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The Mystery of the “Robocalls”

It appears as if the Harper government may be in trouble again, or at least has some serious explaining to do. With the onslaught of controversial legislation, with regards to the Omnibus crime bill and Vikileaks, many Canadians are concerned. It seems that the Conservatives are unable to catch a break. This past week has brought more havoc for the Tories. It has emerged that during last May’s election, fraudulent phone calls were made in numerous areas throughout riding-rich Ontario, many of them in Liberal strongholds. The trend of usually seamless election processes in Canada is now under question as the RCMP and Elections Canada has begun its investigation into the “Robocalls,” which allegedly targeted likely Opposition voters, directing them to the wrong voting stations. Such an investigation is unprecedented in Canada. Even international observers have taken notice of these allegations. Recent statements from the watchdog group ‘Democracy Watch’ has brought to light voter complaints dating back to the 2004 federal election.

The question now arises, what will this mean for the future of fair elections in Canada, and, if the allegations are true, what will this mean for the fate of the majority Conservative government?  The relatively new phenomenon to party politics clearly has tainted the once civil nature of debate and disagreement in Canada. Although Canadians are quick to remember the quirky antics of Pierre Trudeau, and his son Justin on how they show their displeasure towards things they may disagree with,

The influence of “Robocalls” and their potential consequences will only further divide the currently hostile atmosphere that has affected Canadian politics in recent years. The alleged consequences of the Robocalls could be seen in the House of Commons this week. Such heightened attention has caused Canadian elections to fall within a global trend of fraudulent elections this year, most evident in Russian protests regarding their recently disputed elections. To be sure, within Canadian electoral history, never has there been such a serious allegation as the intentional misleading of opposition voters to false polling stations.

Canada has indeed seen electoral fraud in the past, as was the case during the 1995 Quebec referendum and the “mystery” of the destroyed ballot in primarily Anglophone areas. Without adding insult to injury, the resulting NO vote breathed a sigh of relief into the Chretien government, who decided to focus on passing the Clarity Act instead of revisiting the past. Ironically, the Robocalls could bring positive consequences for the future of fair elections. Even if the allegations are false, the mere fact that this incident occurred at all will create more Conservative vigilance. They will attempt to ensure that their vote counts amongst Canadians, who have never been faced with electoral fraud in a federal election.

Now, if the allegations are true, and it becomes clear that the Conservatives are responsible for the calls, what will this mean for the near future, and Harper’s majority? One of the most suspicious aspects of this case is the fact that these “Robocalls” targeted known former Liberal strongholds in Ontario, a historically been a “swing province” in Canadian elections. With a slim 12 seat majority, the repercussions of this incident can potentially mean the end of the short-lived Conservative majority, especially if locals in these ridings begin protesting and lobbying the government for by-elections. A more complicated path, if Harper resists calling a by-election, will probably be resolved in the courts, which grants a new convention for a new phenomenon. All that remains in this mystery is the who, why, when, where, and how many ridings.

–  Cody Levine

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