March 2, 2012

Robo-calls: Communist Party demands independent inquiry and new election

The Harper Tories have got to go!

There is overwhelming evidence that during the 2011 federal election, thousands of voters across Canada were phoned with fraudulent and misleading information. This sabotage of electoral democracy has removed any legitimacy for the Harper Conservatives. The Communist Party of Canada calls for the immediate resignation of the Harper government, a new general election, and an independent public inquiry into all aspects of this scandal. Everyone responsible for this tactic should face criminal charges, right up to the Prime Minister and his inner clique.

PM Stephen Harper’s arrogant and corrupt government shows complete contempt for democratic rights and civil liberties. It is about to bring in a viciously anti-working class federal budget, and may soon plunge Canada into catastrophic imperialist wars against Iran and Syria. This government is a serious threat to the Canadian people and to world peace.

It is no exaggeration to state that the 2011 election was stolen from Canadian voters, a vote fatally tainted by criminal tactics. It is impossible to count exactly how many voters were discouraged by “robo-calls” from casting a ballot. But reports indicate that this illegal tactic was used in at least 45 ridings. Since many of these constituencies saw very narrow Conservative victories, robo-calls may have lifted the Harper Tories from a minority into a majority in Parliament.

Canadians should remember the 2000 U.S. presidential election, which was also literally stolen by Republican thuggery, especially the refusal to count thousands of votes in Florida. This fraud led to the war against Iraq which cost countless lives.

“Voter suppression” has since become a key weapon in the arsenal of right-wing political forces in North America, including the Conservative Party, which has close links with the Republicans. The aim is to discourage as many people as possible from casting a ballot, making it easier for the wealthy and for highly-committed far-right groups to exercise political influence far beyond their actual level of public support.

Right-wing parties like the Tories understand that victory requires mobilizing their own pro-corporate and far-right base while demobilizing the majority of the population. They want lower voter turnouts on election day, not higher.

This strategy includes demonizing and threatening critics, a wide range of dirty tricks, refusing to accept legal or court restrictions on government actions, etc. Voter suppression takes other forms, such as the attempt by Conservatives last spring to steal ballot boxes at Guelph University. This “take no prisoners” approach aims to make voters more cynical and suspicious, and less likely to believe that electoral politics has any meaningful place in the struggle to achieve progressive social or economic change.

On a much larger scale, Canada now has voter ID requirements that cannot easily be met by millions of people. Potential voters are required to show proof of identity and street address, such as a driver’s license with photo (but not a valid passport, for example). This particularly impacts large numbers of rural residents and Aboriginals on reserves, where most people have a postal box. Many senior citizens no longer have driver’s licences, and tens of thousands of post-secondary students and homeless people lack the necessary ID with street addresses.

While Elections Canada does not keep track of rejected voters, post‑election surveys have found that almost 5% of registered voters do not vote because they lack proper documentation. About 14.8 million ballots were cast in 2011, so the total of “lost voters” could be well over half a million, more than enough to tilt the outcome in most elections.

Genuine electoral reform requires dropping “first-past-the-post”, in favour of a mixed-member proportional representation system which would encourage voters to support the party of their choice. A full enumeration process would help, along with a more realistic set of voter ID rules. The mass media should be required to cover all candidates and political parties, not just a favoured few “mainstream” parties.

These reforms alone would not bring about progressive economic and social change, but they would help to engage Canadians in the full range of struggles to “put people before profits.”

Today, the most urgent priority for all Canadians who value democratic freedoms and civil liberties must be to mobilize in huge numbers, to demand a full and independent public inquiry into the robo-call scandal, and to call for a new federal election. The Communist Party of Canada extends our complete solidarity to this crucial struggle for the future of our country.

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