This is not Zimbabwe
Allegations of election fraud demand serious response
Calgary Herald February 28, 2012
Some of the Conservative reaction to the growing robocall scandal reminds us of Leslie Nielsen standing in front of an exploding fire-works factory in Naked Gun while telling a gathering crowd, "Move on. Nothing to see here."
On Monday, Tory Senator Mike Duffy blamed it on third parties. Conservative strategist Tim Powers called it opposition hysteria. On the weekend, Defence Minister Peter MacKay called it an isolated incident. In question period Monday, the unflappable Stephen Harper gave them all a lesson in crisis communications, saying that anyone with evidence of illegal acts should notify Elections Canada, as Harper says his party has done, so the agency can investigate and report back to the House of Commons. It's the only credible response.
With staff at a Thunder Bay call centre admitting they made live calls scripted by the Conservatives to mislead voters about polling station locations in hotly contested ridings, dismissing the allegations merely reinforces the reputation that this is a bullying, stop-at-nothing government that has muzzled everyone from scientists to veterans' advocates.
The Conservatives, after all, once hired a polling company to spread the false word that Liberal MP Irwin Cotler of Montreal intended to resign from Parliament - a tactic that Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer later called "reprehensible." Election fraud is serious. This is not Zimbabwe. If Harper doesn't want to be perceived as Canada's version of Robert Mugabe, he and his party have no choice but to co-operate fully with the joint Elections Canada-RCMP investigation underway.
Notwithstanding the utterances of some of their members, the Tories backed a unanimous House of Commons motion put forth by the NDP Monday calling on all MPs to turn over any information they have to what appears to be a widespread Conservative voter-suppression scheme in the 2011 federal election. Blaming it on overly enthusiastic neophytes, as some Tories have done, will never fly. Although a relative few could orchestrate a computerized robocall scheme, a campaign of live voice calls in at least 18 and as many as 40 at-risk ridings could not have taken place without co-ordination and money.
The question that must be answered is how high up the pole this goes. The Harper government's ethical reputation is at stake. Critics point to the robocalls as the apex of Conservative control politics, ranging from the long-form census issue to removing discretionary sentencing by judges - not to mention pro-rogation of Parliament.
If some riding results are overturned, as they could should a judge determine that dirty tricks resulted in a measurable difference of electors in marginal ridings, the Conservative's narrow 12-seat majority could be diminished, perhaps even lost. All Tories must respond with the seriousness that this demands.
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Posted by Brent Fullard at 11:18 PM