If you’re Canadian and haven’t heard of the Robocalls scandal, consider reading some news once in a while. Depending on who you speak with, you’ll get a different perspective, and an undistinguished mix of fact and opinion. The truth is out there and I hope, through this blog, to help clear the air.
As an elections administrator, I am responsible for managing all elements of an election in a given electoral district (commonly referred to as a “riding”), right up to (and beyond) voting days and voting sites. So, I am perfectly placed to comment on these automated “voter suppression” calls. My job (and my passionate goal) is to make voting easier for my electors.
Let me be perfectly clear. Anyone, from any party, of any political belief, from any part of the country, for any reason, who does anything to try to confuse, dissuade, frustrate, or otherwise stand in the way of electors exercising their most fundamental and precious democratic rights is, in my mind, an enemy of democracy. Not only do people like this offend our sense of fair play, honour, and justice, I take their actions personally as they are designed to directly oppose my work. Make no mistake, if this scandal yields any PROOF of wrongdoing that is clearly linked to any party, they can kiss any chance of getting my vote goodbye for as long as they, or anyone associated with them, are still in politics. There is simply no excuse whatsoever for intentionally misleading an elector in order to attempt to prevent or dissuade them from voting. None.
One key word in the last paragraph should stand out: PROOF. Until now, we have seen no proof. All we have are assumptions. Still, despite the lack of factual evidence, an Ipsos Reid poll for Global News and Postmedia News revealed that, “50 per cent of Canadians believe the accusations that the Conservatives orchestrated the robocalls campaign.” 46% believe that the Conservatives did not have anything to do with it. Four percent don’t know what to believe.
If you are as disgusted as I am by the anti-Canadian behaviour of those behind these voter suppression robocalls, please do not descend into hypocrisy by ignoring the presumption of innocence and accusing and judging someone or some party’s guilt without any proof. To do so would be just as anti-Canadian. When a truly guilty party is identified based on facts, I promise I will be the first in line to condemn.
What scares me the most from the poll is that “68 per cent of Canadians think byelections should be held in ridings where the robocalls were made.” This is worrisome because it is a further step away from personal responsibility.
The last federal election campaign was 37 days long. Electors can vote by mail or in person at ANY Elections Canada office from the moment the election is called until 4 days before voting day, so 33 days. In addition, advance polls were open on 3 days for 8 hours each. On election day, polls were open for 12 consecutive hours (and your employer is obligated to give you 3 consecutive hours off so that you can vote). Any elector who received a robocall advising them of a voting location contrary to the voter information card they previously received had plenty of time, in the days before or the hours after the call, to make up for the mistake.
As an elections administrator, I have seen SO MANY examples of electors who are upset at Elections Canada, the Elections Act or, for whatever reason, a party and, as a result, threaten to not vote. It’s a ridiculous connection to make where there should be none. In my opinion, EVERY eligible elector should cast a ballot. It can be empty if you choose, but if you don’t vote, don’t try to pass off your laziness or apathy as some legitimate beef. So, any elector who received an anti-democratic robocall and decided to take their anger out on the election, pretending that not voting was a reasonable response, should look in the mirror and ultimately accept that it was their own decision that cost them a vote, not the robocall.
And just like each elector should tell the truth about the reason why they didn’t vote, we must take a lesson in honesty out of this deplorable situation. Any reasonable Canadian should ask some serious questions as to the truth behind the 31,000+ complaints that Elections Canada fielded earlier this week. I find it incredibly unbelieveable that, if these calls actually happened, that the complainants didn’t say anything for over 9 months, only to open their collective mouths because the story broke. I just don’t buy it and, barring evidence to the contrary, neither should you. Political correspondent Tom Clark suggests that the complaints might be coming from opponents of the Conservatives. In citing levels of political support similar to those yielded in the election, he says: “if they (electors) liked Harper before, they like him now regardless of what’s gone on.” And, he says that those who already dislike Harper “will never like him.”
And if there is something worse than an elector lying for political gain, it is a politician lying for political gain. What started as an isolated issue in the riding of Guelph has seen politicians jump aboard from all over the country. News reports have shown ridings where there were absolutely no such complaints for the last 9 months and now, all of a sudden, a losing or opposition politician is claiming misconduct that no one heard of before. That’s _almost_ as bad as the robocall itself.
I have not, as yet, heard any valid, legal reason to even consider holding a by-election as a result of these calls. And even if a judge were to consider the argument, which ridings would be affected? Would it be all ridings that were close? Just Guelph, where the original complaints were lodged? Any riding with a disgruntled political loser and enough friends to call Elections Canada to claim that they received a call? There is way too much room for fabricating “evidence” in order to get a new election. The Canada Elections Act doesn’t support the argument, and it’s time we put it to rest. Punish the offenders if and when they are found, but unless other convincing evidence comes to light, no by-elections should be called as a result.
Our voter turnout rate is falling at an alarming rate. Both the robocalls and the lying politicians must end, now, if we are going to restore faith in our democratic systems and institutions. Instead of looking for the newest and coolest cheap, dirty way to win people’s votes, it’s time to get back to basics: creating innovative policies that deal with real issues that your constituents are facing. That’s how political parties will win votes, and that’s how our democracy wins. People fight and die for the right to vote, a right that we’re taking disgustingly for granted.
(Oh, and one last thing: if you didn’t vote (it doesn’t matter for whom) in the last election, don’t bother commenting. If you can’t be bothered to vote in an election, I can’t be bothered to consider your opinion on anything political until the next one. And you can quote me.)