Sunday, March 18, 2012


There is a story within the robocall story that is perhaps equally as fascinating, primarily because the dynamics of such have ramifications well beyond this one issue. Amazed implies surprise, a better word might be confirmed, because watching the various reactions, over reaches, underminings, slants, one thing is clear, objective reads are rare, almost everyone seems to have an agenda, rendering underlying truths merely one facet of a confusing maelstorm.

Stephen Maher has it right, when asked to speculate on various directions, he returns to the facts as known to date, reiterates that if you focus on those alone, you have a fairly formidable issue. As well, I note people like Andrew Coyne continually reaffirming that we need to see where the facts take us, keep an open mind, let the evidence guide us where it will. Seems to me that viewpoint is the foundation of good journalism, makes a good historian, is a pre-requisite to any worthy inquiry. And yet, this sober, detached perspective seems to be a rare viewpoint, said with urgency in the face of strong, dismissive headwinds, as well as over the top implications.

I watched a respected professor the other day dismiss the robocall affair, not based on merit, but his own viewpoint that Ottawa was to consumed with scandal rather than real issues, our political class distracted by triviality while serious matters put on the back burner. I think most would agree with that sentiment, however in this instance I refer to that bias as "baggage", to make this robocall scandal bear the brunt of a larger trend has the effect of nullifying it's INDEPENDENT significance. It is irrelevant to questions of overall Ottawa culture, let's look at the unique merits of this particular issue, without bringing in all these preconceived wider narratives, it does a disservice to the fundamental democratic problems swirling around this story. Leave your biased baggage at the door please, your cultivated cynicism offers no insight to whether vote suppression is real or imagined, the dismissive tone is insulting.

On the other side, I've cautioned against the over reach, making certain claims which could well fall short, and in turn marginalize transgressions simply because of relativity. For example, let's say 31000 complaints to Elections Canada wasn't known, the now revealed 700 plus genuine complaints are seen in a different light. As it stands now, apologists have been given a talking point, because true reality appears less than previous forecasts, nothing on actual merit, just a lowered bar that was a created marker. As well, when partisans try to make this a national campaign, orchestrated by the top echelons of the Conservative machine, if we end up finding limited voter suppression, THOUSANDS of calls in a particular riding, the true implications are somehow lessened by artificial expectation.

Everyone acknowledges something "bad happened" in Guelph, but even here we see how agendas attempt to manipulate these accepted facts. The PMO feeding certain journalists information which acknowledges an alarming problem but carefully supports the "one off" resignation, supports an isolated event, which has no somehow morphed into a freebie of sorts. The entire Conservative campaign in Guelph is lawyered up and we all agree thousands of non supporters where given bogus information, but really is that a big deal? Only if you must implicate the entire Conservative apparatus, otherwise yes the facts alone represent the biggest attempt at voter fraud in Canadian history.

Keep your eye on agendas moving forward, because they exist beyond this one issue and an sense of true objective pursuit is the casualty. It is frankly astounding to hear so many people scoff, actively suppress, in the name of personal bent, cynical indifference or a larger agenda, both revealing and concerning all at once. The facts are speaking, hopefully they don't get lost in the political tug of war, sadly the proxy media war, and everyone else attaching their own personal pet peeves that do a disservice to the fundamentally important issues at hand.

1 comment:

Jerry Prager said...

RoboCon Time Capsule
Seen from today, one of the more startling aspects of the RoboCon live and automated calls story is just how much we already knew about how widespread it was nine months ago.How did we come to forget/accept all this? The depressing election results appear to have swept it all away.
May1, 2011 CBC : "....voters are being told to go to the wrong polling stations — some up to an hour away from their homes" in Winnipeg-South Centre and Kitchener-Waterloo.
May 2, 2011 Media Co-op :
"Residents from Prince George, BC, to St. John's, NL, are reporting receiving calls informing them that their local polling stations have been closed or have been moved.According to the CBC, Elections Canada was first contacted about the issue on Saturday. Since then, people from across the country have been reporting such calls, many saying they are receiving automated "robo-calls."
... Guelph, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton & Prince George."
May 2, 2011 CBC :
"Elections Canada has reports from at least 3 provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, and BC) of misleading phone calls, claiming to be from Elections Canada. They tell voters to go to other polling stations than the ones listed on their voter information cards, "due to high turnout."
CBC News has done some digging and when they called the 1-800 number left on the message, they got a recording saying the number was out of service. But CBC News traced a caller ID to an unlisted Montreal area code. It rang through to a pre-recorded message that said,
"Pierre?? (Inaudible) Uh oh. There's no room to record messages. Please hang up and try your call again later. Bye."
May 2, 2011 The Star "Elections Canada receptionist Adele McAlpina said she had received about 100 complaints by mid-morning." From one district. May 6, 2011 London Free PressLondon Lib MP reports calls from people saying the polls had been moved.
"His campaign office received complaints about the calls that "call display" features showed originated in Florida and the Dakotas, he said"
May 11 2011 CBC posted a recording of robocall purporting to be from Elections Canada about a bogus polling station change in Guelph. They also reported live harassment calls made in the middle of the night targeting "Oakville, St. Catharines, Haldimand-Norfolk, Simcoe Grey, Guelph, Eglinton-Lawrence, St. Paul's and Mississauga East-Cooksville. The calls were also made in Egmont, P.E.I., and St. Boniface, Man".

May 22, 2011 G&M :
Bogus phone messages that mislead voters about their polling stations have caused widespread disruptions in at least two provinces: Ontario and B.C. The false messages appear to be clustered primarily in ridings where close races are anticipated, meaning a small swing in voting preferences could mean the margin between victory and defeat.
Elections Canada returning officer said he received hundreds of complaints about it.

There are scads more of these news stories from the time of the last election. Note they contain peoples' names and statements and the many ridings they live in - thus making the Con strategy of calling it "a few mistakes" and trying to contain it to just Guelph more than a little ridiculous.

Bonus : Yesterday, an anonymous commenter linked to what MP Garth Turner had to say about the Cons' CIMS voter database back in October 2007 : Someone is watching you
"Conservatives were required to use the system to not only track a constituent's allegiance to the party, but also to collect personal information about constituents that might come to light when the constituent contacted the parliamentarian."Any time a constituent is engaged with a member of Parliament, they get zapped into the database," Turner said. "It's unethical and it's a shocking misuse of data."