The Commons: Robocalls in human form

As far as the government is concerned, it’s the opposition that’s to blame for all these mischievous phone calls

The Scene. Nycole Turmel wondered if the Prime Minister might wish to take a moment to correct the official record.

Last week, she recounted, Mr. Harper had said that only the Liberal party had been involved with American firms to facilitate its telephone campaigning. Alas, she explained, it turned out the Conservative party—or at least some of its candidates—had done likewise. Would the Prime Minister admit that he was wrong? she wondered. And, furthermore, would he admit that the Conservative party had made fraudulent calls?

The Prime Minister was unmoved. “Mr. Speaker, I gave clear answers regarding the activities of the Conservative party of Canada,” he professed. “All this information has been available to Elections Canada since the beginning. Now is the time for the opposition, which has spent millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of phone calls, to give all its information to Elections Canada.”

Ms. Turmel tried again. Mr. Harper, switching to English, repeated himself.

“Of course,” he assured, “I answered questions very clearly about the activities of the Conservative party of Canada. Those calls are all very well documented. All that documentation is available to Elections Canada, and has been available since the beginning. What is not available is all of the information that is coming from the opposition, the NDP in particular. There is a complete lack of transparency on the hundreds of thousands of calls that they made. They should give that information to Elections Canada.”

If the government’s implication was not obvious as yet, the Prime Minister’s dutiful parliamentary secretary made matters clear a moment later.

“The opposition paid millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of phone calls,” Dean Del Mastro read aloud from the script on his desk. “Before continuing these baseless smears, they should prove that their own callers are not behind these reports.”

The government claims innocence and, indeed, must be regarded as such until proven guilty. But so far as the Conservatives are now concerned, the opposition parties are perhaps guilty until they can prove themselves innocent.

The NDP’s Pat Martin was unimpressed. “We do not want any smartass gibberish from the member for Peterborough,” he clarified. “We have had enough of that.”

The Conservatives, so solemn in their regard for the sanctity and dignity of parliamentary proceedings, howled. Two backbenchers motioned for Mr. Martin to be thrown out. ”Mr. Speaker, when the honourable member makes comments like that, he does not just demean this House, he is in fact demeaning millions of voters who cast legitimate votes in the last election,” moaned Mr. Del Mastro, proceeding then to repeat his suggestion that perhaps the opposition parties were to blame for all these mischevious phone calls.

Bob Rae, the interim Liberal leader, was moved to quip. “Mr. Speaker,” he sighed, “I wonder if getting the same answer twice qualifies as a robo-answer.”

Mr. Rae asked the Prime Minister why the government side had recently opposed expanding the investigative powers of the chief electoral officer. The Prime Minister pretended not to notice. Mr. Rae asked again. The Prime Minister again pretended not to notice. Mr. Rae asked for a third time. And for a third time the Prime Minister pretended not to notice.

“Mr. Speaker, with great respect, the Prime Minister is simply not answering the question,” Mr. Rae protested.

“The real question here is why the leader of the Liberal Party would make allegations about calls purporting to come from Liberals without checking his own records and providing that to Elections Canada?” Mr. Harper asked, perhaps misunderstanding the format of Question Period. “Why is he afraid to do that?”

For the sake of making a more efficient use of his time, Mr. Harper might as well have provided Peter Van Loan with a tape recording and instructions to press play at the appropriate time.

Charlie Angus inquired as to a new report that payments by the Conservative campaign in Guelph to a robocall firm in Edmonton were not disclosed to Elections Canada. Mr. Del Mastro stood and repeated himself. Mr. Angus stood and asked if the government might explain its dealing with a firm called RMG. Mr. Del Mastro stood and repeated himself.

“What a joke!” called a voice.

The NDP’s David Christopherson stood and—repeating Mr. Rae’s question—asked why the government had blocked new investigative powers for the chief electoral officer. Mr. Del Mastro stood and repeated himself. “These exaggerated allegations demean the millions of voters who had cast legitimate votes in the last election,” he cried.

It is unclear whether Shelly Glover and Patricia Davidson—two Conservative MPs who have reported phone calls misdirecting voters in their ridings—are meant to take this personally. It is unclear whether Mr. Del Mastro counts his own allegations among the unfortunate claims being made. It is unclear whether Mr. Del Mastro wishes for voters reporting fraudulent calls to now apologize. And it is unclear how those who intended to vote, but didn’t after turning up at the wrong polling station, fit into Mr. Del Mastro’s equation.

But Mr. Christopherson was not interested in parsing. ”Mr. Speaker, the member needs to know that this has to stop,” he demanded. “There is a legitimate, separate question being asked here.”

Now, apparently, this entire system of accountable government was at stake.

“The government has an obligation to provide an answer about why it denied the Chief Electoral Officer the power he requested to make sure everybody in here is telling the truth. Every province in this country has given that power to their chief electoral officer, but the Government of Canada is refusing to give the federal Chief Electoral Officer these powers,” Mr. Christopherson continued, his voice rising and rising, his finger wagging and jabbing. “I ask again. Defend yourself. Why are you denying the Chief Electoral Officer the right to have the…”

The New Democrats and Liberals rose up around him to cheer, drowning out his final words.

“Let us be clear,” Mr. Del Mastro graciously offered. “The former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley has said that Elections Canada does have all the investigative ability and authority that it requires in this matter.”

Here then, an applicable sentence. A rather debatable assertion—seeming to ignore the current chief electoral officer’s position—but a sentence that could be applied to the question asked all the same.

And now then, back to the script.

“This is yet another example,” Mr. Del Mastro segued, “of exaggerated allegations which demean the millions of voters who had cast legitimate votes in the last election.”

So are some 14,823,408 of us demeaned. Those of you who failed to exercise your right can at least take solace in not having to take any of this personally.

The Stats. Ethics, 18 questions. Health care, five questions. Government spending, four questions. Fisheries, three questions. Veterans, two questions. Aboriginal affairs, railways, infrastructure, crime and Internet access, one question each.

Dean Del Mastro, nine answers. Stephen Harper, seven answers. Shelly Glover, five answers. Colin Carrie and Keith Ashfield, four answers each. Pierre Poilievre, three answers. Steven Blaney, two answers. John Duncan, Denis Lebel, Rona Ambrose, Vic Toews and Christian Paradis, one answer each.

The Commons: Robocalls in human form

  1. Harper’s answers may have been clear but they were inaccurate.  Would it kill him to retract them and offer an apology? 

    • apologies are for limp wristed liberals, weak kneed socialists and those who cannot escape through obfuscation, denial, playground reversal or outright lies.

    • Check out the site   leadnow.ca   before you start pointing fingers at the Tories.

      Set up by Liberal and NDP supporters to submit their ‘Robocall Concerns’ to the Chief Electoral Officer. Point and click people, then you too can be part of the phony Opposition stats.

      • An online petition demanding a public inquiry – what is wrong with that?

    • What context could justify violations of the Elections Act?  It is disrepectful of democracy to suggest there is any excuse for violating the Elections Act, or to pretend hyperbolic inaccuracies are a clear response.

  2. Anyone asks a question; CPC response?;  ”I’m offended!”

    • I think they are mispronouncing “offensive”, but that might just be me.
      ;-)

  3. Harper and his bench stained codpieces sicken me
    that is all

  4. When Del Mastro said  “Before continuing these baseless smears, they should prove that their own callers are not behind these reports” he got it wrong.  

    He should have said ‘Before we continue these baseless smears, we should prove that our own callers are not behind these reports.’

    • He seems to have confused anus with onus.

  5. Mr speaker…Is there a speaker in the house?

  6. Once again, Pat Martin makes a fool of himself and his nutty party. 

    • Martin exemplifies the hysterical left that simply cannot live quietly with the fact that Canadians chose a strong Conservative majority government.

      Ironically, the more he blows the more he guarantees another Conservative majority.
      Constant media reports, relentless opposition digging and now EA complaint forms have not found one single voter who was prevented from voting his choice.

      • 60% of Canadians didn’t vote for Harper.

        Enough with the bullcrap

        • Only 11% of eligible voters voted Liberal.

          • 60% didn’t vote Con

            Pay attention.

          • Your original statement was that 60% didn’t vote for Harper.

            Actually its closer to 99.9% since he was only on the ballot in one out of 308 ridings.

          • 80% didn’t vote socialist, er uh, NDP
            90% didn’t vote Lieberal
            99% didn’t vote booger, er uh, Green

            And just for completeness… 60+% didn’t vote Lieberal in any of their majorities either. Point?? And why, exactly, is it a problem now when it was no problem at all then?

            Hmmm…?? 

            The horse is dead. Get over it already.

        • Right and using that logic:
           
          70% of the country didn’t vote for the NDP
          94% percent didn’t vote for the Bloq
          96% didn’t vote for the Greens
          81 % didn’t vote for the Liberals

          • Doesn’t matter what else they voted or didn’t vote for, they don’t like Harper.

            He doesn’t have the popular support Cons keep claiming he does.

          • OriginalEmily1: *with fingers in ears*… lalalalalalala can’t hear you lalalalalalalala cons suck lalalalalala

            hilarious

            ok everyone, let’s all stop poking the leftist troll and get back to work. fun’s over. :D

          • @e8b625bbecddbf49de7837dc5be111d0:disqus 

            Ahhh I see the Con intellectuals have shown up.

          • actually only 61% of the eligible voters bothered in the last election.  What does that tell you?  Approximately 20% of the eligible voters (give or take) vote for Mr. Harper.  If that bothers you, then either vote, or if you did, figure out how to keep the tories out of office.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.  For instance, I believe in John Bairds riding if people other than supporters of Mr Baird had voted strategically than the tories wouldn’t have won that seat.  If you can’t wrap your head around it, then come up with another solution.  The right does it.  Thats why you have one conservative party instead of two

      • Second week in, you still don’t grasp what voter suppression is, or at least pretend not to.

        • Actually it`s the 42nd week in, since it has been 42 weeks since this massive vote suppression thing happened, unless, of course, you don`t count the first 40 weeks before memories were prompted.

          It`s kind of like the tree in the forest;
           It didn`t happen if it wasn`t reported.

          • Except it was reported…..way back in May of last year when the election took place.

            This one’s a loser Ellen…try an easier question

          • It was actually reported way back in 2008 out on the Island in Vancouver, but naive us didn’t think any of us would sink this low…
            Silly us

          • Yabbut, I thought the CPC considered unreported crime to be a serious phenomenon. Now it doesn’t? Please dis-confuse the unwashed here.

          • I like to call it situational logic.

          • So you are unaware of the number of calls that were reported on and around the date of the election?  The tree analogy doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, does it?

          •  ”It`s kind of like the tree in the forest;
             It didn`t happen if it wasn`t reported.”

            Another one of these unreported crimes that justifies building more prisons?

      • Strong? Really?
        Yet another groupie who will tolerate any number of dishonest acts because her man is doing it.
        Stop, it’s not a hockey game anybody with a functioning brain can see that Harper was wrong when he said the Liberals were the only ones who used US agencies. One they didn’t and two his own party did.
        What part of those facts do you have problems with Ellen?
        If you want to support your team there is a better way of doing it in the political realm than tolerating petulance and lies. If you want to condone that off to the rink with you.

      • You two clowns actually think you’re hilarious, don’t you?

  7. What a joke the house of commons has become. The CPC has spun, twisted and distorted the truth for years and seem, since their stolen “majority” win, to have become more comfortable with blatant  lying, and an outright arrogance and disrespect. Not only for the opposition MPs but for Canadians who would like to see some sembalance of honest debate and not this farcical theatre of consistently responding to uncomfortable questions/accusations with bullying, dissembling, dishonesty. Three more years of it…. Democracy at its finest.

  8. Why have legitimate answers to legitimate questions when you are an illegitimate government?  The Harper party – no legitimacy.

  9. Your stats are corrupted. Many of those ‘answers’ were repetitions of a previous ‘answer’. Saying the same thing three times is not the same as giving three answers.  I object!

  10. Seriously, though.  This is painful to read and watch.  These people are being paid to act in a more respectful manner than this.  By which I mean respect for the voters who placed them in the House and respect for the protocol of the House. 

  11. Enough with this nonsense. This party has already destroyed three of our federal parties (the Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals, and the Bloc). It is time, for the same to happen to them. If Elections Canada fails to deregister the CPC it is time for the Canadian people, conservative, separatist, liberal, whatever – to end them, once and for all. Conservatives deserve better representation than this. Much better.

    • If history is to repeat itself, they will auto-destruct. 

  12. To be fair, we are dealing with Canada’a wannabe wing of the GOP who are more interested in reducing politics to a cheap PR exercise over governing based on tangible civic concerns.

  13.  Thank you!  It is extremely frustrating to hear the same non-answers endlessly repeated.

    •  ”Oh, is it now?” – Dean Del Mastro

    •   “Oh, is it now?” – Dean Del Mastro

    •   “Oh, is it now?” – Dean Del Mastro

  14. SO DAMN FRUSTRATING TO READ!!!!  I’m glad I’m not involved in politics!

  15. Clearly, labeling Conservatives’ talking points as “answers” in your stats is misleading. For the purpose of clarity and accuracy, perhaps you should in future limit the description to “Dean Del Mastro, offended nine times. Stephen Harper, offended seven times. Shelly Glover, offended five times…”

    I didn’t hear a single answer to questions asked.

  16. To quote another cynic: Copycat
    behaviorv

    “Robin-M

    12:31 PM on March 6,
    2012  reference Robocall

    Here
    is Stephen Harper in his own words… during ADSCAM directed to the leader Jean
    Chretien at that time:

    ” At worst, he personally ordered it done and chose the people who
    executed the plan. At the very least, he fostered an attitude within the party
    [...], chose the managers of the people who committed these crimes and
    completely and utterly failed to exercise any oversight, supervision or
    leadership. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where [his] actions or lack of
    them fall on that scale. He is the leader and a leader is responsible for the
    actions of the people he leads. If he had a right or honourable bone in his body,
    he’d admit that and resign immediately.”

    Funny how Harper can dictate with moralistic fervor when the finger is pointing
    at someone else. But declines transparency when it is directed in his
    direction.

    He could at least try to be original.

  17. Apology and honesty are not a sign of weakness, denial is. I hope more and more people sit up and notice that this whole affair has nothing to do with robocalls, but with the way the conservatives have handled the situation. They say “let us be clear,” and than say something that isn’t clear. It makes me think of a child who denies something even when it makes no difference to just answer truthfuly. The conservatives spend so much time trying to side-step questions that it takes away from theire ability to govern properly.

  18. The CPC aparently take the name of Question Period quite seriously – i.e. questions only; no answers. Why do they even bother to show up? The opposition would get more honest answers from the empty seats.

    And the Speaker is an embarrassment to the institution.

    If the Cons are so worried about who is insulting voters, let me make it clear: THEY ARE. All their blather and non-answers are insulting to Canadians. They clearly have no respect for the electorate or the democratic institution they were chosen to represent. And their behaviour and dodging of questions make people like me, who was initially willing to give them the benefit of doubt (i.e. maybe it was a rogue operative) think they really do have something to hide.

  19. What’s with PM Harper can’t he pick someone to answer for him that doesn’t have a Rush Limbaugh attitude, we had to put up with that Baird fella ranting like a crazy person, and now Del Masto a character right out of the Sorpranos. we know he’s lying because his lips are moving.
    There are no statesmen in this goverment every time there is an issue we have to listen weeks of blaming someone else, just solve the problem and move on FFS.

  20. This is the most disgusting, unethical and perfidious government in Canadian history, and its leader is a mean-spirited, conniving, lying, cheating, bullying thug.   I wish there was some way to bring these criminals to a court of law to be charged with contempt of Parliament and the people of Canada. 

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