The Commons: Two wrongs make a farce

Nycole Turmel wanted to talk about the apparently impending confession of Pierre Poutine

by Aaron Wherry

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

The Scene. Nycole Turmel wanted to talk about the apparently impending confession of Pierre Poutine. Pierre Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph. Ms. Turmel wanted to propose a public inquiry. Mr. Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph.

Switching to English, Ms. Turmel presented an itemized list of grievances.

“Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board said he wants to change the culture of Ottawa,” he noted. “Changing the culture, like replacing Liberal scandals with Conservative scandals? A culture where people can rig elections? A culture where the Prime Minister does not answer questions? A culture with no accountability, no transparency? A culture of denial and partisan attacks? If the Prime Minister wanted to change the culture, he must take responsibility. Will he?”

The President of the Treasury Board actually spoke this weekend of changing to a culture where tax dollars are spent prudently. (“The real job that we have to accomplish is change the culture in official Ottawa from one of being spending enablers to one of being cost containers,” Tony Clement mused, apparently daring everyone within earshot to chuckle at the irony.) But the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary would not even protest this much, the government having apparently decided that the content of the opposition’s questions is now entirely irrelevant.

“Mr. Speaker, last week, the Liberal leader indicated that suggestions being brought forward by myself and this party were indeed wacko,” Mr. Del Mastro reported, in response to no one in particular. “Unfortunately, they have proven to be absolutely true because we now know that the member for Guelph in fact paid for illegal robocalls that concealed the fact that the calls came from his Liberal campaign. Liberals used a bogus number, a fictitious character. They broke the CRTC regulations. They broke Elections Canada laws.”

The NDP’s Charlie Angus stood and ventured a justification for these 45 minutes on the daily schedule. “Mr. Speaker, Canadians want answers to the ever-widening pattern of voter suppression that happened under the Conservatives,” he declared.

On that note, Mr. Angus returned to apparently imminent confession of Mr. Poutine. “That is a good start, but who paid for those calls?” he asked. “Who provided the scripts and why are they the same scripts that are being used in other ridings? Is there something else the government would like to tell us about its role in this before it comes to a public inquiry?”

There were at least three questions here, perhaps as many as four. Mr. Del Mastro acknowledged none of them. In fact, here Mr. Del Mastro very nearly inverted the entire notion of Question Period. “What we have learned and this is what the Liberal leader must respond to, is that the Liberal leader provided training sessions by four Liberal members at one o’clock on Saturday, April 30,” the parliamentary secretary explained. “They trained them on Liberal robocalls.”

Mr. Angus again thought it necessary to clarify matters. “Mr. Speaker, the issue here is not the incompetence of the Liberals with their campaigns,” he explained. “It is about voter fraud that happened under the Conservatives.”

Squaring up to the government side, Mr. Angus repeated his concerns, chopping his hand and jabbing his finger for the sake of keeping everyone’s attention.

“Who paid for those scripts? Who gave him the money to make those calls? Why did he have access to the national Conservative database?” he asked. “Do the Conservatives really think that Canadians are going to believe that the guy who named himself after cheese curds and gravy is behind this, as though he is some kind of robofraud equivalent of Dr. Evil? When are the Conservatives going to come clean with their involvement in this coordinated campaign of voter harassment?”

There were five identifiable questions here, including a reference to a popular movie starring a beloved Canadian actor. That was enough to elicit a passing acknowledgement from Mr. Del Mastro. “Mr. Speaker, once again,” he sighed, “it is the unsubstantiated smear campaign of the NDP.”

Then it was back to what a Liberal MP had done in his campaign for the riding of Guelph and how terrible that had been.

Rising then for his first opportunity, the interim Liberal leader attempted to make something of this. “Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member is so certain about his phony allegations,” Bob Rae charged, “perhaps he would agree with me that the time has now come for a royal commission into what happened in the last election.”

The Conservatives present descended into an uproarious fit of giggles and guffaws.

The Stats. Ethics, 18 questions. Air Canada, three questions. Government spending, search and rescue, aboriginal affairs, health care and employment, two questions each. Crime, foreign investment, Syria, the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, infrastructure and the budget, one question each.

Dean Del Mastro, eight answers. Pierre Poilievre, five answers. Peter MacKay, four answers. Denis Lebel and Lisa Raitt, three answers each. Tim Uppal, John Duncan, Colin Carrie, Diane Finley and Ted Menzies, two answers each. Julian Fantino, Rob Nicholson, Christian Paradis, Bev Oda, Peter Van Loan and Peter Penashue, one answer each.

The Commons: Two wrongs make a farce

  1. It’s amazing how badly Cons have handled this situation.

    Had they simply announced an investigation in the first place, it could have been backburnered.

    Now they are keeping it alive themselves and making it worse…. one drip at a time

      • This comment was deleted.

        • This comment was deleted.

          • This comment was deleted.

        • This comment was deleted.

          • This comment was deleted.

    • Elections Canada has been investigating with the RCMP’s help.

      Former EC boss JP Kingsley says EC has all the power and resources it needs to get the job done.

      What are you complaining about?

    • Yes, they have handled sooooo badly that they haven’t lost any voter support….amazing!

      • Actually they have, but you don’t want to know that.

        • Did you NOT read the article that YOU are providing the link for…”same support as last November”.  Emily, denial doesn’t suit you even though you wear it so often.

          • I’m not going to answer you in 6 different places

            Harp only won by 6000 votes…and you’ve lost the swing votes since May.

            It’s just your same old crowd.

  2. I highly doubt there will be any kind of serious investigation into electoral fraud. As far as I can tell, Elections Canada investigates complaints and just makes sure there is no widespread corruption of voting process. Partisans in each party will lie, cheat and steal for their side to win and its near impossible to eliminate it entirely but it’s kept to a minimum because Canadians are honest and mostly indifferent to politics. Small amount of corruption, dodgy practices from each major party cancels each other out. 

    It is starting to sound like Libs and Cons partisans in Guelph got over heated and took things too far. People should be punished for their actions but I doubt there will be much more to this story because all political parties are slightly corrupt when their actions are closely examined. 

    Postmedia News ~ Feb 29 2012:

    Elections Canada is failing in its mandate to thwart electoral scams and publicly hold fraudsters to account, the Ottawa-based advocacy group Democracy Watch said Tuesday, as the robocall scandal continued to shake the Harper government’s majority mandate.

    “Here we are 144 years since Canada became a so-called democracy and no one can tell whether Elections Canada is enforcing the federal election law fairly and properly because it has kept secret its investigations and rulings on more than 2,280 complaints since 2004,” said spokesman Tyler Sommers.

    A total of 1,334 complaints were filed with Elections Canada in the 2004, 2006, and 2008 federal elections, according to the agency’s post-poll reports. Concerning the 2011 election alone, however, Elections Canada received 1,872 complaints about accessibility problems, 2,956 emails complaining of voting rule confusion in the Guelph area, and 1,003 complaints about other issues.

      • Great link Emily….the same poll says that the Torys still are out ahead with voters.  You are right, they don’t need anyone to defend them…..once people learned that the Libs were making underhanded robocalls and clogging up the lines at Elections Canada with petitions instead of concrete proof, Canadians decided they backed the right party in 2011 afterall.  Maybe an independent inquiry would expose things about all of the parties that might show us that none of them have much honor.  Afterall, we already know that the NDP made some nasty calls using a robo system.

        • Actually it would be a minority govt….and it’s the same base Harp has always had.

          You folks never smarten up….you just start fieldmouse training

          • Well that poll has Conservative support sitting at 37%, the same place it was sitting at last November…gee another less than 3%….an independent inquiry might just push voters over 40%.  The Conservative base is actually around 32 to 33%.

          • Harp only won by 6000 votes…and you’ve lost the swing votes since May.

          • Harper is about where the polls said he was on election day.

            And he got a majority.

            Remember the polls never predicted a majority.

            Neither did you for that matter.

    • Notwithstanding liberal foolishness ( and apparent illegality) the two cases are not analogous at all. No doubt other liberal bungles will surface, but there are wide spread allegations of Tory robocalls attempting to mislead voters; this is More serious by an order of magnitude.

      • And if I accused the Conservatives of running a slave trading organiztion, that would be an even more serious allegation.

        Except, allegations are nothing more than that.  The Liberal breach isn’t an allegation.  It is beyond a doubt that it happened and in fact they’ve been forced to admit it.

        • And the liberal breach is not part of an organized attempt to suppress the vote, alleged or not.That’s why we are having an EC sponsored investigation, unless by chance you’ve forgotten.

          But carry on conflating the two – it’s your job i suppose.

    • “It is starting to sound like Libs and Cons partisans in Guelph got over heated and took things too far.”

      From Stephen Harper’s spin doctors to your comment box.

      Not only is that characterization completely ridiculous, it’s exactly the sort of thing we should expect from the Cons at this point: keep muddying the waters with false equivalencies and accusations and hope Canadians come to exactly this bullsh*t conclusion.

      • Guelph Mercury – March 10

        Greg Schirk had written the 33-second automated call off as just another nuisance call, typical of those received during any election campaign.

        But the Guelph Progressive Conservative candidate in the last provincial election went looking for the message, still saved in his email, this week in defence of a fellow Tory suddenly under scrutiny in the ongoing probe of deceptive “robocalls” during the last federal election campaign.

        The call, including a recorded woman’s voice claiming to be “Lori McDonald of Guelph,” expresses concern about a story in that day’s Mercury which indicated Conservative candidate Marty Burke was staunchly opposed to abortion.

        Schirk said he attempted to call back the cellphone number which showed up on his call display — 226-209-3758 — but found it is not in service. He said he has not shared the call with investigators from Elections Canada and is not sure whether to do so.

        • One of these things is not like the other.

          By the sounds of things, the Liberal campaign was robocalling voters, with true information and failing to identify the source of the call. This is really sh*tty and probably illegal, but didn’t rob any body of their opportunity to vote.

          Somebody – it seems to have been the Conservative party – created robocalls that impersonated Elections Canada and tried to trick voters into missing their opportunity to vote. This seems to have been repeated across the country and extended into counterfeit “Elections Canada” mail notices.

          It’s not good enough to say “a pox on both their houses, and everybody is breaking the rules.” Voter suppression is a whole different category and must be treated as such.

          Funny, all the anger on the right could be really useful now. If only Con defenders (and Liberal haters) would be angry at the principle that somebody is f*cking with Canadians’ right to vote, things might move a lot faster. But it seems to be party before country, now more than ever.

          If it were the Liberals running a voter suppression scheme, things would be different.

          • I live in Guelph, and whatever else occurred during federal election, last week of 2011 campaign will enter Guelph folklore. For people who follow/care about politics, it is all they are talking about. Partisans from multiple parties were naughty, naughty boys. 

          • Really.

            You’re not even willing to acknowledge that an active campaign of voter suppression is materially different from the usual petty campaign malfeasance.

            Well, at least there’s no more question which party can count on your reliable, if indirect support. No matter how much you grouse about the Cons, there’s no whore like an old whore.

  3. Man the house could use a speaker.

  4. The Budget will be tabled in two weeks and only one question about it and the economy.
    Why do politicians not listen to the people when they say that jobs and the overall economy are the most important?
    Enough robocalling.
    Everybody get back to work.

    • This comment was deleted.

      • This comment was deleted.

        • This comment was deleted.

    • How do we really know what the people want, when the only way the people get to express their desires looks to have been subjected to organised fraud?
      It’s not hard, if seats were gained via illegal means then the message that we received back then is incorrect and needs rectifying.
      Otherwise we aren’t listening to the people, we are listening to the words of the crooks who silenced them.

      • It seems that Guelph was the riding where all the shenanigans happened and the Liberals won there easily.
        Take what you want from that, but there are some areas where the Conservatives cannot beat the Liberals.

        • EC looking into similar issues 18 vote margin in Nipissing—Timiskaming.

        • Somebody has been studying the data and drafted a paper on the topic
          “I show that those polling stations with predominantly nonconservative voters experienced a decline in voter turnout from 2008 to 2011, and that this effect was larger in ridings that were allegedly targeted by the fraudulent phone calls.”
          http://worthwhile.typepad.com/robocalls.pdf

          • Somebody could also draft a paper showing that Liberal turnout for elections has been dropping for 4 or 5 straight elections. A trend is not a sign of a scandal, it’s a sign that the party is dying.

          • Your scenario means nothing of the sort, it means a party “might” be dying. But nice try at playing with stats.

            That aside did I mention the Liberals in my post? I believe the subject group was “nonconservative voters.”

            It really is hard talking to the water carriers of the extreme right when they insist on answering points that they wish had been made, rather than those that were. You’re as bad as Dean dM, if it ain’t on the script your can’t say it.

  5. Best comment ever

    Anti-Harper crowd chase their tails

    Editorial, The Toronto Sun
    “Oh. My. God. The election must be a fraud. These are all media-led campaigns, of course. Neither the Liberals or the NDP have the brains to lead, so they follow the scent that the consensus media leaves as a slick. It is getting them nowhere.”

    http://www.torontosun.com/2012/03/05/anti-harper-crowd-chase-their-tails

    •  You quote the Toronto Sun like it’s a real newspaper.

      • Oh I would put it in with the likes of the Tyee, Vancouver Observer, Georgia Straight, etc., lol

        31,000 complaint calls, 30,000 from Leadnow .ca groupies.

        “Once again, the anti-Harper crowd — the opposition, the left-wing media in the Ottawa bubble — are off chasing the latest shiny ball, hoping this one has more substance than glitter.

        They love chasing shiny balls.

        Their hatred of the Harper conservatives have had them chasing the insult of prorogation, the death of the long-form census, the so-called in-and-out scandal, the treatment of Afghan detainees, et cetera.

        They might as well have been chasing their tails since Canadians obviously paid them no heed.”

  6. Big deal, so what, and who cares… We “Liberals” are guilty of electoral fraud… again… so what. This smear campaign is about “getting” the Cons… not about the facts… Aaron knows that and so do the rest of us “Liberal”/NDPeers. If the Cons think for a minute that the absence of proof against them is going to stop us and our allies like Goerge Soros and Aaron from continuing our witch hunt then they are sadly mistaken. How far are we “Liberals”/ NDPQ, foreign agitaters and our media whores willing to go… just watch us… Okay, I’ll admit the only proven fraud so far goes against us “Liberals” ( way to go Valiorette, good job ) but that shouldn’t stop us from lynching the Cons without proof anyhow. Why must facts get in the way of a carefully planned dirty tricks campaign. If citizens of Canada refuse to vote for us “Liberals” then we will seize power anyway possible… just watch us… We’re coming to get you Cons, elections be damned… George Soros, avass.org. Leadnow, and our media will not stop until we can over throw the elected Government of Canada, and there is nothing the Cons can do to stop it… STOP “HARPER”!!!

  7. I am deeply saddened that Jon Stewart does not have a Canadian edition.

  8. Two wrongs Mr. Wherry?

    I believe we have:

    one completely unsubstantiated accusation directed at the Liberal party (robocall thus far baseless smear), and

    one completely verifiable, and beyond any doubt, calling by the Liberal party without party identification.

    Indeed, if there are two wrongs here, they would appear to be both committed by the Liberals.

  9. Robocalls, 18 questions.

    Budget, 1 question.

    In a nutshell, why our opposition parties are barely making a dent in the Conservatives’ lead in the polls.  They spend way too much time listening to themselves and their obsessive, partisan hack supporters, and not nearly enough time listening to what normal people care about.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *