The rapidly unfolding Robocall scandal is rocking our nation’s capital and has become the main issue in Canadian politics virtually overnight. The scandal started about a week ago when Elections Canada suspected a Conservative operative used automated calls to suppress the opposition vote in Guelph, Ontario.
The operator known as “Pierrre Poutine” used the robocalls to falsely state to would be Liberal/NDP voters that their polling station had changed. While there were a number of complaints directly following the election last year, an election which saw the Conservatives finally win a Majority Government, those claims were largely dismissed at the time as isolated incidents.
What a difference a week makes. Elections Canada is currently investigating more than 31,000 reports of misleading or harassing calls to voters. Opposition parties have so far alleged these phony calls have occurred in more than 57 ridings across Canada.
In addition, a Conservative pollster allegedly involved in a misinformation campaign against Liberal MP Irwin Cotler is presently under investigation. Mount Royal constituents complained they were falsely told Cotler was about to resign and that a by-election was forthcoming.
So far, Prime Minister Harper and his Conservatives have been doing everything in their power to avoid honing up to their responsibilities as the governing party, even accusing the opposition of a smear campaign. While there is only proof of wrong doing in one riding up until now, Prime Minister Harper would be wise in calling for a public inquiry, unless of course he has something to hide.
Elections Canada, along with the RCMP, is currently investigating the matter, but over the years they have both shown some signs of political bias and move slow in their investigations. Back in 2006, the same two organizations investigated the “In and Out” scandal that found the Conservatives guilty of overspending on their election campaign by close to a million dollars, after a five year investigation (and two more general elections) they settled on a fifty thousand dollar fine.
If Harper wants this controversy to be behind him, he’s best to move quickly and honestly. Unlike the “In and Out” scandal, this one isn’t going to fade away into political obscurity. He’s got more than three years to get the skeletons out of the closet, what could he be so afraid of?
In 2004, following the auditor general’s report at the beginning of the Liberal sponsorship scandal, Prime Minister Paul Martin launched a public inquiry the very next day. In the middle of a minority government he cared more about the truth than the political consequences. His action may have led to his demise, but at least he did what every leader ought to do, he took responsibility.
Canadians are starting to voice their opinion on this type of democratic suppression on the part of the Conservatives and it’s long overdue. Protesters were out in British Columbia this past weekend and word is they are only the beginning. The conservatives are starting to accumulate a nasty track record when it comes to politricks and scandal. Ironic given they were first elected on the promise of cleaning up Ottawa; it seems after the clean-up they forgot to shower themselves.
Election turnout in Canada has averaged around 60% in the last few elections. I’m starting to understand why the turnout was so low and why apathy was so high.
Voter suppression shames any nation.