Out in British Columbia, the Liberal government of Christy Clark is taking a hammering right now, after the opposition got hold of a leaked memo showing how her government planned a barefaced attempt to woo ethnic voters.
It is a 17-page “how-to” guide on political opportunism, rife with blatant examples of ways to try and win particular ridings by using ethically questionable methods to convince ethnic voters to love the Liberals.
Make apologies for past racial slurs and actions; make friends in the ethnic community; make sure pamphlets with Chinese text include pictures of Chinese voters. And the list goes on.
One of the methods suggested?
“Develop a stable of supporters willing to write letters to the editor or call in to open-line shows to aid in both supporting our proactive efforts in non-English media and responding to attacks.”
At least part of that is a technique our current provincial government uses — unlike B.C.’s government, however, without anything even close to an apology.
Here’s Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s take on members of her government stacking online polls and open-line shows.
“Oh, please, there's no story here,” Dunderdale told reporters. “Do we participate in polls? You betcha. Who in Newfoundland doesn’t, whether it comes to ‘Canadian Idol’ or something that affects us?”
That’s not the view being taken in British Columbia, where Premier Clark came close to facing a total party revolt on the weekend: to be fair, most of the revolt was about the raw political opportunism of targetting specific ethnic voters, a strategy that is also being regularly used at the federal level. But Clark has had to apologize and back away from the entire package, an apology many British Columbians are having a hard time accepting.
But to get back to the question of whether there is a story in opinion-rigging. Of course there is.
Think of it this way: if you find out that a company you’ve been doing business with is willing to cheat to win contracts, doesn’t that undermine your faith in their operations? After finding it out, are you as comfortable doing business with them as you were before?
You find that a friend of yours lied about something significant: do you look at them in the same light, and with the same trust, afterwards?
Perhaps, if Premier Dunderdale believes there’s no story to falsifying public opinion, she believes that other ethical lapses are acceptable as well. That’s what the ethical measure of politicians is all about.
Is deliberately rigging a poll to your own political benefit functionally different from anyone representing themselves as someone they are not?
An interesting measure of personal political ethics?
Perhaps it’s that, too.