Sometimes, the most interesting columns are someone else’s. And one of those certainly worth a read is Lawrence Martin, writing for iPolitics.
At the end of February, Martin wrote a piece that appeared in a number of places, most notably the British Columbia online news operation The Tyee (http://thetyee.ca/ Opinion/2012/02/29/Tories-Dirty-Tricks/).
Martin was looking at the robocall scandal, but from a different direction. He didn’t examine the robocall issue itself and whether the Harper Conservatives had been caught out in it, as much as he looked backwards at the legion of other things they had been caught doing.
Election financing convictions, telephone dirty tricks programs against a sitting Liberal MP, a cabinet minister caught falsifying documents, intimidation of opponents — in all, Martin came up with 22 examples of Tory chicanery.
It’s a fascinating list, and if nothing else, it shows what a short memory Canadian voters have, especially when it comes to ethical breaches.
Using falsified email addresses to attack journalists, throwing Canadians out of election rallies, putting Tory logos on government cheques — when you read the whole list, the behaviour isn’t just egregious, it’s downright offensive.
And it should be a list that every Canadian voter goes through before they next vote.
It also sets up a fascinating backstory for the current scandal. Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the co-chair for the latest Tory campaign, Guy Giorno, are flatly denying that the Tories had anything to do with fraudulent telephone calls that directed supporters of other parties to false polling stations. In its own way, that’s a fascinating roll of the dice, not in the least because Giorno says that if the tactic was being used as part of the official Tory campaign, there’s no way he would not have known about it.
O.K. — that suggests, of course, that the obverse is true: if officials with the Tory campaign end up being drawn into the mix, Giorno would have had to have known about that, too.
The twin denials are absolutely, completely unequivocable — leaving people with any curiousity at all wondering how they might be weaseled out of, once the Elections Canada investigations into a staggering 31,000 complaints of illegal or unethical phones calls are completed and should any Tories get caught up in that sweep.
But let’s leave that aside for a moment, and simply examine Martin’s totals. The Tories’ Caught-22 should be a startlingly embarrassing roll call for the government. Instead, it seems to be viewed internally as something of a badge of pride — a sign that diehard Tories are willing to do what it takes to hang on as Canada’s government, with that end repeatedly justifying almost any means whatsoever.
So far, the government has managed to tiptoe along through what, for almost any other government, would be a veritable minefield of misbehavior. As soon as the most recent scandal broke, the Tories’ biggest problem was they weren’t considered innocent until proven guilty — their past record made it seem as though they were guilty, at least until they or someone else proved they were innocent.
The only real question is how long a significant proportion of the electorate is going to continue to look the other way and cast votes for those kinds of actions.
There will eventually be a tipping point for the Harper government — a point where its actions overtake its reputation.
You could call it the Gomery moment. And if you don’t know what that means, there are dozens of defeated federal Liberals who can describe it to you in detail.
Should we be close to that? Yes. Realistically, the only way you could support a government with such a clear contempt for democracy is to cover your eyes and ears, and hold your nose as well.
And with so many hands occupied doing that, you have to wonder who’s actually marking the ballot — and whether the end justifies that means.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.