Democracy, not robocracy

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VANCOUVER (CUP) – When it was announced that the first conviction had been doled out to a culprit of the Stanley Cup riots, people rejoiced. The general sentiment seemed to be that justice had finally been served. Yet when the story broke early last week suggesting that the last federal election had been littered with fraud, many labelled it as “typical dirty politics” instead of what it actually was: potentially illegal.

“This is simply a smear campaign, without any basis,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons on Feb. 29. He was referring to accusations against the Conservative party that suggested they were responsible for a series of “robocalls” during the last federal election.

The phone calls were made to potential voters, asking if the residents would be voting for the Liberal or NDP candidate in their riding. In some circumstances, the caller impersonated Elections Canada and told the would-be voter that their polling station had been moved.

The Conservatives soon began arguing that the whole situation was concocted by a bunch of “sore losers.” They went on to suggest that there was not enough evidence to support these claims – while voters from at least 38 ridings were simultaneously reporting they were victims of these robocalls.

Soon, they stopped trying to deflect questions and instead began trying to put the blame on the Liberal party. The Conservatives claimed that the Liberals had been using a phone company in North Dakota to make these calls, but the NDP was quick to point out that there were two companies, the other one in Canada, who were unrelated but had similar names. Liberal MP Frank Valeriote told CBC that “it is ridiculous to think that Liberals would try and suppress their own voters from coming out to vote.”

The robocall issue is going to be on the table for a while, particularly as Elections Canada decides to what extent they are going to investigate given the fact that some 31,000 people have now come forward to complain about robocalls during the election. In the meantime, nearly 40,000 Canadians have signed an online petition demanding that a full public inquiry is conducted. Although many MPs have also expressed their anger and frustration regarding various facets of the scandal, we still don’t know precisely what happened.

People are angry, and with just cause. Something is going on, but the only way we’re going to find out is if the authorities take charge. Instead of initiating a rapid inquiry, as Rex Murphy pointed out on CBC’s The National, “Mr. Harper is wearing his injured, angry face.”

Politicians need to be held responsible for their actions, just like everyone else. They are Canadian citizens, and should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law – after all, they are the ones making those laws. The robocalls affected individuals' ability to vote, and no one should be allowed to take away that most fundamental right that is the basis of democracy.

Politics are integral to the way we live in Canada. Certainly, they can be trying at times, but that is no reason to ignore them altogether. Why are we able to celebrate someone being punished for destroying physical property, yet are only mildly irritated by the robocalls that could amount to destroying our democracy. This can’t be reduced simply to dirty politics.

As Rick Mercer aptly pointed out, “We have always agreed that voting is a fundamental right. This is not a left or a right thing, this is just a thing. If we don’t believe in that, what else do we have to believe in?”

Samantha Thompson
Capilano Courier (Capilano University)

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