Canada appear to be on the verge of a major political upheaval thanks to the investigative work of two enterprising reporters working for news outlets that are generally considered Conservative-friendly. The story broke last week after a nine-month investigation by reporters Stephen Maher (Postmedia News) and Glen McGregor (Ottawa Citizen). They were curious about reports of strange phone calls voters were getting across Canada during the federal election campaign. Some of the calls were purportedly from parties they supported by the voters being called but came at annoying times or had offensive content. Some came, supposedly, from elections officials and had false information about where to vote. Maher and McGregor compiled a massive database of these calls and, last week, they broke what has become known as the Robocall scandal. “It has become quite clear that the Conservatives have no decent line of defence, here. They’re flying blind.”
It could mark Stephen Harper’s Waterloo, the high-water mark and beginning of the end for him. Or it could be that it will be just another speed bump on the superhighway of this era’s most successful Canadian federal politician, Stephen Harper, after he finds an underling to blame.
The Waterloo scenario is compelling, though. As the story grows, the number of ridings affected by automated and phone-bank phone calls has grown from about 12 to as many as 40, by some reports. A citizen can file a legal protest over election irregularities, fraud, corrupt or illegal practices, and if a judge agrees with the claim and feels corruption could have influenced the vote’s outcome, she or he can nullify the election results and call for a by-election in the riding.
Since Stephen Harper has a majority of just 12 seats, a series of court rulings against him could end his majority – and his government. Given how easy it is to check phone records, and given the growing paper trail to Conservative-linked operatives like the robo-calling business RackNine(This amazing link has amazing list of invoices from RackNine to local Conservative campaigns.) the Harpercrites could be hoist on their own snooping petard.
“It makes you wonder about the legitimacy of the Conservatives’ majority mandate,” NDP MP Pat Martin told reporters last week. “I believe that RackNine will become the Conservative Party’s Groupe Action and that we will find that the sheer magnitude and audacity of the RackNine rascals would be enough to make Richard Nixon blush… I predict it will hang around the neck of the Prime Minister like an albatross.”