Written for the website iPolitics in mid-April 2014, this short polemic was accepted for publication there, but was then put through a time-consuming and hypocritical process of editing before finally being rejected. The publication on April 24, 2014 of Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté's Summary Investigation Report on Robocalls made the article effectively out of date. This piece has not previously been published.
Commentators on Pierre Poilièvre's “Fair Elections Act” have been gobsmacked by his stunning impermeability to evidence.
It doesn't matter how many experts testify that Bill C-23 will block any future investigation of election fraud, and prevent the public from even knowing when Elections Canada has uncovered law-breaking. It doesn't matter how many declare that in stamping out individual “voter fraud”—which is effectively nonexistent—Bill C-23 will disenfranchise upwards of a quarter-million legitimate (but probably non-Conservative) voters.
Like one of those leering Jack-in-the-Box clowns that give children nightmares, Poilièvre continues to bounce out of his seat in Parliament, spouting absurdities. Evidence melts like spring snow from his gelled Tintin-quiff.
But remember Dean Del Mastro, that recurring migraine who was Poilièvre's precursor in the job of telling fibs about electoral matters? In March 2012 he responded to sixteen consecutive questions about Conservative telephone fraud in the 2011 election by repeating the same fatuous three-sentence script sixteen times in succession. Charged belatedly with fraud in the 2008 election, Del Mastro stumbled weeping into political obscurity.
Poilièvre too may soon be no more than a damp smudge in our history books. Should that happen—and the Harper government go with him—it may be evidence about electoral matters that brings them down.
Not just evidence relating to Bill C-23, but also evidence of the industrial-scale fraud in the 2011 election that gave Harper his parliamentary majority.
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The first commitment to telephone fraud on the part of the Conservatives—or of people closely allied to them—dates from 2008. In Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn's BC riding, a sunshine-coast nudity scandal forced the NDP candidate, Julian West, to drop out late in the campaign. Without vote-splitting to count on, Lunn faced defeat by a Liberal—until his campaign, or people supporting it, took advantage of the fact that West's name was still on the ballots.
According to a poll from before election day, less than one percent of voters still intended to vote for the NDP. But after the riding was flooded with spoofed-NDP robocalls, urging people to vote for West, 5.7 percent of those who voted were deceived into doing so. Lunn was re-elected by a margin well below the number of wasted votes. Despite opposition protests over this, and over the fact that fake third-party advertisers housed in the law office of a Conservative official in the riding had violated the spending limits set forth in the Canada Elections Act, the RCMP refused to investigate, and Elections Canada found no evidence of wrongdoing.
This success apparently persuaded Conservative Party headquarters that telephone fraud could provide a parliamentary majority in 2011. The result was a two-part campaign of nationally organized fraud.
The first set of fraudulent calls, which pretended to come from Liberal Party offices, harassed Liberal supporters across Canada during the last two weeks of the election campaign: people were awakened late at night; Christians were pestered on Easter morning and Jews on the Sabbath. The calls were often rude, even racist. After a week of them, the Toronto Star reported that voters in at least ten ridings were “furious” about calls coming, as they thought, from the Liberals.
The second set of fraudulent calls began in the last days of the campaign, with live-operator calls aimed at suppressing the vote by giving opposition-party supporters false information about supposed changes in their polling-station locations. These were supplemented on May 1 and on the morning of election day, May 2, with a nationwide surge of robocalls attributing the same message to Elections Canada.
The fraud was breath-taking in scale. Recipients of fraudulent calls complained to Elections Canada from 261 of Canada's 308 ridings. On the basis of polls carried out by Ekos Research, Forum Research, and Ipsos, StopElectionFraud.ca offers an estimate of the number of people who received vote-suppression calls—which with the addition of an estimate for the harassment calls (based on Elections Canada's inadequate records of the complaints it received), gives a total figure of well over a million fraudulent calls.
There's not much doubt as to who perpetrated this fraud. From the moment on April 29, 2011 that complaints about vote-suppression calls began pouring in, Elections Canada knew who was responsible, because the live-operator calls included call-back numbers that led to Conservative Party lines.
Conservative officials denied that their calls had mentioned polling-stations. Acknowledging later that the calls did offer information about polling-station locations, they denied that it was inaccurate, or that anyone other than Conservative supporters had been phoned.
This is what Sigmund Freud called “kettle-logic.” You claim I damaged the kettle you lent me? I reply, first, that I returned it undamaged; second, that it had a hole in it when you lent it to me; and finally, that I never borrowed your bloody kettle.
The Conservative origin of the vote-suppression robocalls is clear. In 2012, a CBC investigation and an Ekos poll confirmed a pattern in which people identified by Conservative voter-ID calls as non-supporters subsequently received vote-suppression calls. This pointed to nationwide use of the Conservatives' central database, the Constituent Information Management System (CIMS), in which voter-ID information is stored. And the Conservative Party's central office has admitted that the list used by 'Pierre Poutine' in having the Edmonton voice-broadcasting company RackNine send out robocalls to non-Conservatives in Guelph came directly from the CIMS database.
Elections Canada has evidence that a team of five Guelph Conservatives had surreptitious access both to CIMS and to RackNine, and that one of them shared an IP address with 'Pierre Poutine'. Moreover, Elections Canada has a recording of a harassment call that these operatives sent to RackNine at the end of the campaign but decided not to use.
There's more evidence, much more—and it points to a strong likelihood that the Harper government owes its parliamentary majority to fraud.
* * *
Poor Pierre Poilièvre. If only his “Fair Elections Act” had been passed before the 2011 election, the barn door could have remained locked: most of the details of his party's massive fraud would never have become known. But without a parliamentary majority—which apparently came only through the fraud in that election—the act could never have been passed.
The barn door stands wide open; the evidence has galloped into the open.
Can you hear the hoofbeats? They're getting louder.