Friday, February 24, 2012

Demand Better

Whenever the opposition tried to raise "the democracy thing" during last spring's campaign, the electorate responded with a shrug. Contempt of parliament, the in-and-out scandal, Bev Oda's "not" problem...meh. People got temporarily worked up over prorogation, but that was more because the government was seen to be taking a 3-month vacation, not because they'd disrespected the institution of Parliament.

Maybe people assumed this was just par for the course and that all the parties were the same. Maybe they were right. Either way, there was little interest in "rising up".

So my suspicion is these revelations will be forgotten long before the 2015 election but, to me, this is far worse than any of the previously mentioned scandlettes:



Firm with Tory links traced to election day ‘robocalls’ that tried to discourage voters

Elections Canada has traced fraudulent phone calls made during the federal election to an Edmonton voice-broadcast company that worked for the Conservative Party across the country.

While the agency investigates, aided by the RCMP, the Conservatives are conducting an internal probe. A party lawyer is interviewing campaign workers to find who was behind the deceptive “robocalls.”

Elections Canada launched its investigation after it was inundated with complaints about election day calls in Guelph, Ont., one of 18 ridings across the country where voters were targeted by harassing or deceptive phone messages in an apparent effort to discourage Liberal supporters from voting.

In Guelph, a riding the Conservatives hoped to take from the Liberals, voters received recorded calls pretending to be from Elections Canada, telling them their polling stations had been moved. The calls led to a chaotic scene at one polling station, and likely led some voters to give up on voting.


Maher and McGregor go on to detail the investigation, in a fantastic piece of journalism I encourage everyone to read.

What strikes me most about the robocon scandal is that we're not talking about a grey area here. I get that the in-and-out scandal looked like nothing more than a bookkeeping error or the Tories exploiting a loophole. It was complicated. It was boring. It was impossible to explain to someone who wasn't tied up and forced to listen to you against their will.

But this...this is cut and dry. Voters were called on election day and lied to about where to vote, in an effort to prevent them from voting. There's still some investigating to do, but calls were made to ID'd voters in 18 ridings so it certainly sounds like this was more than one overzealous volunteer.

I'm skeptical this will be "Canada's Watergate", but to me this is absolutely reprehensible. The individuals involved should be punished to the full extent of the law, and if this is traced back to the top of the Conservative Party, hopefully there will be some kind of electoral fallout. As Stephen Harper himself would say, the electorate needs to demand better.

Labels:

30 Comments:

  • Are we fed up enough yet to actuallydo something?
    Canadian Spring starts March 24. Tweet and hit the street.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:05 AM  

  • So if this was true, how many people fell for the phone call and went to the wrong place? Did all those liberal and NDP voters just go home and say nothing? Would they have not called their riding association, the police, the press, somebody? It would have been all over the news on election day because sure as hell Liberal and NDP operatives would have been all over this if they were getting calls from supports saying they were sent to the wrong polling stations.
    So this just comes up now? Yes it is underhanded and reprehensible. But it is also a tactic with pretty low return when you take into account the very high risk of detection involved.

    By Blogger Don Mitchell, at 11:18 AM  

  • Totally agree. This is cut and dry, this is totally reprehensible, and the heads of the guilty should roll in the most harsh and public manner possible.

    You don't have to be a Liberal to realize how terrible this is.

    By Anonymous Jim R, at 11:24 AM  

  • @Don Mitchel
    It doesn't matter if the ROI is low. In a democracy you don't try to stop people from voting.

    By Anonymous Jim R, at 11:26 AM  

  • "Did all those liberal and NDP voters just go home and say nothing? Would they have not called their riding association, the police, the press, somebody?"

    Are you new to Canada? :) I live near one of the swing ridings in question, and know several people who got such calls. Not one of them called someone to complain. They figured it was an error, not malicious. And one knew it was dirty tricks and laughed it off as "the new politics", and said if people were stupid enough to fall for that shit, they shouldn't be voting anyway. Of course, he's Conservative. I suspect he'd be screaming for heads if it were Con voters who were scammed.

    By Blogger Luna, at 12:22 PM  

  • It doesn't matter if the ROI is low. In a democracy you don't try to stop people from voting.

    Sadly, it's become commonplace in America. Here are two examples -- one's a robo-call, the other's flyers -- that use a similar method as the one used in the 2011 Canadian election.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 1:10 PM  

  • Don, this is not coming out just now, at least in the ridings involved. I remember hearing about it on the news on election day and there was an article about it again, in the Waterloo Record, just before Christmas.

    By Blogger Greg, at 2:06 PM  

  • Here is the link to said article:

    http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/641986--mp-albrecht-pledges-investigation-after-crank-election-calls-traced-to-tory-office

    By Blogger Greg, at 2:07 PM  

  • If you read the article, the number used in this case was traced to Lambton County. Unless that kid in Guelph has transporter technology, there is no way he could be responsible for this.

    By Blogger Greg, at 2:09 PM  

  • A few points on this:

    There is zero evidence of any link between these deceptive robocalls and either the central Conservative campaign, or any local campaign.

    There is zero evidence that the calls were targeted at non-CPC supporters, as some partisans are claiming. In fact, the article says the local CPC campaign had to call their own voters themselves to counteract the fakes.

    There is zero evidence that the Racknine incident is linked to the (allegations of) fake calls in other ridings, or that those allegations were more widespread than usual.

    (I've been helping out on conservative campaigns for over a decade, and we not infrequently hear complaints from our supporters about getting calls with wrong voting info, or deliberately antagonizing GOTV calls pretending to be from our campaign.)

    It should also be noted that the article acknowledges that the problems in the 17 other ridings were likely caused by "robo-dialing errors" (eg. the person moved to a different location but kept their old phone number).

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 2:13 PM  

  • So if this was true, how many people fell for the phone call and went to the wrong place? Did all those liberal and NDP voters just go home and say nothing? Would they have not called their riding association, the police, the press, somebody? It would have been all over the news on election day because sure as hell Liberal and NDP operatives would have been all over this if they were getting calls from supports saying they were sent to the wrong polling stations.

    As others have said, this was all over the news on election day. Of course, the election results themselves quickly pushed it to the back pages.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:51 PM  

  • IH - Certainly a proper investigation is in order to find out what exactly went on, who was behind it, and how widespread it was.

    But given what has been admited to by the Tories (i.e. Cotler's riding), I'm finding it difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt here.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:53 PM  

  • There is zero evidence of any link between these deceptive robocalls and either the central Conservative campaign, or any local campaign.

    And yet the guy everyone's fingering as being responsible, Mike Sona, the guy best known for trying to stop people from voting at a university campus has just been fired by the Conservatives.

    Makes you wonder....

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 3:25 PM  

  • Whenever I read about the Conservatives attempting to blame this on staffers, I'm reminded of one of their favourite slogans: Strong Leadership.

    By Blogger Pearsonality, at 4:31 PM  

  • IH.. why would a Conservative resign if it has nothing to do with them?

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1136479--conservative-government-aide-loses-job-over-fraudulent-robo-calls?bn=1

    By Blogger m5slib, at 4:36 PM  

  • To the invisable hand;
    I'd like to first appologize to you as a campaign worker for the cons, for my swearing at you when you called my home with over 10 year old data on the phone # you called. You guys really need to fix your system.

    I live in one of the regions mentioned, after 6 swearing at phone calls the Cons finally stopped contacting me.

    As a Lib supporter I was contacted by my riding association on election day and was offered any assistance if I need it to get to the polls. I hadn't voted yet becuse of that damn thing called a job.

    I did not receive the said phone calls, but whether it was unintentional or not still doesn't make it right.

    Voter supression is something that happens in third world countries, not Canada which is used by the UN for helping out in elections across the world.

    It's shameful that things like this are happening in our so called democracy.

    No ands, ifs or buts, it's just plain wrong.

    By Blogger gingercat, at 5:10 PM  

  • We are at the mercy of Papa Doc Harper and his Con Con Macoutes.

    By Anonymous Steven S., at 5:11 PM  

  • What I love most is that the Liberals are referring to this as "old-style politics" - suggesting that this is the sort of thing that they used to do in the past.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:46 PM  

  • @Invisible Hand: "There is zero evidence of any link between these deceptive robocalls and either the central Conservative campaign, or any local campaign.…" What about the doctrine of qui bene? (who benefits?) The Harper Cons stood to benefit more than anyone else from this voter suppression tactic.

    Elections Canada will investigate, and perhaps someone will be charged as a result of that investigation. My prediction is that the person or persons charged will be at least peripherally connected with the Conservative party. It won't be a close connection; no doubt they will have employed "cutouts" (to use spy novel jargon), but there will be a connection, make no mistake.

    By Anonymous jerrymacgp, at 9:27 AM  

  • "What did you know and when did you know it?"

    That is the critical question for the Tories which will determine whether they go down like Nixon.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 9:29 PM  

  • "What did you know and when did you know it?"

    I know that one person can get phone numbers for people across Canada without involving other people.

    I've known this since I was four years old.

    The Liberal Party of Canada is still claiming to be blissfully unaware that phone books exist, and that phone numbers are available on the Internet.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:01 PM  

  • Maybe the Chief Electoral Officer can finally look into those ridings a couple elections ago in which the Liberal candidate got more votes than there were electors registered in the poll.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:04 AM  

  • From various articles I've heard that the targeted ridings include (I haven't found a list of all of them - this one is as inclusive as I've seen: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/02/23/pol-election-robocalls.html) the following:

    Targeted ridings by Tory margin:
    Edmonton East, +15.49%
    South Shore-St. Margaret's, +7%
    Kitchener-Waterloo, +3.23%
    Winnipeg South Centre, +1.8%
    Etobicoke Centre, +26 votes
    Guelph: -10.72%
    Windsor-Tecumseh, -16.37%
    Sudbury, -21.57%
    Davenport, -25.85%
    Ottawa Centre, -30.43%
    Parkdale-High Park, -31.65%

    What seems curious is that very few of the ridings targeted look like marginal districts for the Tories. In fact, only Etobicoke Centre looks like it could have been impacted by the robocalls.

    Moreover a number were NDP-Liberal races (like Parkdale-High Park), and it is worth noting that NDP supporters got these calls, not just Liberals.

    Maybe that was just part of an effort to mask the perpetrators, maybe those involved were really dense, or perhaps other parties were engaged in similar tactics.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 12:07 AM  

  • Okay, I found a better list (though one excluding the cases the NDP complained about):

    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/More+than+dozen+ridings+blitzed+harassing+fake+Liberal+phone+calls+2011/6207322/story.html

    Kitchener-Conestoga: +32.28%
    Niagara Falls: +29.77%
    Haldimand-Norfolk: +26%
    Cambridge: +25.72%
    Egmont: +23.34%
    Oakville: +20.92%
    Saint-Boniface: +19.5%
    London West: +17.72%
    Eglinton-Lawrence: +8.39%
    Kitchener-Waterloo, +3.23%
    London North Centre: +3.16%
    Don Valley East: +2.22%
    Winnipeg South Centre: +1.8%
    Willowdale: +1.8%
    Sydney-Victoria: -2.06%
    St. Paul's: -8.2%
    Guelph: -10.72%
    Parkdale-High Park, -31.65%

    While this list includes more swing districts, it still also includes a number of races that surely didn't warrant any sort of dirty tricks. It is also worth noting that there were two types of calls - some claiming to be from a Liberal candidate, some from a fake Elections Canada representative.

    At the very least, Etobicoke Centre is probably the only riding where the outcome was influenced by these calls (which doesn't mean that voter suppression was acceptable).

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 12:28 AM  

  • Well if this voter fraud was perpetrated by the Tories then they certainly are not very good at covering their tracks. Usually if you want to hide your tracks you certainly would not use a company with known ties to the conservative party. Unless you want to smear the conservatives. Interesting.

    By Blogger Don Mitchell, at 12:12 PM  

  • Also, add Tory MP Dean del Mastro to the list of folks targeted by robocalls.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 12:57 PM  

  • Some goofball is saying that any riding where a Liberal lost is evidence of voter suppression.

    Will Elections Canada probe Michael Ignatieff, too for having forced tens of thousands of Liberals across the country to not vote last May?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:25 PM  

  • Don Mitchell said...
    >>if you want to hide your tracks you certainly would not use a company with known ties to the conservative party.

    So Don, your arguement is that since there is evidence pointing to the Tories, it proves the Tories are innocent because the Tories are too clever to leave tracks when then fix elections.
    Interesting. Tell me more.

    By Anonymous CrescentHeightGuy, at 2:04 PM  

  • Today, Bob Rae claims that the CPC has all the evidence, that he has no evidence to offer. How long before he retracts that claim, too?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:38 PM  

  • CHG
    I am saying that if the Cons actually did this, they are stupid beyond belief in the way they carried it out.

    By Blogger Don Mitchell, at 6:03 PM  

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