THUNDER BAY – Editorial – Does anyone still remember the Sponsorship Scandal? The Liberals were accused of funnelling money from taxpayers into Liberal riding associations. When Paul Martin replaced Jean Chretien as Liberal leader, he called in Justice Gomery to investigate. The Gomery Commission started in 2004 and came forward wtih two reports, one on November 1, 2006 and the second on February 1, 2006.
The government of Paul Martin fell on November 28, 2005 when a motion of non-confidence in the Liberal Government was passed in the House of Commons.
Speaking to that motion, in 2005, then Opposition Leader Stephen Harper said, “There is no way that a political party that has been named for its involvement in a massive corruption scandal can be entrusted by the House to remain in office. So far, criminal charges have been pursued against relatively small fry in the sponsorship scandal and no one has gone to jail. As long as the guilty party remains in governing the country, as long as it remains in office, nobody will ever be held truly responsible, nobody will ever be firmly punished and no real reforms will ever be made”.
On January 23, 2006 the Conservatives were elected to a minority government. On election night, Prime Minister Martin announced he would step down as Liberal leader. It was the allegations of corruption that sunk the fortunes of the Liberal party. The party lost power in 2006, and by 2011 had fallen to third party status in the House of Commons.
Right now, the Conservatives face allegations that during the 2011 election campaign there were calls made to voters directing them to the wrong polling stations. Elections Canada and the RCMP are investigating claims that robocalls and live calls from call centres, including ones in Thunder Bay were used during the 2011 Federal Election in an attempt to dissuade voters from casting their ballot.
For the Conservatives, these allegations will prove troublesome. Canadian voters have a sense of fairness, coupled with a distrust of politicians.
If the allegations are proven, and the source of the alleged robo-calls are found to have been directed by people in the Conservative Party, or with the knowledge of the leadership, it is likely to seriously impact the Conservative Government. This is the kind of story that grows “legs” and will likely continue for months if not years. Much of that will all depend on how the RCMP and Elections Canada investigations move forward.
Right now in Parliament, the Conservatives appear to be attempting to by-pass any responsibility for this situation, some Members of Parliament are even attempting to crack jokes to belittle opposition members asking questions.
Pierre Poilievre, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario stated in the Commons, “The hon. member is talking about robo-calls and is making robo-accusations without any evidence. I say to him: if he has any evidence, he should press 1; if not, he should press 2 to apologize. If he has the wrong number, he should hang up and try again”.
Over the past weeks, first with Minister Vic Toews saying people “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers”, and now the comments from Pierre Poilievre, it certainly appears that the wheels are coming off of the tightly controlled communications strategy in the Conservative Party.
Joking over accusations of electoral fraud is something most Canadians will see as arrogance of the worst kind. It is the kind of arrogance that led to the toppling of the Liberal government.
Today’s world of information sharing is far faster than ever before. Between Twitter, Facebook and Youtube the public can be directly engaged in the process of sharing information and opinions. That direct engagement was only starting with Twitter and Facebook when the Conservatives were first elected.
That technology will likely prove to be a bigger burr under the saddle of the Conservatives than they realize.
It will also be interesting to see if the Prime Minister will be willing to stand by the words he used in calling for the Martin Government to fall.
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