of opposition supporters, thousands of dollars to make the calls, and some larger motive would be needed to pull off something as huge as this.

But whoever is responsible is covering their tracks well.

And what gives me a knot in the pit of my stomach more than anything else is the way my government has been handling the issue.

This is absolutely voter suppression, and it may very well be election fraud. Last May, someone, somewhere, duped potentially thousands of Canadians out of their democratic right, something scores of Canadians have fought and died for over the years.

I am bewildered that my government isn't standing up in the House of Commons and saying we're angry, this is terrible and wrong, and we want to do everything we can to get to the bottom of this because this is our democracy at stake.

That should be their only message in all of this. Their top priority should be finding out who made these calls, not finger pointing and manufacturing defensive rhetoric.

Instead of standing beside their citizens, ordinary Canadians who are victims of deliberate voter suppression, the Conservatives are trying to portray themselves as the victim of a "smear campaign" by the Liberals.

And this behavior, this minimizing, then defensive, then accusing banter they've been shoveling at the public, has left me with no confidence in my government, and nowhere to look but directly at them as somehow being behind all of this.

Or, at the very least, that they know more than they're letting on.

Elections Canada announced officially for the first time on Friday that they were working with the RCMP in an investigation of some 31,000 complaints in this matter. That's a hell of a number.

I can only hope that my confidence in Elections Canada and our legal system will be preserved by nothing less than a full investigation, public enquiry, and by-elections in every single riding where even one citizen received a misleading call.

Organizations: Conservatives, Elections Canada, Hell's Angels House of Commons CBC NDP house RCMP

Geographic location: Guelph, Edmonton

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Recent comments

  • Carl
    March 08, 2012 - 11:17

    I too hope there is a full investigation, but if the investigation reveals nothing, then what good is a costly and inevitably hyper-partisan public inquiry? And the idea of "by-elections in every single riding where even one citizen received a misleading call" is ridiculous. What if the misleading call was an honest error? What if there was one misleading call in a riding where the margin of victory was 20,000 votes? And what if the candidate supported by the victim of the misleading call won anyway? A by-election in such cases would be stupid.

  • Lane
    March 08, 2012 - 11:11

    Apart from the apparent wrong-doing in Guelph, Ontario, I think the rest of the allegations are nothing but opposition spin. The variety of complaints suggests a variety of causes. In some cases, call centres contracted by the Liberals themselves probably did make calls at inappropriate times, using callers who were rude. In other cases, calls by all parties to advise their own supporters of polling location changes probably went to some of the wrong people. (No person and no database is ever error-free.) But if any evidence of election fraud is every found, I hope the culprit is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

  • Lane
    March 06, 2012 - 10:49

    Obviously, we can't put too much faith in the Opposition parties' accusations - it is clearly in their self-interest to tar the Conservatives with allegations of some anti-democratic conspiracy. The variety of complaints being made suggests to me that there is probably a variety of explanations as well. The callers who said they were calling on behalf of the Liberals and NDP probably were. The fact that they may have been rude or called at inconvenient times does not mean a thing. Many of the calls that directed voters to incorrect polling stations were probably honest mistakes - made to the wrong people, or giving the wrong information because the Elections Canada database, or that of the party making the calls, contained errors. Such things are bound to happen when you have millions of phone calls being made to millions of voters by all parties. However, it seems clear that something illegal was done in Guelph, and the perpetrator should be punished to the full extent of the law. As for any other allegations, I'm happy to wait and see what the RCMP and Elections Canada find out.

    March 05, 2012 - 12:52

    i received one of these calls saying they were calling from the ndp and would i be suppoting the local ndp canidate in my riding. i ignored the call and went to the advance polling booth anyway. when i got their i gave the man at the door my card, showed my identification, and was signed in. but when i got to the second desk to receive my ballot, i was asked for my identification again. i refused saying you all seen it and if you don't trust me then you can shove that ballot where the sun don't shine and i walked out. i will never vote in a federal election ever again. in-closing: my opinion on all this robocall scandal is that all political parties no matter what political stripes they wear are involved in this. its a sad day for democracy, but what can you expect, its CORRUPTION and work folks and nothing else.

  • TheLaughingMan
    March 05, 2012 - 10:24

    Our government has failed us! Not only the Conservatives but the NDP and Liberals! It's time Canadians take Canada back! Shout out for changes in the government! Changes that will put the power back in the hands of the people! We need laws that allow us to force referendums on the politicians when they get out of hand and laws to punish the politicians for when they go to far! The first politician we should hold accountable is Vic Toews. Just in case you forgot what you did, Mr. Toews, you are a liar! You lied to the people of this country, now you should pay the price.