Get tough on election fraud

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Before the last election, Canadians probably thought our electoral system worked pretty well. We have formal, structured elections overseen by an impartial and effective elections agency, Elections Canada.

In fact, our system was so enviable that we even exported its skills, helping other countries build sustainable and fair democracies.

But that was before the last federal election, and before the growing number of troubling concerns about what’s beginning to look like an organized campaign of voter suppression and election abuse.

Elections Canada is now dealing — perilously slowly — with complaints about election abuse from a variety of ridings across the country, complaints that voters were being deliberately misdirected away from polling stations and into non-existent electoral hinterlands. It turns out the new complaints were addressed with the federal Conservative party even before Canadians started voting — and Elections Canada’s concerns were met with legal letters, stonewalling and, in the end, calls that continued to redirect voters away from legitimate polling sites.

The latest revelations show one thing perfectly clearly.

Elections Canada either needs more teeth — big, scary nasty legislative teeth it’s not afraid to use — or else it needs to find the resources to shift into high gear and complete its already-broad investigations, before Canadians start to lose faith in its effectiveness.

The endless Robocalls investigation, the in-and-out election financing slap on the wrist, the recent revelations that Elections Canada was getting complaints about Tory poll-shifting tricks even before election day, the Peter Penashue “oops, I spent too much” performance — if anything, it says that politicians and political backrooms either have a clear contempt for Elections Canada, or some kind of tacit belief that any improper behaviour can be solved with a lame, after-the-fact excuse that it’s perfectly fine to deliver from a comfortable seat in the House of Commons.

It is the ultimate example of the end justifying any means — and it strikes at the very heart of our democracy.

It’s time that we stop pussyfooting around the interests of the already-elected.

Toy with people’s democratic rights and you’ll automatically lose your seat. More to the point, if you’re caught cheating, you shouldn’t even be allowed to play again, at least for a couple of elections. Any time there’s clear spending violations or voter suppression or any tampering, the seats involved should be declared vacant and byelections should be held.

As the Tories themselves are fond of saying about other illegal behaviour, the punishment should fit the crime. 

If you cheat your way into a seat, you automatically lose that seat. If you break the rules in any way, you’re out. If cheating can be shown to have occurred, we automatically start the process again. Party insiders involved in the tampering should get jail time. And perhaps the party involved with the tampering should be required to pay directly for the inevitable cost of the byelections involved.

Bet they’d get that message pretty quick.

Organizations: Elections Canada, Tory, House of Commons.It

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Recent comments

  • Anon
    November 23, 2012 - 11:13

    The election is inherently fraudulent. Vote for the prime-minister, vote for the president. But as long as the banks and the corporations have all the power, what's the point in electing anyone? We're all slaves to the global banking cartel anyway.

  • EDfromRED
    November 23, 2012 - 06:31

    How does the RCMP ignore these countless public fraud stories? They must be too busy guarding the Muskrat Falls site from protesters, or going all out to catch liquor/cigarette smugglers -- insuring the government bleeds us for every cent of tax $, to do a damn thing about the corruption destroying our democracy

  • Colin Burke
    November 22, 2012 - 15:26

    Mr. Rogers, one reason we are not sufficiently outraged at government's marching to the beat of big business's drum might be that so many of us are so dependent for our sustenance upon some business owned by someone else and operated by still another, whether that be a business big, small or medium.

  • Maggy Carter
    November 22, 2012 - 13:56

    Some years ago when a federal member from Conception Bay was found to have defrauded the taxpayers with bogus expense claims, the local media went out to the riding to get the reaction of his constituents. One older woman, arms folded, stared brazenly into the camera and said 'proper thing - at least someone from this area is gettin' somethin' out of this racket'. The single greatest threat to democracy in Canada is not Harper with his contempt for parliament, the Elections Act and the rule of law; nor in this province is it Dunderdale with her Secrecy Act, her disdain for regulatory agencies, and the legislature. No, it is by far the overwhelming apathy of the electorate. The average person feels so powerless to influence the behaviour of his/her own governments that even the worst transgressions can't seem to evoke even the slightest bit of outrage. Ed Power is right - the population has become jaded. Whether it's a protest of government's unwillingness to debate the most expensive project in our history or the gutting of search & rescue services in the province, it is hard to rouse much public indignation. And short of an 'Arab Spring', our governments have come to believe that most expressions of public disgust are but a tempest in a teapot. They are confident it will blow over in time - and generally they are right. Therein lies the basis, of course, for the truism that we get the government we deserve.

    • Eli
      November 23, 2012 - 11:55

      My feelings exactly. Well put Maggy Carter.

  • Lane
    November 22, 2012 - 11:49

    The only sitting MP whose campaign has been definitively determined to have broken election laws is the Liberal MP for Guelph, Ontario, who had to pay a pittance of a fine for making robocalls misrepresenting his rival's positions without indicating who the calls were from. So, I agree with this article - Guelph MP Frank Valeriote should resign and face a by-election. But what do you do when a party, and not any individual within that party, is found to have broken election laws? For example, the NDP was found to have accepted $340,000 worth of illegal union donations. There was no punishment at all for that massive financial violation - the party simply had to pay the money back. No extra fine, no punishment at all. I think any party that accepts illegal donations should have to pay it all back, plus pay an additional fine equal to the amount of the illegal donations. In the case of the Conservative Party's "in and out" affair, the party was found to have overspent its campaign limit, but the money was raised legitimately from individual donors. In that case, the Conservatives were fined, which is reasonable. Maybe the fine should have been higher though.

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 22, 2012 - 10:34

    Mr. Power, I totally agree with you on this issue and it is not confined to the federal level. We have degenerated into a dictatorship in this province as well and, while voter fraud is not a serious concern yet, the way politicians are influenced, if not controlled, by the business elite, is of huge concern to me. It is obvious that big business interests are driving the provincial agenda right now and we, the ordinary people, have no real say. It is not longer a question of who benefits from government largesse....the question is how we go about overcoming the huge obstacles they are placing in our way. The government pretends to be responsive to people but it is only lip service. They march to the sound of big business and why we are not outraged at that is beyond me.

    • Too Funny
      November 22, 2012 - 11:35

      Well good golly, you make sound like it's something new. It's always been that way. Name a government that didn't behave that way.

  • saelcove
    November 22, 2012 - 09:01

    How Newfoundland was treated in the 40,s. Guess we are looking to blame someone else for been so naive.

  • My OLD Grandfather was right on the God Darn Corrupt Politicians and the CORRUPT Political System that allows the Corruption.
    November 22, 2012 - 08:24

    I guess if we get tough on Election Fraud, the first thing we can look to have undone is Newfoundland and Labrador's entry into Confederation overturned. Greg Malone suggested it can be done. After attending the book launch by author Greg Malone of his book titled "Don'tTell The Newfoundlanders" and hearing a few tidbits of the information contained within, which were only released recentley, narrated by Mr. Malone himself of what transpired during the late 1940s on how the English and Canadians were going to conspire and did so to dupe Newfoundlanders into Confederation by keeping them completely out of the loop, I am completely outraged. I have started reading Mr. Malone's book, from first look I know it is the book I have been waiting on for many years on the revealations that are within and I know I will have to take more time than usual to read this book because there will be a few cries interspersed between getting through the chapters. I urge every Newfoundlander and Labradorian to read this book. I often heard my English Grandfather talk about the corrupt politicians but I had no idea that they were so corrupt, I wish I had joined in his conversations that he had mumbling to himself in his later years about the God Darn '"CORRUPT'" Politicians and he vowed he would never again vote and he didn't. To be honest I hadn't caught on to how corrupt politicians were at the time but I have lived to see it and to know that the whole political system has to be overturned, it is a CESSPOOL of Corruption.

  • Ed Power
    November 22, 2012 - 07:40

    I am stunned by the lack of outrage at this. If Elections Canada doesn't have the resources or sufficient legal authority to investigate these matters, then it needs to be turned over to the RCMP. How can this not be considered "Criminal activity"? You steal a carton of cigarettes you can expect a jail sentence, but you steal an election - or a seat in an election - and you are allowed to profit handsomely from it? Have we become so jaded by the political games these parties play that we consider this just another part of the "game", or are we too arrogant to believe that the sort of behaviour we see regularly south of the border - active voter suppression, pervasive attack ads, wonky voting machines, ballot tampering, etc. - can't happen here? Smarten up, people.