One person, one vote is the fundamental, central idea in any democracy. Voting fraud can send people into the streets, think Russia after their most recent election, and topple governments. Democratic politics has always been dirty. The idea that somehow the past was a time of high ideals and decorum is just plain false. While voters decry the character assassinations and negative ads, they have learned to live with it, and punish politicians and parties that step over the line. The recent news about the so-called robocalls is not dirty politics, it is anti-democratic tactics.
In the May 2011 federal election there were a number of reports of people calling voters and directing them to the incorrect polling locations. The result, or so the callers hoped, was to reduce effective turnout and help improve the margin of some candidates over others. Global News has compiled a map of the ridings that have reported these incidents. The colours indicate the winning party in 2011. For a local angle both the ridings of St. Catharines and Niagara Falls were victims of this harassment. All signs at this time point to the Conservative Party being implicated in someway implicated in the wrong-doing. If anything the story becomes more bizarre over time.
Andrew Coyne of the National Post published a column that really gets to the core of the issue. This issue might gain traction with Canadians because it is believable that the Conservative Party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper would do something like this. The majority government’s disregard for parliament, debate and process coupled with the negative politics makes the story all too likely. Add this that the governing Conservatives have already been caught in violation of election finance laws a pattern begins to form.
Chantal Hébert in the in Toronto Star raises other problems. She points out that the logic behind the robocalls is not clear. Some of the ridings that were targeted were safe Conservative seats. Hébert argues that the robocalls scandal is just one more sign of the negative direction Canadian politics is sliding. This may be one more sign of the declining trajectory of the public discourse.
For your consideration I shall link an article from today about the events in Question Period from Macleans’ magazine. Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended his party and demanded evidence, and the NDP member for Timmins-James Bay, Ontario did just that. If these allegations are true it is a criminal violation of our democratic system.
After posting this I will be writing to my Member of Parliament to demand a full inquiry to preserve the integrity of our democratic system. If we can no longer trust that our votes count and that our candidates respect the public’s right to vote then the basis of our government dies. I strongly encourage those reading to do the same.