Violletta Nikolskaya & Meghan Booth
McMaster Debating Society
Q: Should we pursue and prosecute the people behind the robocalls, or is it politicals as usual?
V: Voting is a democratic right that people have fought for through multiple civil movements. Unfortunately, there have always been, and always will be, election scandals. They are so common that most international electoral watchdogs tend to discuss whether levels fraud during an election season is either at ‘normal’ levels or moderate by comparison. It is personally difficult for me to stomach how a scandal, associated with a right that women before me fought to secure, could be so candidly dismissed. It vitiates the democratic process. Most recently, the Harper government has been under fire for an alleged robocall scandal. It is claimed that a fraudulent use of robocalls (computerized autodial calls with a recorded message) was committed when individuals received messages that attempted to dissuade citizens from voting by telling them that the polling stations had changed locations. The RCMP is investigating the matter. If it were to come to light that a member of the Harper government allowed this, I believe that the government should be charged for attempting to corrupt the democratic process and for electoral fraud. Dissuading citizens from accessing their facilitated right is bad for the country.
M: Let me first say that all parties involved (excluding the perpetrator of course) know that it is fundamentally and morally reprehensible to tamper with the electoral process. There has always been some level of questionable behaviour in Canadian elections. Hiring a company to call certain voters several times and direct them to the wrong voting stations is not only annoying but wrong in a moral sense. The media likes to remind us that this situation is certainly above and beyond normal political shenanigans and calls into question the very sanctity of our democratic system. But first of all, it seems that we are unable to nail down a perpetrator in this case. Secondly, we cannot take back the past. Finally and most importantly, when these types of things take place they most often happen without the knowledge of the head of the party. The party leader doesn’t have the time or the scruples to pull a stunt like this at the cost of their campaign. For these reasons, I don’t feel that Harper and his government should be charged criminally for the actions of some unknown perpetrator.
V: I agree that PM Harper probably didn’t have the time to pull off a stunt like this at the cost of his campaign, but someone in his party may have in certain ridings in order to get the edge. As the party leader, Steven Harper is responsible for the actions that take place under his rank. It is his responsibly to ensure that his campaign and parliamentary members are adhere to the same rules and laws that he must. “Every vote counts,” after all. In the last election, many ridings were separated by only a couple hundred votes. Thousands of complaints (31,000 reported) were made by voters who received these messages and received other harassing messages by robocalls.Many of the ridings were so affected that it has been brought to question whether the outcome of the election would have been the same had this issue not occurred. Thousands of individuals were wronged in their ability to exercise their right to vote. This is significant, considering that we live in a representative democracy. Our voice and our vote affects the policies implemented locally, federally and internationally. Changing the overall outcome of the election means that Canadians were not fairly represented.
M: By all means, this is an important part of our government system, to get to the bottom of the matter. Realistically, though, there are way too many people who have a motive to rock the election boat. Sure, the Conservatives had an election to win; that’s an easy motive. The Liberal Party was clinging to life during this last election and could have just as easily done something as underhanded as this – using a Canadian calling company, not an American one, I might add. What really hasn’t come to light yet, though, are the revolutionaries responsible for the riots in British Columbia not too long ago. As for the “level of security in the voting process,” well, in addition to the United States recount fiascos of past elections that point to the failures of security and technology, I would also like to point to a press release by NASA that discloses how often their systems get hacked. I don’t think that Canadian election security measures are so far superior that something like a hacking on the part of a revolutionary is out of the question. This is exactly something that would be right up their ally. While I don’t dismiss the need for the Conservative Party to be thoroughly patted down, I do think that all parties should be considered equally.
V: No one person is above the law. To excuse a fraudulent act by the government is to contradict the fairness and justice of our country. Canada was quick to condemn other international leaders that were elected despite alleged acts of electoral fraud or corruption (think back to Iran’s election and the most recent Russian elections), but has found itself in the same mouse trap. At the very least, if the government has nothing to fear, a transparent and public inquiry should be held to conclusively determine the outcome of the alleged claims. However, in this case, if the conclusion is that the government is guilty, then immediate action must be taken to ensure that a precedent is set so that any Canadian governmental body cannot act in such ways and expect to get away with it.
M: Looking at the world’s events in recent years, I have never been more proud to say that I am a Canadian. With the economies around us imploding, fiscal policy and budget-balancing has proved an effective tool in keeping us all relatively safe and comfortable in our standard of living. This was one of the key platforms of the Conservative campaign and one that was certainly delivered on. We cannot take the past back, and throwing our “gracious leader” and his cronies in jail is not going to fix the problem. Mr. Harper and those in his upper echelons are most likely too busy with more important matters that if it was someone in his party that caused this uproar, then it was probably some hooligan who wanted the support of the winning party on his resume who pressed a couple of buttons and started this whole thing up. The Conservatives won by a sizable amount, and the ridings of Guelph and Windsor only cemented further the majority. So, not only do we have no idea who actually did this, but I believe the Harper government won by enough of a majority that this situation is a minor technically that points only to the bigger issue that is national security. This is not to mention the even-keeled governance he has actually been able to provide. Furthermore, if it was some bottom feeder election campaigner or a radically left leaning communist, then they, if found guilty, should be punished to the full extent of the law. They’ll be released within a year any way.