Let’s rewind the clock. It’s late April, 2011- mere weeks left in the federal election campaign. The Liberals under Michael Ignatieff have spectacularly imploded, and Jack Layton is coming thisclose to actually getting the keys to 24 Sussex Drive. We all know how it ended; The Liberals lost their Official Opposition status to Layton and the NDP, sliding into a dismal third place finish.
Fast forward to now- approximately a year later. There are now allegations of fraud, and Elections Canada is now looking into 31 thousand robo-call complaints. This could turn criminal as the agency has called in the R.C.M.P to investigate. As the saying goes where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That’s too many people to be a mere coincidence, too much allegedly illicit behavior to ignore. And it does make me angry to think someone somewhere would presume to try and take away people’s votes… this is Canada for goodness sake one of the standard bearers for democracy.
Here’s a question for the ages: If we knew about the robo-call scandal then would it have really changed the outcome that much? I’d say no. I would argue that there are too many other mitigating factors to tell if Robo-calls would’ve made much of a difference.
Voter turnout was so low partly because of the election timing. the 2011 federal election was the second of three elections in the space of a calendar year (October 2010- municipal elections, and October 2011 provincial elections to come). The electorate was tired out; everywhere we looked there was a politician promising us something if we voted for them.
And then you have the Liberals. Their campaign imploded almost from the first day when Michael Ignatieff fell right into the trap of mentioning the word “coalition.” Not even former Prime Ministers Paul Martin, and Jean Chretien could help as they campaigned with the party close to election day. Ignatieff’s personality was enough to put off even the most faithful Liberal voter, as that party’s supporters ended up turning away and either voting Conservative, NDP or just staying home.
It was more than just Jack Layton’s personality going for the N.D.P. It was a positive message that cut through the negativity being put forward by the other two parties. It was the party’s determination to stick to their policies instead of playing in the mud with the others, as well as Canadians’ thirst to believe that things could be different in Canadian politics.
We’ll never know for certain whether the robo-call scandal affected the results, or whether it was one of these other factors. To try and apply it retroactively is madness. Our system doesn’t have any mechanisms in it to allow for recall, or to force another election in the majority setting. The Governor General was appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, and is bound by the constitution to obey a government so long as it sits in office. Besides honestly, another election won’t solve anything- and would leave the country a few hundred million shorter. And I think something similar can be said of holding by-elections. But holding them would be a sign that allegations are being taken seriously.
If fraud was committed, someone will pay for it either through the justice system, or at the ballot box in the next election because Canadians will remember this. I think it’s pointless to try and play revisionist history with this and say that robo-calls had a big impact on the results when there’s so many other factors to consider.