“Like the effect of advertising upon the customer, the methods of political propaganda tend to increase the feeling of insignificance of the individual voter.”
— Erich Fromm (1900-80),
and humanistic philosopher
Who will form the next federal government?
Do you care, or does it just seem too far off in the future? You may not like the way Stephen Harper is handling things now, but when the time comes, will you even vote? Do you feel like casting your single ballot makes no real difference?
With federal voter turnout hovering around 60 per cent, that’s a fair number of people who don’t even bother.
And that’s just what the folks behind last election’s robocalls are hoping for.
The head of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, told The Canadian Press a couple of weeks ago that people have lost faith in the voting process.
“The chief electoral officer acknowledges confidence in the system has been shaken by a recent court ruling overturning the election result in one Toronto riding, and by the so-called robocall scandal,” CP reported on May 29.
In the robocall scandal, people received calls directing them to polling stations that did not exist. Elections Canada says it has received 1,100 complaints so far, and a link on its website lets people report fraudulent calls directly to the commissioner of elections.
The calls have been blamed on the Conservatives, but that allegation has not been proven.
Frankly, the notion that any political party would interfere with Canadians’ right to have their say on election day in an attempt to sway the outcome is despicable — reprehensible, even. Fraudulent, too.
If a political party cannot win an election ethically and legally, it has no business running candidates.
Why am I writing about this now, so long after the fact?
Because Canadians have short memories, and we need to cultivate longer ones. We’re only human, after all, and many other things compete for our time and attention.
With every passing day, particularly as the federal government rolls out wave after wave of budget cuts that we have to react and adapt to, it is easy to forget about the robocall scandal.
But think about it you should. Seethe about it. Rage, even.
Someone was hired — or perhaps zealously volunteered — to orchestrate a scam whose sole intention was to deny you the right to vote for your chosen candidate.
It that doesn’t irk you, it should.
In cities across Canada in March, angry citizens gathered to denounce the robocall campaign and call for an inquiry. We haven’t heard too many protests lately, and it doesn’t matter anyway because they won’t get their inquiry.
The Conservatives would have to call one and they don’t want anyone getting to the bottom of this. Better to carpet-bomb the country with budget cuts in order to divert attention.
No one will care about robocalls if they’re worrying about their son’s summer job program being eliminated or their job at Parks Canada being axed or no longer qualifying for EI.
In Canada, our youngest voters are the ones, statistically, who are least likely to vote.
Maybe they’re cynical about politics, they don’t follow it, or they are just apathetic. Now they can add mistrustful to that list, thanks to whoever was behind the robocalls.
One idea being circulated about how to get younger voters more engaged in elections is to use social media to get the vote out and to allow people to mark their ballots online.
Maple Leaf Web, a non-partisan political education website, notes that, based on a poll conducted even way back in 2000, Elections Canada found that “62 per cent of non-voters said they would have been more likely to vote if the Internet voting option had been available.”
And that was 12 years ago. Imagine all the youth who are now eligible to vote who can barely function offline.
Maple Leaf Web also surmised that Internet voting “could increase the youth voter turnout rate. In the 2002 Elections Canada survey, a significant portion of young adults age 18–24, cited logistical problems as the reason they didn’t vote.”
Elections Canada had been planning to launch a pilot project on Internet voting, an initiative that could have boosted voter turnout.
But guess what? The federal government cut Elections Canada’s budget by eight per cent and now it can’t afford to carry out the pilot project. Coincidence? I doubt it.
So, let’s recap. Robocalls sent some voters off on wild goose chases, and made them miss the opportunity to vote. As a result, voters are now more leery of the system than ever before. And, the federal government has taken away the resources Elections Canada needed to try to increase voter turnout.
Sounds like the robocalls were effective, and then some.
Whether they ultimately succeed will be up to you when voting day rolls around again.
They can only win if we let them.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and
The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at