The first law of holes is to stop digging when youre in one. For the past two weeks the Tories have been furiously tunnelling toward the centre of the Earth, with dirt flying and denials of voter suppression echoing from the bottomincluding Harpers coal-mining ballad about a smear campaign against the Conservatives.
The stakes couldnt be higher with the robo-calling controversy. If Canadian pundits position the evidence of voter suppression in the last federal election as just another political story to file before falling asleepand the people dont rise up to demand accountabilitythen the future of this country is in serious doubt. Well be Nigeria in all but name, and last thing well have to worry about is blowback from Internet banking scams and penis extension ads.
Harpers majority hinged on as little as 8,000 votes in the last election. And so far 31,000 Canadians have contacted Election Canada about calls, live and recorded, misdirecting them to nonexistent polling stations. We dont know how many voters were sidetrackedthe calls apparently targeted Liberal supportersbut whatever their effect, illegal activity accompanied the last federal election. Without a full public enquiry into the matter, at this stage the federal Conservatives cannot claim to govern with the peoples consent.
Some historical context here. At the 2003 Progressive Conservative convention, leadership candidate David Orchard brokered a deal with candidate Peter Mackay. Orchard sent delegates his way under the condition there would be no merger talks with The Alliance. (He has published this signed agreement online.) Then in October 2003, MacKay and Stephen Harper signed an agreement in principle to merge the Progressive Conservatives and the Alliance to form the new Conservative Party of Canada.
The rebranded Tory party was hatched through deception, full stop. But at least the antidemocratic dicking-around wasnt at the legislative level. That had to wait until December 2008, when Harper prorogued Parliament over a threatened nonconfidence vote from a coalition of Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc. He did it again a year later, citing the Olympics as a reason, rather than the ongoing investigations into treatment of Afghan detainees. Then in 2011, in a historic first for a sitting Canadian prime minister, the Commons Speaker ruled the Conservative government in contempt of Parliament, for stonewalling on crime-bill costs. The nation shrugged.
Each time this cabal screws around in the laboratory of democracy, they turn the Bunsen burner up another notch. And we, the sleepy amphibians in the pot, blithely paddle around as the mercury goes up. If there was ever a time to go ribbet, its nowbefore we start croaking.
On the robocalling issue, we have the what, the where, the when and the why. We have the how. Were even at the first level of who, by identifying some of the call companies involved. But dont be fooled if the Tories choose to throw a few disposable bodies from Guelph under the bus. A nation-wide phoning campaign using voter rolls that identify tens of thousands of Canadians was not hatched from the minds of overenthusiastic young Tories. It took considerably higher-level involvement, and a whole lot of bucks, to pull this off. This connects to the political culture around Harper the same way my foot has some distant connection to my thigh.
Harper was brought into office through the decade-long efforts of Alberta oil industry interests, right-wing think tanks, politically connected evangelical groups, U.S. corporate lobbyists/advisers, and national media apparatchiks. Yet Ill bet even some of these folkssome, not allhave a problem with voter suppression. I have a hard time imagining many Canadians wanting to see their kids grow up in a country where one person, one vote is replaced with a Mubarek-like one strongman, screw you.
On a personal note, I do funny drawings and rants about political figures for a living. In some parts of the world, that kind of gig can get you imprisoned or worse. I have a personal stake in desiring a country that doesnt muzzle scientists, blow billions on unneeded military jets, define environmentalists as terrorists, imprison backyard gardeners and spy on Internet users. Or suppress votes. And you do, too, because once this sort of thing begins, we have no idea how far down the hole well be taken.