The federal Liberals will do well to resist any impulse to sound too self-righteous about the overheated allegations of voter manipulation that has occupied the headlines of late.
Questions are being raised, and some are pointing the finger at Conservative Party of Canada operatives, about seemingly improper activities in the run up to last spring’s federal election, namely harassing phone calls and so-called “robocalls” to voters as well as misinformation by phone about the location of polling stations from people claiming to be from Elections Canada.
The allegation is these actions were done to give Conservatives the voting edge going into the 2011 federal elections.
So much manipulation is at play that one would need a scorecard to keep track.
What is clear is that interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae is making sure, even as the federal New Democratic Party heads into its final days before voting for a new leader, that the attention stays on the Liberals. The Liberals still wear their former position and they are not about to let anyone forget they are a party with some standing.
The volume is much lower from Nycole Trumel, interim NDP leader and Leader of the Opposition, about this new controversy.
Political junkies may have a field day with this kind of internal upheaval, but the ordinary Canadian will not become too exercised about it. It’s not a tax cut or tax hike, and it’s not a job creation program.
The Conservatives have a majority and even if we factor in all the ridings that are alleged to have been impacted by these shenanigans, would it change anything?
Elections Canada is investigating, but some Conservatives have wondered aloud whether it will have the resources to carry out a thorough enough investigation.
Regardless, whatever semblance of integrity and transparency the federal Conservatives were believed to possess when they came onto the political scene, it has been clear for some time that they are really no different from any other governing party when it comes to employing questionable tactics to hold onto power.
The federal court of appeal found the party guilty of sidestepping campaign laws during the 2005 elections as a result of the so-called In-and-Out scandal in which it transferred money from national to local offices and then back again to avoid the appearance of exceeding the maximum allowance on campaign spending. It was fined some $230,000.
Then there was the questionable spending by Industry Minister Tony Clement in his Muskoka riding in the run up to the 2010 G20 summit which was seen as an attempt to curry favour with voters. The millions of dollars spent in his riding had little or nothing to do with the G20 summit although it was earmarked as such. It seems to have paid off for him, though, since he upped his vote count over the previous election. Space does not allow here for other acts of impropriety.
The fact is, though, most Canadians don’t seem to care too much about these ‘maneuvers’ by the political parties. The last time a political move seem to resonate somewhat was when Stephen Harper went to then Governor General Michaëlle Jean to seek prorogation because he wanted to avoid a confidence vote over the question of whether the Canadian government was aware that Canadian soldiers were turning over Afghan prisoners to Afghan authorities knowing that those prisoners would be tortured – an action that is in contravention of United Nations rules.
Even so, Harper and the Conservatives did not suffer a backlash and now enjoy a majority government in parliament.
So if there is something in this latest adventure to investigate, let Elections Canada do its job. We, on the other hand, will watch with interest when the next federal budget is read at month’s end to see whether funding for Elections Canada will be affected. It is well establish that this government has a tendency to starve its detractors of funds in order to control or stifle opposition.
Nothing the Stephen Harper government does to hold on to power should come as a surprise to anyone who follows Canadian politics.