12.01.2011 09:16 AM

Harper cabal admits breaking the law: call in the cops


OTTAWA — The Conservatives have confirmed they are behind a rash of phone calls to Liberal MP Irwin Cotler’s Montreal-riding over the past couple of weeks in which constituents allegedly were told of Cotler’s resignation and a pending byelection.

But while the party says it was not breaking any rules, political scientists feel the tactic crosses a line and will harm not only voters’ trust in the system, but perhaps even the Conservatives themselves.

“It’s disgusting,” said Queen’s University professor Ned Franks. “Politics is a blood sport but that doesn’t mean you have to resort to dirty blows.”

The “political scientists” – who, in my experience, are neither – are wrong.  It’s much more than “crossing a line.” This is a corrupt practice and against the law.  In fact, if electors were provided with false information, inside or outside of the writ, laws were indeed broken.  That’s particularly true if any aspect of the Conservatives’ conspiracy took place in or near Ontario.


96.2 (1)  A person who, inside or outside Ontario, prevents another person from voting or impedes or otherwise interferes with the person’s exercise of the vote is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $5,000.

Party to offence

(2)  A person who, inside or outside Ontario, does anything for the purpose of aiding another person to commit the offence described in subsection (1), abets another person in committing it, or counsels or procures another person to commit it is a party to the offence.

Quebec has similar, and tougher, laws. This morning, the Harper Conservatives have admitted they’ve broken the law.  If I were Irwin Cotler – a man who I and others admire very much, and whose integrity is beyond reproach – I would get on the line to the police right now.


  1. Michael Erskine says:

    Sadly, the rule of law does not apply to the Harper cabal–sends a chill deep into the soul of a student of history. It is going to get worse because it is not being stopped. It is only a crime for the homeless, the poor, the great unwashed or the regime’s political opponents.
    Kick at the darkness…

  2. Warren says:

    Oh, really, Gord? Care to provide us with your expert legal analysis?

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      I hope they do and nail your sorry ass party to the cross…..it would seem rather fitting……

      Just another reason I still rue the day I had anything to do with you Refoorm types…….

      Harper ought to be ashamed of himself, and if you had any morals, you would be too…..

  3. This is happening far too frequently. At what point is the general population going to begin to take an interest in Canadian politics? Conservatives are breaking more than just a few laws, they are dismantling a Canadian democracy.

  4. Ottawacon says:

    The Ontario Elections Act applies to Ontario provincial elections only – look at the definitions, an election is an election to the Assembly of Ontario. It has no jurisdiction over the conduct of Federal parties, except where they act to interfere with provincial elections.

    • Pat says:

      He specifically mentions that similar laws can be found in Quebec. I suspect Warren is just more familiar with Ontario law, as he has much more experience with campaigns in Ontario.

    • Sam Gurthrie says:

      So @Ottawacon, you’re cool with this tactic? If this were the Liberals, Dippers or Bloc the Cons would be screaming blue (though you would have to look at someone other than Baird, cause he always be screamin’!)

      • Ottawacon says:

        Not sure how you can derive approval from the simple statement of fact that the cited law in Ontario does not apply, and the one in Quebec probably does not either, due to Federal jurisdiction over the Federal Parliament.

  5. smelter rat says:

    Rule #1 in Harperland…it’s never illegal when the Reformacons do it

    • Marc L says:

      I’m not a lawyer, and I certainly believe what they have done is absolutely disgusting. That said, I don’t understand how this breaks the law as you quoted it. They didn’t prevent anyone from voting nor did they interfere with anyone’s exercise of the vote. They just made up an election that doesn’t exist. Could you please explain your reasoning? Thanks.

    • Ken says:

      Rule #2: Liberals did it! (Whether or not they did.)

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      I do believe its Mr. Tulks mantra……

  6. MCBellecourt says:

    Tulk, I think it’s a safe bet that Mr. Kinsellla knows a hell of a lot more about the law than you do.

  7. W the K - No, not Warren says:

    So Gord, do you condone what they did?

  8. Chris Schnurr says:

    Interesting story – use of a marketing firm to contact constituents. Sounds very much along the lines of what happened during the Federal Election when people were called to be advised their polling station had moved. Probably a coincidence.

    • Rob W says:

      Yeah, you’re right Chris… probably just a coincidence. 😉 Nothing to see here… move along.

      The death of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was the moment when the well that is Canadian democracy was poisoned. Time to flush the well.

      • The Doctor says:

        I agree that it’s sad that the old PC party died. Fact is, though, a whole bunch of Canadians quit voting for it, starting in 1993. Had those Canadians continued to vote for it, it would still exist today.

        • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

          As a proud former member of the PC party, Canadians stopped voting for it for a lot of the same reasons as they have stopped voting for the LPOC….having had our asses whipped in ’93(thanks Mr. Kinsella) made us do a great deal of soul searching, and in the end, we out-Reformed Reform when it came to accessiblity, openess, and grass-roots participation.
          I often wonder if Mr. MacKay and the “emissaries” hadnt sold us a bill of goods that it wouldnt have been the PC’s that would have put a stake through the heart of Refoorm, rather than vice versa…..But hey, I was a supporter(albeit a reluctant one) of merger at the time, so I am just as much to blame as the leaders…..buyers remorse?….you bet……

          • Ken says:

            There is a LOT of voter’s remorse going on these days, and I’ve heard and seen a sharp uptick in it all week.

  9. Ken says:

    That Act applies to elections (there’s no election on) and in Ontario.

    What Irwin needs to do is sue the asses off everyone responsible: the Conservative Party, its officers, the “polling” company, its principals, and the call centre contracted by the “polling” company, its principals.

    Bonus: collecting a legal fund to help Irwin out in this worthwhile endeavour would not be subject to any political financing restrictions. A very, very, very, very, disturbingly large war chest could be amassed in a very, very, very short time.

    These Conservative jerks (I use a polite word) need to have their asses fried in butter and force-fed to them. It’s the only language they understand.

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      Couldnt agree with you more, Ken…..love the last line……thats a keeper…..lol…..and I agree, that is the only language the troglodytes understand…….

  10. Ken says:

    Everyone in a Conservative-held riding should do the same. Contact info



    Toll-free (Canada): 1-866-599-4999
    Telephone: 1-613-992-4793

    • Ken says:

      And hey, look! The Conservative Party of Canada has phones!

      Toll free: (866) 808-8407
      Phone: (613) 755-2000
      Fax at: (613) 755-2001

  11. WestcoastJim says:

    It is interesting that the Tory troll defence is that “they did not break the law”. Again and again we have seen the absolute contempt that Harper and his dishonest party show for Canadian politics – telephone calls in the middle of the night pretending to be from other campaigns, illegal use of funds and now this conduct. It is clear that the Conservative plan of action is to alienate as many Canadians as possible from the electoral process so that only their tin hat wearing followers will actually vote.

    So very, very sad.

    • Warren says:

      They broke the law in the In and Out case. Their initial response was to deny wrongdoing, as here. They eventually pled guilty to breaking the law.

      That’s why I recommended Liberals let the police investigate.

      • Ottawacon says:

        I don’t think there is a basis for police investigation – the Federal Elections Act has a known weakness in this area, I don’t think the Quebec law would apply to Federal politics (though I have never read it), and the advertising/information violation is not criminal in nature. Establishing civil damages would be fairly meaningless – this is probably why Cotler has raised it as a matter of Parliamentary privilege.

  12. Riaz Khan says:

    I am surprised that people are surprised at this. This is Mr. Harper. Thats how he does things. I am from a third world country where these things do not even make the news. What he did during the election where press was only allowed to ask five questions and where people were kicked out from his political gatherings was something out of athird world politics and I was amazed. But he got elected and won a majority. I got to give Mr. Harper some credit. He knows people dont care about this and the sad truth is, people dont. People are too busy dealing with falling incomes, debt and economic situation. He knows that. I dont blame Mr. Harper. I blame the people of Canada who had a chance to send him a message on May 2nd but they did not. Now, he does whatever he wants.

    • Ken says:

      They sent him a message.

      But mark my words, they will send him – or his successor – a very different message on October 19, 2015.

      • Riaz Khan says:

        I hope so but I doubt it. As I said earlier, it will be the economic situation which will decide his future and not these types of acts. I am a Canadian who came to this country from a messy and violent place and I love Canada. This is the best country in the world and what I saw during the election made me sad and sick. Mr. Harper is a politician and he had to do whatever he had to do to win. I was sad at the apathy by the Canadian people who ignored his acts during the election and gave him a majority. Mr. Harper is already fighting the 2015 election. This is the groundwork for that. Once again, there is no coherent opposition so he is doing these types of things. I hope people will react to this in 2015 but I have my doubts.

  13. Finn says:

    When the NP calls them out, you know there is no joy in mudville.

    • The Doctor says:

      And on that topic, I thought the National Post op-ed writer hit the nail right on the head when he said this was right out of Donald Segretti and the Nixon “ratf*ckers” dirty tricks playbook. I recently read Rick Perlstein’s excellent book Nixonland, in which he describes a bunch of Segretti’s political dirty tricks, and this is right up Segretti & Company’s alley. Not necessarily technically illegal, but scummy, outrageous and unethical.

  14. steve says:

    Just wait until they start reading every email, the mischief will be 24/7. First harassing critics, police visiting them at work or worse, second tapping into fans to raise insurmountable cash. Its a Philip K Dick novel staring Steve Harper.

  15. Ted H says:

    Whether the letter of the law was broken or not, it is typical of the Harper Conservatives’ disdain for civilized behaviour, parliamentary tradition, and simple fairplay.

    Conservative supporters like to think they are the party of principle, the party that supports upholding the law, that brands Liberals as soft on crime, that has a moral compass, when in fact they are a party that increasingly justifies any means to get the end they want. They bend rules and play dirty at the drop of a hat.

    Anyone who supports the Conservatives is either out for personal gain the way the Conservatives are, is seriously deluded about the morality of this party, or is lacking in intelligence.

    • Ted H says:

      A day late, so you may not see this but I have no doubt there are some very intelligent Conservative supporters with compelling views of their own. But it is like that US bumper sticker that says “There are two kinds of Republicans, millionaires and suckers”. The Conservative party isn’t too different, their main goal is to empower and maintain the Plutocracy. If you are part of that, support that and benefit from that and intelligently pursue that, fine, that is your politics. If you don’t benefit from that, you are voting against your own interests and are stupid.

  16. james Smith says:

    Funny story,
    I got one of these calls back in October.
    The funny part? I live in a Tory Rinding in the 905. I happened to have been home sick that day & so I had a little fun with the sap on the other end of the phone keeping him on the line for ten minutes.
    Next time I see my MP I’ll ask him when he’s stepping down.

  17. pomojen says:

    Increasingly, you are simply ridiculous.,

  18. Marc L says:

    You don’t need to be a Liberal to find this disgusting. From the National Post this morning — I don’t think anyone would call Kelly McParland a Liberal sympathiser.


  19. pomojen says:

    Further – from a clinical point of view, which I CAN speak to (rather than a legal one) – this represent anti-social and pathological behaviour. Even if you can spin this so that some of us believe it was legal (and I would not be one of them), that should be of no comfort to anyone.

  20. sj says:

    I think the bigger issue here is how the marketing firm got the names and numbers of the constituents. When Elections Canada gives nominated candidates lists, they or their official agents must agree to abide by the rules for the use of the lists. So I think there is probably sufficient grounds for an Elections Canada investigation into the source of the lists, which is a different part of the Act from what Warren quoted.

    • Ottawacon says:

      The difficulty here being that CIMS, the Conservative database, has a history of over 10 years of accruing data and now has a staggering percentage of voters being tracked. It would be very difficult to prove that the electoral lists have been used at all.

    • Ken says:

      No, it’s a completely different act (and jurisdiction) altogether.

      But I think you’re on to something. Parties and MPs can use the list. But not third-parties.

  21. Sam Gurthrie says:

    I was working on Joe Volpe’s re-election Campaign in 2011 when our constituents (and those in the riding of Simcoe-Grey) were getting similar phone calls from a firm in the states during the writ. The people on the phone claimed to be calling on behalf of the Liberal party but they clearly were not. The calls came in after 9pm and the language the callers used was full of sarcasm and extremely rude and misinformation. It was an obvious attempt to turn people off of the Liberals.
    I always knew it had to be conservatives and for me this just proves it out right. So when people ask did the “Conservatives break the law with these phone calls in Cotler’s riding?”…. Maybe, maybe not. but they definitely broke the law during the spring election! Why wasn’t there a serious investigation then?

    • Ken says:

      It’s quietly ongoing.

      • J.A. says:

        Yes Sam Guthrie, a similar set of phone calls was made to people identified as Liberal supporters in one of the Winnipeg ridings on May 1st, the day before the federal election. The calls came from outside the province it seemed, and they alleged that our candidate supported a private members bill that would seriously damage pensions. This was a false allegation which is illegal under Elections Canada Act. Formal complaints were filed to the CRO, but so far nothing happened in reply.The Con incumbent won.
        Elections Canada may be backlogged from the complaints, but I wonder why they seem so slow to respond.
        Thanks to everyone and to Warren for bringing this false allegation trend to light. It really needs to be widely exposed as unworthy.

  22. Merrill Smith says:

    What about the rumour that a grateful monarch will make PMSH a Knight of the British Empire on her Christmas honours list?

  23. Pat Heron says:

    What the Tories did and are now defending, in Mr. Cotler’s riding , is just plain wrong: ethically, morally and “probably” legally. Pretty soon some staffers will be thrown under the bus, the Party will be “sorry for the actions of these staffers” and everything will be rosy again! We’ll forget.

    • Ken says:

      Don’t let the Conservatives forget:

      And hey, look! The Conservative Party of Canada has phones!

      Toll free: (866) 808-8407
      Phone: (613) 755-2000
      Fax at: (613) 755-2001

  24. W.B. says:

    Don’t forget Harper is moving to take more direct control of the RCMP, incrementally of course. But they are starting by assuming oversight over RCMP communications. Lawrence Martin mentioned it in his column on Harper control earlier this week in the Globe.

  25. JStanton says:

    … But this is what Mr. Harper does. He cannot win when following rules, conventions or laws, so he resorts to other means. That is how he stole the Conservative party, and that is how he stole the Canadian state.

    The problem is that opposition parties give him a free ride. Whether incompetent, lazy or gutless, they never hold him to account.

    Why do we not see him being held to account every single day by the opposition parties, using every form of media?

    Buy failing to do so, they are giving him tacit approval, and legitimizing his behavior. And as a consequence, voters remain either ignorant of Mr. Harper’s breaches, or unconcerned.


  26. Ted says:

    Even Conservative columnist Kelly McParland is Harper’s dirty tricks to Nixon and Watergate.

    But it’s not quite the first time that Harper has been compared to Tricky Dick Nixon.

    And it won’t be the last.

    • Ted says:

      That should be “Even Conservative columnist Kelly McParland is comparingHarper’s dirty tricks to Nixon and Watergate” of course.

  27. J says:

    Firstly I’m a Conservative. I believe MOST politicians are full of S…T. In all parties. That is what occupy is mostly about. Get used to it. It ain’t gonna change unless we ALL get out there and “occupy”

  28. Kre8tv says:

    I’m just wondering how long it will be before Pierre Poilievre declares this as yet another victory for the Con Party and democracy in Canada.

  29. Brad Young says:

    Anyone else disturbed by the fact that our prime minister is a sociopath?

  30. Derryk says:

    This will be another ‘administrative’ or ‘process’ issue and we will once again be told that ‘Canadians don’t care’.

  31. Lawrence Stuart says:

    From the Nat Post article: “Carleton University political scientist Jon Pammett, however, said he worries voters will have their distrust of politicians and political parties re-affirmed.”

    No doubt true. But I worry that even when the Cons get caught setting fire to the barn, many supporters will overlook the crime. Because they supposedly stand for ‘less government,’ the Cons become, in the narrative of faux populism, somehow ‘less involved’ in all those gosh darned political shenanigans.

    When people see some fuzzy, distant notion of ‘government’ or the ‘system’ as the root of all evil, the party that speaks most loudly against ‘government’ becomes a golden boy who can do no wrong. After all, it’s the ‘system’ that’s broke, not our boy.

    Anyway, I hope I’m wrong. Maybe this one will stick. At least a little.

    • pomojen says:

      More seeding of disrespect/ contempt for our political system , for gov’t as “bad” or representing a thwarting of rather than protection of our freedoms etc,
      is very worrisome to me.

      I have worked with antisocial people in my career. Those who pose the most risk to their communities often have the least basic respect for those communities. There is no healthy attachment, no source – or a criminogenic source- of identity/ connection. No sense that they gain warmth, protection or strength from those places. It puts communities at higher risk when they are not valued.

      Others who are not antisocial or dangerous, but who live in these communities, also start to lose a sense of community as valuable or a source of solutions and strength – often it’s because their communities have become unsafe, impoverished, neglected higher crime areas. And in the face of that, people increasingly react with less outrage, less hope and have fewer expectations. They tolerate, stop reacting. The focus becomes surviving rather than thriving. And this makes the communities even less safe. It’s reasonable that people react this way under these circumstances. It’s easy to feel powerless when you don’t know what to do or don’t believe you have the power to effect change.

      The contempt that this party shows for our political and social institutions reminds me of that phenomenon of elevated risk. I don’t think I would have drawn this same comparison prior to the contempt for parliament moment…the guilty plea and conviction re: the in and out scandal….the increasingly evident disrespect for the truth as demonstrated by Clement, MacKay and others. I used to feel tgat this was just a party I disagreed with, that we still shared some core values about the country, integrity, democracy…noble things like that. But the party in power is starting to look seriously antisocial. And the public seems to be either unaware, uninterested, distracted and/or dis-empowered. It’s not true that we have no power. But as long as we believe that, we are powerless. And our systems will increasingly be at risk.

      • Lawrence Stuart says:

        Well put. I enjoyed reading and thinking about your post.

        When it comes to politics and politicians, I admit I find a great deal of truth in Lord Acton’s dictum (‘Power corrupts’ … etc.) I don’t expect politicians to be saints, nor do I expect politics to be a genteel business. However, there are always choices to be made, and a balance, between the need to acquire and hold power, and the necessity of exercising it for good purpose, to be struck.

        What troubles me most about modern conservatism is the correspondence between political teleology (reducing the size of the state) and political cynicism and opportunism. The means (the antisocial behaviour you describe) and the ends (disillusionment with state and even community structures and processes) are largely complementary. The outcome, ironically for an ideology that purports to be populist, is the kind of alienation you identify as elevated risk. Things fall apart: wedges are driven between community groups, many groups are starved of resources, and ultimately the individual (i.e., the self interested homo economicus) is largely cut adrift from meaningful social context.

        All social order, I would argue, must balance centripetal forces (a sense of collective identity) with centrifugal forces (individuality). It is healthy to have differences of opinion about where the balance should lie. Harper’s conservatism goes beyond an adjustment of the balance. It aims, I think, to gleefully bring into disrepute and then dismantle, in the name of liberating homo economicus, a wide array of centripetal systems and institutions. Eventually, the centre cannot hold. And when it starts to fall apart, man it really falls apart!

  32. Philippe says:

    Anyone who doesn’t agree with calling the cops is soft on crime.

  33. Village Idiot says:

    Oh you willy nillies who cry idealism. Politics is about street fighting.

    The only ones who care about these frat boy pranks are bloggers. I enjoy that these nincompoops had their hands caught in a cookie jar.

    We can use the same tools that they use against us. If they bring a knife to a fight, we bring a gun.

    You can learn a lot from Sean Connery.

    • Ken says:

      A gun, a can of mace, a water cannon, an acoustic cannon, a hardcore CBT dominatrix named Melissa, and a couple of kids with infectious chicken pox.

      I want to fight these bastards bad and hard and dirty. Lemme attem.

  34. Tammy Stratford says:

    I had 7 calls from the Conservative Party before the election, even one the night before.

  35. Chuck says:

    One thing we keep forgetting is that Harper’s heart is in the West. Western Canada has long whined about Ontario and expressed outright hatred. What did you think was going to happen when you allow a band of Eastern hating Farmers to take control?

    Yes. First they will smash everything they’ve always hated – science – women’s rights – anyone’s rights – any thinking group – any artist – anyone who dislikes Temp agencies – ANYONE WITHOUT MONEY. They want their new home to be just like out West – where they used to call PM Klein – KING. KING KLEIN! Think I’m making this last part up? Go ask – you’ll see. Harper’s secret Christmas wish…”please just call me emperor or king just once….pleeease”

    Only thing I like about Harper’s regime is that they make BIG mistakes frequently. Very good!!

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