A federal Liberal Party staff member resigned early this week after admitting he was responsible for the so-called “Vikileaks” attack on Public Safety Minister Vic Toews that saw sordid details of Toews’ divorce broadcast on Twitter in response to the minister’s tabling of a bill that would give police new Internet-snooping powers. Bob Rae, the interim Liberal Leader, rose in the House of Commons to apologize personally to Toews for the attack.
Rae’s admission of Liberal Party involvement and apology came at an inopportune time for the party, which is clearly still reeling from its dismal third-place showing in the May 2011 federal election. Along with the Official Opposition New Democrats, the Grits are attempting to claim at least a small patch of moral high ground as details about the ruling Conservatives’ involvement in the so-called “robocalls” scandal emerge.
For most ordinary Canadians, the two scandals only serve to confirm suspicions that all politicos engage in “dirty tricks” in their attempts to win and hold onto power and embarrass and discredit their foes. But while there’s no excuse for the sorts of personal mudslinging practiced by the Liberals in the Vikileaks matter, to this writer’s way of thinking the robocalls matter is far more egregious and, dare we say, unprecedented.
Many details of the matter being investigated by Elections Canada have yet to emerge, but here’s what we know so far. Automated calls were reportedly made, on voting day, to voters in the Ontario riding of Guelph, though opposition politicians say they’ve had similar reports from more than 40 ridings. Voters were told, incorrectly, that their polling places had changed, and the voices used in the recordings were purportedly those of Elections Canada officials. So far we’ve seen one resignation — a junior staffer in one riding, who said he was not responsible for the calls but had to resign because of all the negative attention.
Perhaps that’s true, but it strains credulity. To us, it seems like an admission that there was, in fact, Conservative Party involvement and that someone had to be the fall guy (or gal). Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s denial of any involvement on the part of the Tories’ national campaign also remains to be borne out by the evidence — to us it’s not a matter of whether the Tories were involved but whether information can be found to link the calls to higher-ups in the Conservative campaign. If it was just a couple of staffers acting on their own, it still reflects poorly on the party.
Attempting to influence the outcome of an election by misrepresenting oneself as being from Elections Canada and providing false or misleading information is a serious offence that can only be described as a form of electoral fraud. Such actions engender mistrust on the part of voters in the electoral process. Canadians should watch for the results of Elections Canada’s investigation of the matter and its aftermath with great interest, because it strikes at the core of our country’s democratic institutions.
— David Burke