Saturday, February 25, 2012

Canada's Watergate

Canada looks to be following the United States of forty years ago. In January 2006, Canada had a federal election in which the Conservative Party of Canada won a minority government. Subsequently it was found that the Conservative Party had misused funds in that election, and the party was found in contempt of parliament. That contempt finding triggered another election in 2011. (There was another federal election in 2008, but the fraudulent use of funds were not public at that time, so the triggered election did not happen until 2011).

In the federal election of May 2011, the Conservative Party won their first majority government. Many Canadians seemed shocked that the Conservatives could win a majority given their illegal behaviour in the 2006 election that triggered the election in the first place. But, many people put the win down to a number of voters, particularly in Ontario, who typically vote for the Liberal Party and who worried about a surge by the leftish New Democratic Party (NDP). Afraid that the NDP might end up winning a majority, many voters seemed to vote stragegically and chose the Conservative Party over their traditional choice of the Liberal Party, since they felt that the Conservatives more closely resembled their idea of sound fiscal management than did the NDP.

However, just this week news surfaced that during the 2011 election automated telephone calls instructed voters to go to the wrong polling stations or to a location in which there was no polling station at all. Therefore these potential voters did not have an opportunity to cast their vote or to have it count. The automated phone calls (robocalls) originated from a company called Racknine which was hired by the Conservative Party during the 2011 election. The day after the news broke, 23-year old Conservative staffer Michael Sona lost his job as a result.

In the Watergate scandal, it took some time but in the end it became clear that the inappropriate behaviour reached to the very highest level of government, to President Nixon himself. One doesn't know yet how high this election fraud reaches, but one has a hard time believing that a single 23-year old party staffer is the only culprit. I think that this scandal actually might have the steam to bring down the government.

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