The crime of voter suppression

Open letter No. 11 to Yukon MP Ryan Leef: In his book on Conservative philosophy and strategy, Harper's Team, Conservative Tom Flanagan states, "We cannot win by being boy scouts."

Open letter No. 11 to Yukon MP Ryan Leef:

In his book on Conservative philosophy and strategy, Harper’s Team, Conservative Tom Flanagan states, “We cannot win by being boy scouts.” That may be true of current Canadian politics.

But I am sure you would agree that a good win is a fair win in a fair fight.This brings me to the subject of the 11th letter – the crime of voter suppression.The press has been full of stories about illegal and disreputable shenanigans during the 2011 federal election. In close ridings, Liberal or NDP voters received harassing and abusive calls, supposedly from the party they normally supported.

Devout Jews received calls on the Sabbath. An undisclosed number of late influx unregistered voters in Eglinton-Lawrence, Joe Oliver’s riding, were found to have false or absent addresses although this is a requirement by law.

Liberal and NDP voters received robocalls and telemarketing calls that directed voters to fictitious polling stations. There appears to be hard evidence of electoral interference in Guelph. A Thunder Bay employee of telemarketing firm, RGM, reported to both the RCMP and Elections Canada at the time, that she was asked to direct voters to incorrect polling stations.

Since this story broke, over 31,000 voters have filed complaints with Elections Canada. Although there isn’t any actual proof of large-scale electoral wrongdoing by Conservatives, this party has a long history of dirty tricks.

Senators Gerstein and Finley, and party officers Mike Donison and Susan Kehoe, plea bargained and were spared prison sentences for orchestrating the in-and-out Elections Canada fraud during the 2006 election.Senator Doug Finley is the author of the infamous Manual of Dirty Tricks, leaked to the journalist Don Martin in 2007.

The former veteran’s ombudsman, Pat Strogan, discovered that his personal and medical records had been hacked in an attempt to discredit him after he criticized the government’s treatment of veterans in 2010. The Conservative government has prorogued Parliament twice for reasons of partisan advantage.In 2011, they were found in contempt of Parliament over their refusal to disclose to Canadians the cost of the omnibus crime bill. (Even now Canadians aren’t being told the truth about the cost of this short-sighted and destructive bill.)

In a more recent scandal, the Conservative Party is unapologetic about hiring Campaign Research Inc. to spread lies about Irwin Cotler’s retirement plans to his constituents. Are socially conservative policies so repugnant to the majority of Canadians that they cannot be implemented without the use of deception, belligerent aggression and trickery?

While he doesn’t phrase it quite this way, that is the implied message laid out by Tom Flanagan in his book, Harper’s Team. It is unlikely that the prime minister would have known if Conservative campaign operatives had conducted deliberate electoral interference. Running candidates and future prime ministers are usually shielded from any untoward behaviour to ensure plausible deniability.

Did members high up in the Conservative Party orchestrate this electoral crime? Or does this sort of behaviour receive implicit approval from higher Conservative echelons with a wink and a nod? How easy would it be for a rogue goon to access the Constituency Information Management System containing voter information so painstakingly kept by the Conservative Party?

John Ivison, of the National Post, quoted a source with knowledge of the database: “You can’t do a transaction in CIMS without it being logged. The party will know who was doing what, how long they were on for and what information they were looking for. It’s a difficult system to do something illegal on. It’s jealously guarded information.”

“We cannot win by being boy scouts.” Boy scouts are famously associated with notions of honour, Ryan.

The Conservative Party is, at the very least, guilty of creating a culture so contemptuous of democratic principles that the public now thinks it plausible that Conservatives committed this crime. They have only themselves to blame.I encourage you to do as much as you are able to correct this sad state of affairs. Will you support complete disclosure and co-operation by the Conservative Party in the investigation by Elections Canada and the RCMP?

Stricter regulations governing election-campaign robocalls and call-centre telemarketing must be made.

Perhaps telemarketing and robocalls could be disallowed entirely for election campaigns.

It is unlikely that the public would miss them. I am pleased that the Conservative Party voted in favour of the NDP motion to strengthen Elections Canada. However, unless this motion is made into law it is meaningless window dressing, another cynical insult to Canadians.Finally, I ask you to support a full public inquiry into this scandal.

May your activities in Ottawa be honourable and may you always walk on the high road.

Linda Leon


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