What's your reaction to the robocall allegations?
On Cross Country Checkup: robocalls
The House of Commons has been in uproar all week over allegations that Conservatives placed misleading and possibly illegal calls to voters during the last election campaign.
The Conservatives say the opposition is just playing politics. What's your reaction?
With host Rex Murphy.
Toll-free number 1-888-416-8333 (works only during the broadcast)
Quite the week in the Commons. A real uproar over the so-called robocalls affair. It's the stormiest it's been since the famous Prorogation storm, when the Liberals and NDP sought to have a coalition government .. so soon after the election in which the Harper Conservatives got a minority.
The opposition alleges that Conservatives illegally tried to supress the vote by phoning people identified as potential Liberal or NDP voters and misdirecting them to the wrong polling stations. They say the callers falsely represented themselves as Elections Canada officials.
The Conservatives first said they'd look into it, then later they asked the opposition for their evidence, then even later they said the opposition appeared to have no evidence and was motivated only by politics.
The opposition, along with the media and some third-party groups, appealed to the public to contact Elections Canada if they thought there had been dirty tricks during the campaign ...and to date Elections Canada says it has been contacted by 31,000 people. After the election in May, Elections Canada received at that time about a thousand complaints, which they say is normal.
At this point Elections Canada is investigating two ridings ...Guelph, and Thunder Bay, Ontario ...two ridings where it appears there is some hard evidence that something did go wrong - despite the fact that both ridings were won by opposition candidates by several thousand votes. In total there are about three dozen ridings that have lodged formal complaints.
The opposition says deceiving voters is fraud. It's illegal and they suggest the practice was widespread during the election and possibly even directed by someone higher up in the Conservative Party. Again, the Conservatives say these are all wild and unsubstantiated allegations.
There is evidence that in Guelph several voters were called by an automatic dialling system telling them it was Elections Canada phoning to inform them their polling station had been moved. There is evidence that these calls were tracked to a phone registered under a false name ...Pierre Poutine.
This week, other complaints were raised that unpleasant and hectoring phone calls had been placed by people identifying themselves as Liberals in an attempt to discredit the Liberals ...The suggestion is that it was part of a grander scheme to 'suppress the vote' ...to reduce the numbers of people who might be inclined to vote other than Conservative.
There's obviously lots to talk about. We want to hear from you. What's at stake here? Is democracy in Canada threatened, as some are saying? If any of the allegations are proven to be true, is there a chance that the electoral outcome in one or several ridings were actually changed?
How convincing is the evidence? What is the best way to get at the truth? Elections Canada is investigating. The RCMP could be called in. Many people are calling for a full judicial inquiry. What do you think is the best way to proceed from here?
What do you make of the robcall story?
How large, if you believe it was a conscious operation, does the robcall operation go?
Is it just Guelph? More than Guelph, or much more than Guelph?
What do you think of all the "contacts" the 31,000 and counting that Elections Canada has reported?
How has the matter been playing out in the House of Commons. What do you think of the level of debate, on this subject, has been?
Your thoughts and opinions on the loudest controversy since the Conservatives got their majority. How will the truth best be determined?
Our question today: "What's your reaction to the robocall allegations?"
I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
- John Ivison
Political columnist for the National Post.
- Bob Rae
Interim Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
- Jason Lietaer
Conservative strategist who ran the war room during the last federal campaign.
- Heather MacIvor
Political scientist now studying law at the University of Windsor. Her books include Parameters of Power: Canada's Political Institutions and Canadian Politics and Government in the Charter Era the second volume of which will be published by Oxford University press later this year.
- Michael Bliss
Historian and Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto. Award winning author of many books about Canadian history, politics and medicine and most recently Writing History : A Professor's Life
- Election call tapes under review by Conservatives
- Elections Canada probe spreads to Thunder Bay
- Poor training blamed for Thunder Bay election calls
- MPs agree to report illegal phone tactics
- Robo-calling and the art of finding voters
- Who's who in the election phone calls controversy
- Elections Canada probing hoax calls to voters (May 11, 2011)
- Elections Canada confirms 31,000 complaints as Tory robocalls counterattack backfires
- Robocalls scandal puts Canadian democracy in 'uncharted waters:' Bob Rae
- Harper must show robocalls more incompetence than malice, by John Ivison
- Vikileaks and robocon highlight Ottawa's snowglobe of spite, by Chris Selley
- Robocalls scandal a failing of Canada's watchmen, by Andrew Coyne
- Robocalls probe centres on disposable 'burner' cellphone linked to black ops in Guelph riding, by Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor
- Elections Canada probes suspect election calls in second riding: report
- More than a dozen ridings blitzed by harassing fake Liberal phone calls in 2011 election, by Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor
- Robocall: Election Fraud Probe
- The more we look for phone scams, the more we find, by Dan Gardner
Globe and Mail
- Harper dismisses robo-call scandal as 'smear campaign' by sore losers
- From cautious discipline to denial and accusation: the Tory line on robo-calls, by Daniel Leblanc
- Sloppy work by 'Pierre Poutine' leaves lengthy trail for robo-call sleuth, by Daniel Leblanc
- Tories lose control of agenda as they try to ride out robo-call storm, by John Ibbitson
- Elections Canada best bet to investigate robo-call scandal, by Chantal Hébert
- Robo-call accusations raise uncomfortable questions, by Chantal Hébert
- Compared to robo-scandal Vikileaks is a prank, by Thomas Walkom
- Elections Canada probed Tories' Guelph campaign in November
- "Who's calling?" "The Conservatives." by Jason Lietaer
I just heard robocalls will be your topic this afternoon. I know you are way ahead of me on this but I just wanted to remind you that you should mention the fact that robocalls is a simple tool that is being used, not the real problem that we should be debating. I hope you will try to steer the debate toward the real issue. Interfering with people getting to the polls to vote is no different than any of the illegal methods used in a variety of countries to prevent people from voting.
The misuse of robocalling is morally and ethically reprehensible and I expect it to be judged to be legally wrong. Politics is not a game or, in Canada at least, a war. Governance is not a business. It is a public service. Members of parliament who want to play games should try out for the Maple Leafs or go online to play poker. Those who want to fight a war should apply to the armed forces. Those who want to serve the public, as opposed to party members in their consituency, should do so. Those who want to make money should go to work.
I think that the Conservatives bungled the issue right from the start. The way the Conservatives have so poorly communicated the issue has taken them from the possibility of benefit of the doubt to full-blown conspiracy in the eyes of many Canadians. It might have been a completely different situation if Mr. Harper had come out right from the start to say something like, "We have asked Elections Canada for an impartial investigation and if they require additional resources...," instead of trying to blame others.
We really need an impartial investigation via Elections Canada and that will take some time. Unfortunately, there may be some who will never accept the results of the investigation, even if it finds no direct involvement by the Conservatives.
Thanks again and keep up the good work.
I think we are getting bogged down with this idea that one party or another is to blame for these potentially illegal phone calls. That's the partisanship speaking. At this stage it matters less who made the calls, but more that someone made the calls. If they were made in 40 ridings then those ridings should hold by-elections. If I were a member of the Conservative Party I would be very interested in clearing my party's name and getting to the bottom of this scandal in order to stay in good standing with the great people of this country. If Harper takes the stance that you can't prove we did anything wrong, then he risks his party's future. Many of us have long memories. Just ask Albertans what they think of P.E. Trudeau.
It is disheartening to hear our politicians reduced to name calling. Are any of our politicians concerned with setting the bar higher? I hear nothing inspiring, nor anyone setting a truly Canadian standard of conduct. It looks like something from an American Republican dirty tricks campaign, no better than Sarah Palin style politics. Where is the the concern for what is right, noble and representative of my values?
Robocalls and technologies which can lead to election fraud should be reviewed and perhaps restricted during elections. I am disappointed with the Harper government. Please give me back a Canadian government.
One of my concerns is the use of the term dirty tricks being applied to all calls. It is one thing for one party to have people calling voters late at night or on the Sabbath and being rude and to claim they represent another party to get that second party in trouble. That is certainly dirty, but it is another thing entirely to deny a Canadian the fundamental right to vote by sending them to the wrong polling station. Preventing someone from exercising their right to vote is illegal and far beyond a dirty trick. How is it any different than having armed thugs at the polling station preventing someone from voting?
Instead of saying "prove it was us" the Conservative Party, if indeed its leadership is innocent, should be as outraged as the rest of us and should be leading the charge to uncover the evidence, not helping those who have conducted illegal activities hide from the law. However, given the fact that the Conservatives have previously broken the election laws, I cannot say their position surprises me. Their motto should be, "We're tough on crime but not if it involves us."
Okay, I think there is enough evidence out there to show that something was done illegally. So, whichever body is responsible for auditing or investigating such illegalities should get looking into it and let the government get on with running the friggin' country!
My only comment is that the Conservatives doth protest too much.
Don't the oposition parties ever get tired of being jackasses? I wish they would spend as much time helping the people in this country who pay them as they spend being herded like sheep whenever a stupid thing comes along for them to go into tirades about before they even think about it for two minutes.
Prince Rupert, British Columbia
I have heard through local sources' claims that voters' lists are not nearly as accurate as they were when enumerators went door-to-door to compile them, and that this could account for many of the phone calls made to voters giving them erroneous polling station. However, I have not read or heard any discussion of this issue in the national media. So I am wondering if the claims are well founded and if they are why Canadians accept this sloppy electoral practice.
Beverley Ann Chartrand
Harper and his gang are thugs for whom no dirty trick is too dirty, too low, or too vile. From the first, they have operated with a sense of impunity and contempt creating a regime corrupted by a systemic reign of secrecy, dirty tricks and accusation. They have sought to avoid answering questions by proroguing parliament twice. They have resorted to vilifying opponents of Bill C-10 as being soft on crime and those opposed to Bill C-30 to being sympathetic to pedophiles.
Critics of Harper's regime are perceived as enemies and, as such, worthy of being smeared as happened to fired public servant Linda Keen, one-time Veteran's ombudsman Pat Strogan, and ex-diplomat, Richard Colvin.
And, while Harper thinks nothing of smearing his enemies, and unleashing his dogs against the constituents in Irwin Cotler's riding with fake reports of his intention to resign, he also stoutly defends the slush fund escapades of Tony Clement, the forger of government documents, Bev Oda. Now, with the latest scandal, the misleading robocalls that actually threaten our democracy, Harper and his thugs, rather than accepting responsibility for their actions, throw a young Tory flack under a bus and then smear opponents in an attempt to mislead the public with outright lies and insinuations meant to tar the opposition.
Harper is a rogue prime minister (in more ways than one) and his party a group of power-mad misfits. They are worthy of nothing but complete and utter contempt. Harper and his gang have no sense of decency or shame often justifying themselves by resorting to what is legal but never to what is ethical.
With this latest act, Harper and his crew have attempted to subvert democracy. If he had a shred of integrity, he and his party would resign and call an election. Meanwhile, I hope their is a criminal investigation and that those new jails he and his gang want to build house a few among their crew as the first occupants.
Frank A. Pelaschuk
What I don't understand is how a government that has controlled their message so intensely has completely lost their way. Isn't the first rule in politics that if something goes wrong you get out in front of it? They've done everything but, and every time Dean DelMastro speaks he insults my intelligence.
This government has been proving, almost daily, that they are if not actually corrupt, they are posterboys for all that is wrong with politics today. To me, the truth lies somewhere between Harper's foolish portrayal and Pat Martin's hyper partisanship. The sooner we get the truth the better.
John Baird asserted that he had proof that the Vikileaks tweets came from the NDP. How can the Harper government be sure that they weren't involved in Robocalls?
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
I have no reason to believe anyone. Elections Canada is not investigating without cause. Yes, it is politics, and that is what it is all about. The real danger for democracy, however, is a prime minister and his minions who see parliament and people who disagree as obstacles to governing.
Compared to places like Russia, this is a tempest in a teapot. In Russia, the politicians in power are free to throw the opposition in jail. They are free to give extra holidays to public employees who go to their rallies. They are free to give extra pay to public employees who attend their rallies. If a rally against the government is small, the participants expect to be thrown in jail. The one person, one vote idea is a joke in that country. Election fraud is a serious issue. We need to be vigilant about the relatively small issues (compared to Russia) so the relatively large ones never become the norm.
Prince Rupert, British Columbia
About once a month everyone in our constituency gets a survey questionnaire from our Conservative Member of Parliament. The question is always the same: Who is on the right track on this issue?" The issue varies from one questionnaire to the next, but the check-box choices are always the same: Greens, Conservatives, NDP or Liberals. Anyone who checks a box and fills in name and address as requested, and mails it postage-free to the Government Caucus Services has disclosed his or her political preference to the Conservative Party machine.
Where does this information go? Into a Conservative Party voter database perhaps? How convenient if your goal is to divert or subvert those who might vote against you in the next election.
Identifying supporters and getting out the vote is a natural priority for all parties. But it's time consuming and expensive - unless you can do it at taxpayer expense under the guise of your right as an MP to read the minds of your constituents, not for their formed opinion, but for their political bias. No laws are broken by this - until this information is used to commit fraud.
I wonder how many of those misled by voter suppression techniques in the last election completed such a survey, and indicated a preference for serious contender to the Conservative candidate?
Hornby Island, British Columbia
31,000 calls is a surprisingly big number and one that can't be ignored. Even if only a percentage of those are reporting calls that appear to be attempts to mislead voters, that's still going to be a lot of instances. We won't know who's behind this until an investigation is made, but what worries me about the Conservatives is their anti-democratic tendency to cast slurs against people expressing legitimate concerns whether they'regarding anti-pipeline protestors or in this case, the Opposition and the many citizens who have called Elections Canada about the robocalls. The Conservatives are frighteningly apt to play fast and loose with basic democratic rights, with the C-30 internet snooping bill and Toews' characterization of opponents being on the side of paedophiles, yet another example. For the first time in all the years I've lived in Canada, I actually fear what my government is capable of.
Sechelt, British Columbia
The existence of these call was common knowledege in Guelph after the election. The Conservative Party has a clear prediliction for agressive tactics like this. So there is good reason to suspec them. They bring in Republican consultants to tell them how to do these things.
The Marty Burke campaign, with Michael Son, showed many aggressive tactics.
Guelph invented the vote mob as a great example of mobilizing youth to vote. Elections Canada officials here set up a special poll to get that groundswell of students to vote. What did the Marty Burke campaign do? With the assistance of the centre, got the special poll cancelled. Building democracy? Not!
We are hearing about so many people who received robo calls and who went to the wrong polls. I would like to know about those people who knew exactly where their polling station was but did NOT vote. They were either lazy, didn't care or had the mentality that voting was up to other people.
It does matter who did it, and it does matter that the PM thinks if he ignores it it will go away, and it does matter that the Conservative political strategists said the same thing. The fact that they do not respect our political system is a huge problem.
The assistant campaign manager in Guelph claims that he paid for all the services of RackNine out of his own pocket. This was his explanation for no payments to them appearing on reports to Election Canada. That on it's own is illegal. All donations, whether in cash or in kind, must be documented. If the Conservatives were willing to break this rule, why is it so hard for Rex Murphy to accept that they weren't willing to break others?
Ethical and moral practices are increasingly being eroded. I am of the old school that says the ends do not justify the means, that going about things with integrity is the only way to go.
However, our recent political history penalizes those who attempt to take the high road and rewards dirty tactics and obfuscation. Paul Martin was crucified after trying to clear things up with the Gomery Commission. The lesson has been well-learned by Stephen Harper: turn everything into an attack your opponents, even before they step up to the plate (attack ads on Stephane Dion, for example).
So we should not be surprised that this current election tampering issue is being handled as it is. It is our own fault, and I shudder to think of where we will end up unless each person - especially those in positions of power - looks to his own conscience above all other considerations.
I can't help but notice the similarity between this whole imbroglio and the stolen, hanging chad election in Florida back before the twin towers came down. It begs the question, is there some connection between the consistently bitter, old-testament, mean-spirited flavor of the conservative right everywhere that brings this stuff out in its supporters?
Ladner, British Columbia
I am a voter who considers myself an independent. I treasure my right to vote and feel so very, very fortunate to be a Canadian. However, this is very alarming and needs to be fully investigated by a totally independent review. I applaud Mr. Rae for publicly apologizing to Minister Vic Toews on behalf of his party. I wish Prime Minister Harper maintained the same dignity as our head of state.
Victoria, British Columbia
I received an automated call directing me to the wrong polling station but ignored it because I had already heard on CBC radio that the calls were not legitimate. Since it appeared to be well known that someone had set up these bogus calls, I didn't think it was of any value to report it to Elections Canada. It wasn't until the Prime Minister stood up in the House and claimed that there was no evidence that I felt compelled to contact Elections Canada this weekend. I think that many others would have thought the same way and not complained until the PM tried to dodge the issue by claiming that there was no evidence.
There are so many people that choose not to vote, that one more inconvenience such as having to go to an unfamiliar polling station at the last minute could very well result in those people choosing not to vote. Even a rainy day has been shown to decrease voter turnout. I'm aware that this is entirely anecdotal, however, prior to voting day I had answered a call from a Conservative Party representative and told them that I would not be supporting their party on election day. I then received an automated call directing me to an incorrect polling station. If the PM has an interest in a fair and democratic election system, why would he not want to investigate this?
Including the inappropriate/illegial actions, which I have no doubt was iniated and controled by the Conservatives, the money that gets forwarded to all political parties in ridings is an important aspect of this scandal. This money gets sent to parties that have achieved a set percentage of the votes within the riding. Should the political party not achieve this minimum benchmark, they get nothing. Therefore there is an insentive to get as many votes as possible regardless of how this is achieved. It short changes the losers and fills the coffers of the winners.
I feel that the whole fereral election should be held once more, the sooner the better, not two years from now. There is too much at stake.
I have been a returning officer and I strongly agree with someone who emailed in today pointing out the impact of the permanent electoral list. That list of the 24 million voters here in Canada is seriously flawed because now there is no enumeration to regularly clean it up. The political parties try to electronically merge the voters list with a phone book data base and then create their own list, which has to be even more inaccurate. Added to this, is the necessity to set up poll locations quickly at the start of the writ period of an election. There are always considerable changes in poll locations which makes the party's data base even worse. This is not a conspiracy. It is mostly a messy list that the new technology has highlighted (which I suspect that the Conservatives can afford more than the other parties). I hope that the attention on this issue will eventually lead to addressing the problem of the poor electoral list.
What's the difference between these calls and having armed thugs at the polling stations? I suppose it's the difference between police telling protestors that they can't gather in a particular spot and having the police run them over with a tank.
Elk Point, Alberta
This situation is indicative of tampering with the process of our democratic right to vote. The groundswell of complaints from Canadians in ridings all over the country brings into question the legitimacy of the government. The Governor General could be empowered to declare the past election null and void, and set a date for the next election. The antics we have witnessed in the house since the last election have been appalling, and the opportunity to reconsider will be welcome. Perhaps new rules could be formulated requiring all parties to campaign on a face-to-face basis only, with no media beyond whatever interest the candidates can muster. No phone, period. Maybe more than 60% of the populace will vote, having met the candidates.
Vancouver, British Columbia
My relatives served overseas, and were imprisoned or died fighting for democracy. Since Prime Minister Harper first requested that the Governor General prorogue parliament I have been outraged by the actions of the government like progoguing government for a second time, breaking the law concerning fixed elections, violating the Elections Canada Act, endless attack ads, writing a manual on how to disrupt the working of government committees and on and on and on. This is of far greater importance than the Sponsorship Scandal and to suggest that this is silly demogogery is offensive to the spirit of democracy. Professor Bliss, as a student of Canadian history, does a disservice to the idea of the illegality of trying to prevent people from vioting. You can look at it from all the angles you want, but if Mr. Harper does not call an independent inquiry, we have every right to believe that this is an organized illegal government campaign.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Rex, you ask why would a riding with a clear majority be included in the electoral crime scene. My summation is that it's an opportunity to measure effectiveness in conducting the crime under the smokescreen of illogical location. I think it's merely a device used by corrupt operators in confusing the field of inquiry. Why indeed would logic be the reference point for election fraud? Winning by any means is the reference point and the goal. Shrewd and well planned, no mistake and not necessarily just for the past election. Also for future elections. Also, regarding which body would be best to oversee the process, given that Elections Canada dismissed/supressed concerns voiced by individuals engaged in delivering some of the illegal practices, I'm voicing my concern for Elections Canada efficacy.
Just like another caller, I felt Professor Bliss belittled the problem. To say that the Prime Minister was busy deciding over war and peace in the Middle East rather than wasting his time on these robocalls. Wars are being fought over democratic institutions.
Vancouver, British Columbia
I was plagued by a large number of calls during the last election, and I just stopped answering the telephone. It was enough to put me off the party I was supporting. Although I still voted for them, I soon thereafter cancelled my membership with the party. So, it's very good that this incident is being addressed, because it is making me restore my loyalty to this party.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Are Canadians considered to be so stupid that they wouldn't know who to vote for or where to do it, even if someone did phone them and try to confuse their thoughts? How many people's votes could these alleged calls possibly have affected, perhaps a few dozen or maybe a hundred or so at most? Any thinking person knows weeks ahead of time who they're voting for and where to go to do it. As well, with most people having call display now they don't even answer calls from "unknown" or "1-800" numbers anyway. The Liberals just can't take it that the people of Canada have finally seen through their failed policies and have rejected their leadership. To them I say, get over it and stop grasping at straws, if you can't say something good about yourselves, shut up!