Monday, February 27, 2012

Self Inflicted Wounds

With the return of Parliament, today was the first chance for the opposition to put the Tories' feet to the fire on Robocon. Instead, it was the Liberals who would up burning themselves with the admission that a Liberal staffer was behind Vickileaks.

In scheme of things, the Vickileaks saga is fairly minor. It wasn't illegal, and Rae handled the situation appropriately, issuing a complete apology. But the damage is still done - it gives the NDP higher ground as Robocon develops and it makes today's story about dirty tricks in politics (say it with me - "they're all the same") rather than about what could very well turn into the largest scandal to hit Stephen Harper's government.

Bear in mind, I used the word "could" there, because Robocon is still a work in progress, and it will take time to cut through the reports and accusations to make sense of what actually happened. Take for instance, this morning's Toronto Star story about live calls that may have directed voters to the wrong polling stations. Although it fits into the scandal's overall narrative, I don't think this one passes the sniff test. For starters, it sounds like the scripts may have instructed interviewers to identify themselves as calling from the Conservative Party - and even if they didn't, using live interviewers from their regular phone bank to commit electoral fraud just sounds too sloppy to me. And of all the adjectives I'd use to describe the Conservative Party, "sloppy" isn't one of them.

Of course, we keep hearing more about the actual robocalls, but it's still imposible to fully grasp who was involved and to what extent. That's why the NDP's call for by elections in affected ridings is incredibly premature. It's clear an investigation is needed, but until all the facts come out, there's no way to judge how many ridings were affected and how high this went.

But safe to say, this story isn't going away anytime soon, no matter how much the NDP overeaches or how many self inflicted wounds the Liberals hand themselves.

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14 Comments:

  • I'm becoming more of the mind that this is somehow a setup. Rae showing himself taking the high road, and at the same time laying a trap for the CPC supporters. How many are actually trying to equate political incorrectness with electoral fraud? They're so accustomed to schrieking "adscam, the Liberals did it too so it's ok for us" they think Canadians will uncritically accept them equating these two.

    But I think most Canadians will see through this.
    One is a firing offense. The other is a criminal offense, tantamount to treason.

    By Blogger liberal supporter, at 10:03 PM  

  • Vikileaks dude is a hero in my books.

    Tories have run around for years with darker smear campaigns against Liberals, oftentimes without even the defence of being true. About time someone gave them their own medicine.

    FREE THE VIKILEAKS ONE!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:06 PM  

  • Why no one asking where the staffer got the transcripts, did he fly to Manitoba himself or did someone in lrb give them to him and make him the fallguy

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:45 PM  

  • Somebody hired, sent scripts and phone # lists to the call center...and paid for the callers/robocalls.
    Follow the money.

    Perhaps with 41 ridings across the country changing boundries, the lists were inaccurate, and mistakes were made.
    Elections Canada already ruled that the case in one incident where the CPC was accused of dirty tricks.

    By Blogger wilson, at 11:12 PM  

  • What bull!! The Liberals did not self inflict. And Rae was a class act in how he handled it - honest and with character compared to the lies from CONS.

    By Blogger kitt, at 11:36 PM  

  • I hate Bob Rae, but I was very impressed with how he handled this.

    It is very refreshing to hear a politician apologize unreluctantly.

    Thumbs up to Bob Rae.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 12:20 AM  

  • I'm still waiting for Bob Rae to admit what directives the staffer in question was given.

    In the meantime, the Liberals and the media continue to make Canadians believe that Elections Canada committed acts of voter suppression by moving dozens of polling locations in ridings across the country.

    I find both to be shameful.

    Bad enough if some overzealous fool did commit the crimes which are alleged. Trying to make everyone involved with elections out to be criminals is not an appropriate reaction.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:35 AM  

  • Anon - I'd assume the Liberals already had all of the Toews files on hand. I mean, if they were doing proper opposition research, they'd have a big folder for every CPC MP, as I'm sure all the parties do.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:39 AM  

  • Here's my best guess as to what happened with robocon, based on the pattern of calls, and the facts on the ground.

    There probably was an effort to use robocalls in Guelph (and probably a local effort), where the number of cases is high. Unfortunately it is hard to nail anybody because the calls were made from a disposable cell phone (in Joliette, Quebec). Some people in other ridings got calls because riding lists are imperfect (people move, have the same name, etc.). If you look at the pattern of calls - almost all in Ontario (but many in non-swing districts), it seems to support that view.

    At the same time the Conservatives sent out 6 million calls on election night, to get out the vote. Some operators probably neglected to say they were calling from the CPC, and in some cases, you probably had mixups (eg. people with the same name, people that moved) that sent people to the wrong polling station (more often than note this probably lowered the Tory vote, not that of other parties). ie. few in number, and with some calls going to Tories (eg. in Dean del Mastro's riding).

    Then add to that the natural faultiness of people's memories (and possibly a desire to take a swipe at Harper). Mitt Romney gave a speech recently, describing his attendance at a jubilee - 9 months before he was born. People often remember things, or reinterpret things later, which become absolutely true to them.

    At any rate, if you want to overturn by-election results, you'd need evidence of vote suppression on the order of thousands of people, even in most close ridings. But there isn't a strong case for that - indeed, Liberal and NDP vote shares were close to what late polls predicted. Rather, the Tories overperformed (which almost always happens), and the Greens underperformed.

    Average of May 1 polls (result)
    CPC: 35.75 (39.6)
    LPC: 19.87 (18.9)
    NDP: 31.45 (30.6)
    BQ: 5.78 (6)
    Green: 5.45 (3.9)

    That suggests to me that this story is probably not the next Watergate, and doesn't represent a narrative that is sustainable for the next 3 years of Tory majority rule.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 10:53 AM  

  • But the damage is still done - it gives the NDP higher ground as Robocon develops and it makes today's story about dirty tricks in politics (say it with me - "they're all the same") rather than about what could very well turn into the largest scandal to hit Stephen Harper's government.

    They can't saddle up to too high a horse on this issue. They had a use robo-calls against Lise St. Denis that Queen's University professor Ned Franks called "A vengeful partisan activity." It's not the same as what the Conservatives did, but they're not entirely clean either, a point Chantal Hebert raised this morning.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 11:01 AM  

  • Some people in other ridings got calls because riding lists are imperfect (people move, have the same name, etc.). If you look at the pattern of calls - almost all in Ontario (but many in non-swing districts), it seems to support that view.

    I agree that people's memories are probably failing them here. I'd be more suspicious of complaints made months later than those made on election day or shortly after.

    One question I have with the Get out the Vote lists being imperfect -- there are polls made by parties constantly during the campaign. When the goal is to get your supporters to the polls in a short period of time -- why bother with a list of numbers that haven't been confirmed by your volunteers? Using a list that you're not sure about isn't effective, and in some ways it doesn't make sense. Not if your goal is to "Get out the Vote.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 11:26 AM  

  • I received candidate literature prior to the election from both the CPC and Liberals that had the incorrect poll location for my household. As a best practice no political party should indicate a poll location for any household since this could lead to voter confusion - perhaps this should become part of a new law?

    By Anonymous Danica Cameron, at 2:50 PM  

  • Dan Gardner has a good article today similar to what H2H posted above and what I was thinking last night:

    http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/more%2Blook%2Bphone%2Bscams%2Bmore%2Bfind/6219011/story.html

    I suspect many of the complaints coming forward now don't have anything to do with a concerted voter supression scheme - a lot are probably just the usual election mix-ups or based on faulty memory.

    Still, it's clear something illegal went down in Guelph and it's possible it was more widespread than that.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:21 PM  

  • The Federal election was contaminated, and should not be condoned. Those robocalls went all over the country. We have to set standards, or we will have election fraud, for every election held. There were four senior Conservatives charged with fraudulent election spending, Feb 2011. Who are we? China?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:55 PM  

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