02.25.2012 10:48 AM

The two forms of vote suppression

I’ve written about both.  The first is legal, the second isn’t.

The legal:

Nowhere in the ad does Harper’s campaign team declare they were hoping to persuade one million Liberal voters to stay home.

But that in fact was their objective and they achieved it. Extensive focus group and polling research had told the Tories that while many Grits despised Harper, they also had serious misgivings about Dion’s “image” as a leader and his ability to communicate.

If they couldn’t persuade those million Liberal voters to come over to the blue team, the Conservatives concluded, they would persuade them to stay home on election day.

Thereafter, the Tories spared no expense in their multi-million-dollar voter suppression strategy. It worked.

The illegal:

One former Ontario Conservative candidate, Rob Davis, was in high dudgeon over the suggestion his party would ever, ever engage in voter suppression. Such a claim was “shameful,” he sniffed.

On the Sun’s website, the response from Conservatives was much the same, with some actually suggesting voter suppression does not happen or, if it does, it is the product of a conspiracy between leftists and the leftist media.

Wow. A conspiracy? Made-up? Let’s ask Glen Pearson about that.

Pearson is the well-regarded former Liberal MP for London West. Pearson had friends on all sides of the House of Commons. But he lost, narrowly, to a Conservative candidate — because of, in part, a well-orchestrated voter suppression campaign.

As Chip Martin detailed in the London Free Press, innumerable Liberal supporters in the hotly contested London ridings reported receiving late-night calls of harassment — spreading false information, for example, about polling stations being moved.

Most of the calls came from smear-for-hire call centres in Florida or the Dakotas, which were beyond the reach of Canadian law.

The coordinated campaign that Stephen Maher has uncovered – after a full year of dogged investigative work – falls into the latter category.  If we still have the Rule of Law in this country, someone will end up getting convicted for what has been done.  It’s the kind of thing I saw when I was an election observer in Bosnia in 1996: it’s no less than election fraud.

My friends Norman Spector and Darrell Bricker and I have been having a discussion on Twitter, this morning, as to whether the illegal vote-suppression campaign was (as Jenni Byrne et al. would have us believe) the work a few rogue elements, or whether it was a coordinated sub-campaign (as I and others believe it can only be).  Norman and Darrell aren’t sure it’s the latter.  For me and many others, it stretches credulity that a GOP-style campaign this sophisticated – across time zones, using central campaign lists, and at a great monetary cost – could have been put together by a few Conservative pups.  It’s impossible, actually.

Will anyone ever get to the bottom of it?  I hope so.  Mr. Maher (and Elections Canada), we’re all counting on you to answer the many questions that are seeping out of this fetid mess.

The CPC isn’t even original: their muse, as always.


  1. Marky Mark says:

    The legislation contains not only a penalty and enforcement regime but also a mechanism to declare the results null and void in those ridings where there was misconduct that affected the outcome.

  2. If this doesn’t mark the beginning of the end of the Harper government, I honestly don’t know what to think anymore. I’ve been voting for the past twenty six years – I’m sick to death of government scandals. They’re all the bloody same.

    • Susan Rankin says:

      I believe that this is the WORST one we have ever had. They want to jail our children and grandchildren for youthful indiscretions like smoking marijuana and having sex, and here they have committed election fraud to get enough power to pass such terrible laws. It makes me so enraged that I forget I am supposed to be a lady and am, in fact a grandmother. They make me want to swear like a sailor. I frightened my husband last night with my cursing at these ignoble criminals.

      • David Bronaugh says:

        But… but the ends clearly justify the means here! Smear those damned hippie lieberals, keep their dangerous ideas out of Parliament, get our guys elected, then we can get tough on real crime!

  3. Yold Badger says:

    Orchastrating suppression is just the start of things.

    The major talking point that so many miss is the ability to target voters (or citizens if that better grabs your attention) using electronic means like robocalling. Making a series of calls provides you with data, electronic polling provides you with more data. Once you have enough data, you are able to indentify trends and really maximize the results.

    Trends indicate so much more than just party preference; the database you form presets a persona profile of your average Canadian.

    Once you have the data, you can target people’s habits, interests, and traffic to suit your purpose and communicate your message.

    Think online snooping is not a big deal:

    Just imagine what a guy like me could do with all of that intel, access to your information- all from your internet service provider.
    If you have a smart phone, that “information” includes your e-mail, texts, GPS locations – everything. Every thing…

    I’m capable without it – just imagine what I could do with all of that “TREASURE”.

    The Provinces should set the rules of jurisdiction on this one.

  4. kitte says:

    How much of taxpayers $$$$ were used for staffing for the robocalls and suppress the vote? We don’t know. What we do know that already $26m has been spent in the past three months to promote Harper’s “action plan” An appalling mismanagement of taxpayers money.

  5. VH says:


    IANAL but I have to disagree with this: “Most of the calls came from smear-for-hire call centres in Florida or the Dakotas, which were beyond the reach of Canadian law”.

    The US can put a Canadian in jail for mailing pot seeds in B.C., they can get a New Zealander put behind bars for running corporate file servers out of Virginia, and they can get a 15 year old kid in Great Britain arrested on account of him using a US based Internet certificate authority….but you guys can’t arrest someone foreigner for illegally directly interering in an election? Really?

    I call B.S. on that.

    Somebody in the Ontario Attorney General’s office needs to get off their *ss and issue a subpoenas, indictments and extradite. That simple.

    The Liberal party response, and specifically the Government of Ontario response, has been to turn this into a political scandal instead of the criminal matter that it is.

    It would be good if someone, maybe you, would please go and tell the provincial minority government leader to start enforcing Ontario laws more vigorously or give back his paycheck. That’s part of his job right?

  6. larry elford says:

    The bad news is that we will probably NEVER get justice for this particular breach of the public trust.

    The good news is that an entire country can now stop arguing, and clearly admit (most of us) that Harper and his helpers can never again be trusted. That is a sad thing to say, but a good thing to know.

    Oh, and by the by……..while people like him are busy stealing your democracy……here is something about two steps away from the topic at hand, which shows how easy it is for people like this to help steal your financial wealth. It’s easy, it’s free of all punishment, and it’s legal. The perfect crime.


  7. larry elford says:

    ……..citizens justice could look like this…….thousands of Canadians march (one at a time) into their court house, and file “Breach of Trust”, Sec 122 Criminal code of Canada charges against Harper and helpers. It is called “laying an information”, I think it is free, and it bypasses the “see no evil” game played by traditional authorities (police etc) and puts the right to file charges directly in the hands of each and every citizen of Canada.

    Imagine you OCCUPIERS out there. You can occupy the criminal courts if you have the evidence, instead of just fighting in parks for a site.

    (there may also be another half dozen criminal codes applicable to election fraud, election rigging…..)

    • Michael says:

      But once you have sworn out the information, a Crown has to agree to oursue the charges. If the Crown does not believe there a reasonable chance of conviction they will not pursue the charges.

      Though I like your idea and the message it would send.

  8. SP County says:

    Warren what was the name of that private organization that extracted thousands of dollars from many CPC members to get them elected and now their past director or president is the president of the Conservative Party of Ontario, might be a good place to start looking for how this all came about, thanks

    • SP County says:

      The name of the group is “Campaign Research” and they do voter identification and auto phone call outs and did it for 38 Tory Campaigns

  9. james says:

    Thee only people that could possibly have access to all the lists of liberal voters in all these different ridings would be a national level organization… not local or even regional….impossible. we know this comes from someone at the top….

  10. james says:

    Remember what Peter Van Loan said last time this problem came up… that the calls made into Mr. Cotler’s riding in Montreal were “vital free speech and a sign of good health in our democracy”

  11. AP says:

    Remember in the 2006 campaign Harper wanted to create an independent prosecutor specifically to go after political corruption? So the Public Prosecution Service of Canada was created. I’m looking forward to the “special prosecution” of this.

  12. Philippe says:

    What I think Canadians need to know is how high up in the Conservative party this goes, and who should be held accountable. This is not a politically motivated witch hunt, but a legitimate pursuit of justice. If this is criminal, it’s important that it be pursued with vigor. For those who are more legally inclined than me: I’m curious as to what needs to happen at this stage for this to be pursued criminally?

  13. Anon says:

    Nothing will happen. Nothing will change. No consequences of any significance. They will get away with it. Again.

    • Bill says:

      Did any one go to jail for the liberal sponsorship scandal?

      • Warren says:

        Sure. Some bureaucrats a formerly-Tory ad execs. Not a single elected Liberal.

        What’s your point?

        • Bill says:

          My point is “not a single elected liberal” went to jail. A few of they should have.

          • Sean says:

            so, Bill, after six years in power, what exactly has Stephen Harper done about your horseshit accusations?! Absolutely nothing… In fact, he has appointed even more cronies and presided over far bigger scandals. Far more money has gone missing under Harper than Chretien and Martin combined. Hope you enjoy defending a pack of Canada hating, lying thieves.

          • Neil says:

            Bill: By all means tell us what elected Liberals should have gone to jail and give us your evidence. I am sure the RCMP would appreciate it. You are obviously so much smarter then everyone as you know who they are but millions were spent investigating and no evidence was found.
            Please give us names now and the evidence or shut the hell up about a conservative run program (Chuck Guite was appointed by Mulroney).
            I am pretty sure you can’t and you are a liar, typical for a conservative.

            By the way I don’t accept “She did it first” as an excuse from my kids I would hope for a more from my government.
            I now know how progressive Americans felt after Bush was elected the 2nd time.

        • Philip says:

          Bill is a little out of sorts because his beloved Conservative Party is imploding in front of him. If it isn’t Vic Toews making a public ass out of himself, Peter MacKay fleeing the latest press scrum or systemic voter suppression the Conservatives are just falling apart.

          If we are very lucky, Bill will threaten us with a Flaherty budget, which will, wait for it, “make our head’s explode”. Good times.

      • James Curran says:

        The sponsorship scandal saved a country from a separtation. This is robbing a country of its demoracy altogether.

        • Bill says:

          Bullcrap, it didn’t save anything. It stole money from the taxpayer and placed the libs in 3rd place.

          • smelter rat says:

            Bill, you’re a blind idiot.

          • James Curran says:

            You seriously want to go down that road? Minsiters taking rides from fishing trips. 24 million this year alone to advertise “The Action Plan”. Really? I bet I can get far beyond the supposed 40 million of tax dollars a bunch of ad execs stole. That’s right, they stole money. And some are paying with jail time.

          • Bill says:

            I think your an idiot aswell smelter. Keep in mind your in the minority now and the libs views are not widely held anymore.
            Philip, I think you guy’s are a little premature on this one. I don’t see anything imploding right now, I see a bunch of giddy libs
            getting carried away. Lets see the prove first.

        • Raymond says:

          Ah, so criminal activity is allowed if it’s perceived to “save the country”?

          Patriotism/last refuge/scoundrel & all of that aside, your argument is weaker than Rat’s rebuttal.

          • Raymond says:

            That sort of attitude is exactly why you’re in 3rd place.

          • James Curran says:

            Um. No. An ad campaign was launched. Some ad execs got greedy and stole a lot of money. Some are in jail or have been in jail or have paid dearly. An ad campaign vs. Campaign election fraud is somewhat of a different animal me thinks.

  14. catherine says:

    Any ideas on why the NDP is acting so hyper on this? When’s the last time they came out swinging against the CPC for hurting the Liberals? They seem to be really jumping on this, even provincial types like Horwath are on it now. Initially, Turmel threw in an attack on the Liberals as part of her outrage (reference to cleaning up stuff like this from Liberals), but now they don’t even bother attacking the Liberals anymore and are more trying to present it as the CPC against both the NDP and Liberals.

    The NDP now claim there were a few NDPers getting calls in a Winnipeg riding, but it seems that they didn’t think to mention it until now and the NDP candidate of that riding didn’t even know until the press contacted him yesterday about the NDP claims. Campaign workers allegedly hear about illegal activities against their voters and they don’t bother letting the NDP candidate know? See http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/robocall-allegations-widen-140406723.html

    Meanwhile, in Parkdale-High Park, Liberal voters got both the harassing calls and the robocalls. The calls are essentially identical to other ridings where the race was between Liberal and CPC, but it is puzzling why any Conservatives would pay real money to hurt the Liberals in Parkdale-High Park. Maybe they threw that one in to make it look like a non-Conservative or a multiparty effort?

  15. DL says:

    Why wouldn’t the NDP “act hyper” on this issue??? They are the official opposition and the government looks to be embroiled in a scandal. Why would they not want to leverage the story as much as possible? What’s bad for the Tories is good for the NDP. The NDP doesn’t bother attacking the Liberals anymore because the Liberals are a small third party with just 35 seats – why attacks something that is irrelevant? Its like expecting the Liberals to waste time attacking the Green Party.

    • catherine says:

      Hyper isn’t the same as effective. The NDP allegations in Manitoba sound suspicious for the reasons I gave and Horwath’s latest appeal if heeded, could just interfere with Elections Canada’s investigation by having to deal with calls with no evidence. As for not bothering to attack the Liberals, note that they did just a few days ago – I’m talking about the shift in the last day messaging.

  16. kre8tv says:

    This is the kind of story that grows a hundred legs. Fast.

    • Raymond says:

      Like wafer-gate?

    • Iris Mclean says:

      Yes. There’s something about election fraud that pisses people off.

      • Raymond says:

        Robo-calling is pretty low, yep….just like an LPC campaign worker removing Green Party literature from voter mailboxes last election & replacing them with LPC pamphlets. That’d steam me too. It would appear that politics is dirty all around. Sad.

      • Philip says:

        Wow. The latest PMO talking points being taken for a walk by our new chum Raymond. A little false equivalency and a tiny bit of: “everybody does it, so it’s OK if we do it”. Still adds up to some pretty weak sauce.

        Only in Conservative land does some stolen Green Party pamphlets in a single riding equal an 18 (and counting) riding, nation wide voter suppression scheme. The consequences for Mr. Volpe’s campaign manager were immediate, his termination. I’m sure Raymond will agree that someone very high up in the Conservative Party needs to be fired over this, at the very least. For myself, I would need to see criminal charges and by-elections in affected ridings. But then again I actually do like democracy, so I might be biased.

        As to the PMO’s and Raymond’s “everybody does it” argument. I guess it just depends what company the Conservative Party wants to keep. I would have hoped they might have wanted to aim higher than Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Haiti. Too much effort I suppose.

        Judging from the response from Canadians, Conservative values aren’t Canadian values.

        • Raymond says:

          I’m sorry Philip, where did I say it was acceptable for representatives of the CPC to engage in this sort of under-handed horsesh!t?

          Frankly, I was hoping they’d hold themselves to a higher standard than some of their predecessors. Guess not.

          Just reminding you that all sides have their moments, that’s all.

          • Tim Sullivan says:

            No, you didn’t say it was acceptable, but you made it out like they were equivalent in degree. They are not and not even close by any standard.

            Equating switching pamphlets between opposition parties on a doorstep and the degree of co-ordination and financing required to engage a single robo call, not to mention they happened in 12, 24, 35 ridings? Really?

            You may be out of your depth. Where’s Gord when we need to hear from him?

  17. Steven says:

    And now, according to the Globe & Mail, Harper’s Official Fart-catcher, a.k.a. The Honourable Dean Del Mastro, MP, claims his voters got “deceitful” robo-calls, too. In a riding which he won by 15,000 votes. Really? Has Del Mastro made this claim before?

    The Harper Government (TM) rinse/spin cycle continues.

  18. Mulletaur says:


  19. James Curran says:

    Section 524 of the Canada Elections Act:

    524. (1) Any elector who was eligible to vote in an electoral district, and any candidate in an electoral district, may, by application to a competent court, contest the election in that electoral district on the grounds that
    (a) under section 65 the elected candidate was not eligible to be a candidate; or

    (b) there were irregularities, fraud or corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result of the election.

  20. Lawrence Stuart says:

    The illegal kind of voter suppression I get. It stinks, and the law should reach out and touch those responsible.

    The idea of legal ‘suppression,’ not so much.

    Couldn’t one then just say that all oppo is in some sense ‘voter suppression?’ And isn’t the (correct) reply, ‘no, it’s firing up our base, convincing swing voters,’ etc?

  21. Michael Bussiere says:

    Let’s remember the vandalism against Liberal supporters in two ridings:


    I have yet to find any statement of condemnation by Harper or a Conservative Party official about this!

  22. dave says:

    If they get away with this, I would guess that an outcome would be even more voter disgust with the whole system ( not just these characters who are abusing it) and those voters not bothering to vote in a fixed election anyway.

  23. dave says:

    Perhaps pulling these kinds of stunts is worth the gamble in a First Past the Post system in which just a 3% or so rise in votes can lead to 20% or so rise in number of seats, and then, the way our all legislative and executive power to the PMO government works, a chance at absolute power.

  24. Sue Fairchild says:

    Let me get this straight. If all the current Liberal held ridings were subject to vote suppression, will there have to be byelections in all 33 ridings?

    If there was vote suppression in any of the 104 NDP ridings will they also have byelections?

    What about any of the Conservative held riding that received vote suppression calls? Byelections too?

    Maybe Harper should just ask the GG to drop the writ again and have another general election, just to clear the air.

    Nothing like another unwanted general election or even a mass of byelections to gain the confidence of the taxpayers!

    Meanwhile, who’s looking after the government store??

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