elections canada reports smear campaign in 200 ridings

During the 2011 federal election, I received a number of robocalls. But I didn't inhale. Nor will I be reporting the calls to Elections Canada, the National Post or the Council of Canadians.

During the 2011 federal election, I received a number of robocalls. But I didn’t inhale. Nor will I be reporting the calls to Elections Canada, the National Post or the Council of Canadians. It’s not that I don’t care about the integrity of the election, it’s just that I have no idea who the calls were from or what they were about.

This gap in my knowledge isn’t a result of my being forgetful – I am, but in this case it would make no difference as there’s nothing to forget. I didn’t listen to the messages. I never listen to a recorded message on the phone. Frankly, I wonder who does. When you pick up the receiver and an obviously-recorded, over-cheerful voice says, “Hi! I’m calling from …” what could possess you to let the precious minutes of your life tick away finding out who they are, let alone what they want?

When a real human being is on the other end of the line, it’s different, but not necessarily much. True, it’s rude to hang up on someone, but you needn’t linger long if you’re not interested. The proper response to an unwanted, “Hi, my name’s Tiffany, and I’m calling from the Conservative (Liberal, New Democratic) Party of Canada, how are you today?” is a pleasant, “Fine, thank-you, goodbye.” That way you don’t waste Tiffany’s time, and better still, you don’t waste your own.

Now that robocalls are such a hot-button issue, you might want to hang in there long enough to see if someone’s trying to scam you out of your vote. But last year when most of us didn’t even have a name for pre-recorded political messages, surely nothing but desperate loneliness could have induced anyone to keep the receiver to their ear long enough to discover that some robot wanted them to vote at the Long Lake sewage lagoons.

I raise this point in reaction to the news that the Council of Canadians has asked the Federal Court of Canada to overturn election results in seven ridings, including the Yukon. According to a story in the Yukon News, the alleged Yukon robocalls employed the now-famous Pierre Poutine Gambit, in which someone purporting to be the Conservative Party calls asking the recipient for their support, and if the answer is “no,”“Elections Canada” calls up and sends the voter to the wrong polling station.

The Conservative Party and MP Ryan Leef deny any connection to the calls, and who could doubt their word? Calls intended to misdirect non-Conservative voters could have come from any number of sources. The government has concluded its internal investigation into the matter and found itself completely innocent of all charges. It even knows who the real culprits are. According to Conservative findings, the evidence points to sore losers.

It appears that during the last election sore losers in the opposition parties knew in advance they were going to lose, so they engaged in dirty tricks to provide themselves with evidence for a post-election smear campaign. They harassed voters, using their real identities, hoping they could later pass themselves off as Conservative impostors. They tried to send their own voters to the wrong polling stations.

Sore losers have tried to attach significance to the fact that all the evidence in the Pierre Poutine affair points to a Conservative database, a contractor hired by the Conservatives, and a former Conservative staffer – that’s him over there with all the others, trying to avoid the bus wheels.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand appeared before the House affairs committee on Thursday to address the sore losers’ allegations. He reported that his office has 800 complaints under review, in 200 ridings, which are “sufficiently founded to spark initial investigation,” and 250 have gone on to become open case files. Multiply that by a thousand for all the people that hung up before they heard the message, and these become serious allegations.

The government scheduled Mayrand’s appearance on budget day, and put out just four seats for members of the press, because who cares about a few mistakes that may or may not have been made at election time? But the sore losers’ smear campaign has proven so effective that the room was packed with both journalists and members of the public.

It’s got to stop. This campaign is diverting attention from the government’s great accomplishments in – well, see? It’s such a distraction I can’t think of one. Mr. Prime Minister, put a stop to it now. You know you love royal things. Create a Royal Commission to Investigate the Sore Losers’ Robocall Smear Campaign.

Clear your name. The country needs to know the truth.

Al Pope won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon in 2010 and 2002. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.