Harper defends Conservative robocalls in Saskatchewan

by The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – The Conservative party was operating within the bounds of normal process when it used robocalls to explore public opinion surrounding plans to change riding boundaries in Saskatchewan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

Not so, opposition critics — including NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and interim Liberal leader Bob Rae — cried Wednesday as they accused the Conservatives of using “fraudulent” calls to manipulate the process.

An arms-length, independent commission is proposing to redistribute some of the province’s 14 federal ridings in order to better reflect increasingly urban populations in Regina and Saskatoon.

But the changes have met with stiff resistance from Conservatives, who hold 13 of Saskatchewan’s 14 seats and fear a more concentrated urban vote in some ridings might favour their political rivals.

The Conservatives admitted being responsible for the so-called “push poll” calls to would-be voters in Saskatchewan, which said some proposed changes to electoral boundaries would undermine provincial values.

The computer-generated calls identified no political party, saying only that they came from a company called Chase Research. That was a mistake, the Conservatives say.

In the face of a barrage of opposition questions Wednesday in the House of Commons, however, Harper insisted the party broke no rules.

“The party followed the rules and our position to the public is very clear on the commission,” he said. “The commission is working to re-draw the electoral boundaries according to the law.”

He said it’s part of the normal effort to produce new electoral boundaries.

“We are simply operating within the process,” he said.

Rae described the calls as nothing short of a Conservative effort to gerrymander Saskatchewan ridings.

But Harper said the commission expects to hear outside comment. “Those commissions accept and expect input from parliamentarians, from political parties and from the general public.”

Mulcair, for his part, was scornful: “Since when do robocalls become input in our political process?”

Saskatchewan Liberal MP Ralph Goodale has asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to investigate the matter.

Goodale called the robocalls a “deplorable” attempt to undermine the work of the commission that should be fully investigated by the federal telecommunications regulator.




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Harper defends Conservative robocalls in Saskatchewan

  1. Harper said the commission expects to hear outside comment. “Those commissions accept and expect input from parliamentarians, from political parties and from the general public.”
    Yes, and the CPC is doing all in its power to ensure certain members of the general public provide CPC-preferred input to the committee. You can bet they aren’t push-polling anywhere that the boundary changes split in their favour.

  2. That robocall campaign wasn’t “input from parliamentarians, from political parties [or] from the general public” because it wasn’t directed to the body charged with receiving such input and formulating impartial recommendations thereon; nor was the source of this “input” identified as any of the above.

    It was an anonymous attempt to manipulate public opinion on a matter before an arms-length, independent commission.

    Harper stands, buttons his jacket, looks all statemanlike and reasonable, addresses the Speaker, and lies to the House…yet again.

  3. This government is circling the ethical drain.

  4. It seems almost unbelievable that we use an electoral system that has such a huge Achilles heel. Whether a boundary line is drawn ‘here’ or ‘there’ should not be able to have such a signifcant impact on overall election results.

    We should be looking for a system where you could split Saskatchewan in thin vertical ridings or thicker horizontal ridings or concentrically circular ridings centerd on Regina or perfect squares AND the net result would be the same: 9 CPC, 3 NDP and 1 LPC MPs go to Ottawa.

    That parties consider putting any effort at all into trying to skew the boundaries is a sign that we have a sub-optimal system.

  5. Canadian Constitution calls for Representation by Population and an equal amount of Voters in all riding’s, not 20,000 in one riding and 160,000 in another riding. Canada is not even close to being able to call itself a Democracy.

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