Voter scams and Conservative fairy tales

Michael Johansen
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Labrador has been left out again, a friend lamented the other day. Nobody here, he complained with mock disappointment, got any fraudulent robocalls in the last federal election.

It's true. Labrador seems to have escaped a nearly nation-wide voting scandal.

All over the country, voters report that during the 2011 campaign they received live and recorded telephone calls that pretended to be from a particular political party or even from Elections Canada itself. As a result, an as yet uncounted number of citizens had their choices illegally swayed, or were sent so far from their real polling stations that they may have been prevented from lawfully casting their ballots.

For Labrador to have escaped the touch of such an offensively anti-democratic scam can only be a good thing.

Hypothetically, and in hindsight, Labrador could have made a prime target for a truly national campaign of fraudulent calls, given the razor-thin margin of victory that emerged from the riding's results.

However, anyone familiar with the region would know that it's pointless to try to send Labradorians to the wrong polls. Labradorians know where they live and they know where they vote. The towns are simply too small to stage such a hustle.

Everybody knows everybody else.

If a voice on the telephone is local, it won't be anonymous. You can't pretend to be from Elections Canada if your voice is recognized and everyone knows how you vote. Anyone wanting to steal an election in Labrador - and elsewhere in this province, for that matter - usually has to be much more direct.

But that is not the way it is in more densely populated parts of the country, where it's easier to send honest citizens to the wrong place to vote - by the hundreds, if not the tens of thousands - and easier for these victims to not know they've been conned until they hear months later about others who had the same experience.

Clearly, if any federal party has perpetrated these attempts to prevent Canadian citizens from voting, it is most probably the Conservative Party of Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's own parliamentary secretary has conceded that his party's campaigners committed "intentional" and "untoward" things in at least one riding and that Conservatives may have sent voters to the wrong polling stations elsewhere, as well, although he added that those misleading calls were just honest mistakes.

As unlikely as that sounds, it is nevertheless the most plausible response the Conservative party has made to the strong accusation that it tried to steal the last federal election and may very well have succeeded in subverting several races. Otherwise, the party has appeared to be in disarray, making numerous contradictory and easily disproved statements.

First, Conservatives said they couldn't find "one single issue of voter suppression - not one." Then the prime minister himself allowed that something bad might have happened, but "the Conservative party can say absolutely, definitely, it has no role in any of this."

Next, Harper decided to call the Liberals and New Democrats "sore losers" and to suggest they were behind any calls. Then the PM's secretary weighed in again to call the whole affair an "unsubstantiated smear campaign" perpetrated by the opposition parties. Harper then offered proof of Liberal involvement, and he's sticking to it - despite the proof having immediately been shown to be false.

"It is up to the Liberals to prove these aren't Liberal calls before continuing these baseless smears," the party has proclaimed. Unsatisfied, another Conservative MP piped up to add that maybe Elections Canada was to blame, too - not just the Liberals and the NDP.

Quite possibly, the words coming out of the mouths of top Conservatives aren't really meant to sway ordinary Canadians who, after all, can see through the falsehoods. The words are for the party faithful, to make them happy by giving them a story they can believe and a host of enemies they can blame for the troubled times.

However, in the real world, events won't be governed by Conservative fairy tales. Real life will soon intrude with byelections and criminal charges, which leads to a final question: what's the minimum mandatory sentence for stealing an election?

Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Organizations: Elections Canada, Conservatives, Conservative Party of Canada NDP

Geographic location: Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Taylor
    March 18, 2012 - 18:13

    Interesting article, considering that the only party that has been proven to have made illegal robocalls during the campaign is the Liberal campaign in Guelph. They made a series of automated calls misrepresenting and attacking the Conservative candidate, without identifying who was behind the calls and using an unidentified phone number that could not be called back. I think there should be charges laid and a by-election held in Guelph.

  • Gopal Das
    March 14, 2012 - 09:18

    Unfortunately, there are still tons of voter scams out there…There is a new iPhone app recently released, called Scam Detector, which exposes like 500 scams. It is worth checking it out, if you have an iPhone. The app is also online - they have a free web version, if interested. Google it, it's kinda cool, actually.

  • Cyril Rogers
    March 10, 2012 - 17:49

    It should have become clear to anybody not in complete denial that Harper was both hypocritical and evasive from the day he assumed power. There were, and are, numerous examples of how he circumvented democracy to acheive his own lust for power. I am bemused that people are only now realizing what a tyrant he really is. I just hope it is not too late for the re-emergence of democracy in this country. Having said that, it behooves the opposition to begin to show that they have the moral backbone to change some of their own past tactics.

  • adam Kosh
    March 10, 2012 - 15:47

    The people leading the present government in Ottawa are not Conservatives, but the Evangelical Fundamentalist remnants of the Reform Party disguised as Conservatives. It should be made clear that Steven Harper, Jim Flaherty, Preston Manning et al. practice Stealth Evangelism as thought by Ralph Reed, President George W. Bush's adviser. Religion is Religion and Government is Government and the two mustn't sleep together in the same bed.

  • mike blacklock
    March 10, 2012 - 15:36

    It begins to look like some ridings may have been won because of the Robo Calls. If that is the case I agree.... a Fast Track enquiry must be held leading to by elections within the next three months. I seem to remember some time ago..Mr.Harper (Who I supported)....running on a platform of ethics and honesty in Politics...should he continue to fight these allegations..then many people will take a fresh look at a Prime Mininister who originally offered so much Promise to Canadians....How sad!

  • Steve Abbott
    March 10, 2012 - 12:09

    An enquiry needs to be phased with both an expedited fast track and a fast track. The expedited fast track should determine where fraud might have affected the outcome of the election, so that by-elections can be held immediately. The legitimacy or illigitimacy of the government hangs on the result of by-elections, and they should not be delayed. The fast track enquiry is needed to determine whether criminal charges are recommended, to consider whether "mandatory minimum sentences" for election fraud should be imposed, and to determine whether parties or individuals within them should be banned from Canadian politics, or returned to likely offend again after their sentences are served.

    March 10, 2012 - 08:56