Harperland: Hacks and Flaks Take Command

As the vote suppression scandal continues to build and unfold here in Canada, the response by the ruling party has been quite surprising. Although the Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has “absolutely” and “definitively” denied that the Conservative Party had anything to do with what is shaping up to be a broad, and evident right-wing conspiracy to prevent — through a “black ops” and disinformation campaign of deception and misrepresentation — very large numbers of liberal and left voters from exercising their franchise, the ruling party has failed to seize the high ground by proposing meliorative amendments to the Elections Act or more robust powers of investigation for the watchdog, Elections Canada. Rather than acknowledging serious breaches in the safeguards against sedition and the evident need of mending the now exposed weaknesses of our democracy, and the flaws in the present system of governance selection, the ruling party has become very defensive about the affair, resorting today to a feeble and ill-informed counter-attack that backfired badly on the ruling party.

All in all, the Harper regime looks guiltily reactionary and defensive. It has lost control of its political agenda and lost control of “the information space”, and has assumed a bunker mentality.

As of this writing, a record of more than 31,000 complaints of irregularities in the last federal election have now been lodged with Elections Canada. The accusations are quite serious. Some person or persons, as yet unidentified, either within the Conservative Party or affiliated with the Party, impersonated Elections Canada officials in a systematic and coordinated campaign to misinform and misdirect opposition voters to non-existent or wrong polling stations; they promised rides to polling stations for elderly voters that never appeared; they impersonated opposition candidates over the phone in the rudest terms in order to estrange and alienate opposition party supporters; they affected poor, mocking accents in phone calls claiming to be from opposition party candidacies to disaffect and alienate minority religious and ethnic supporters of the liberal or social democrat opposition; and much more besides.

Mr. Harper and the ruling party deny any direct involvement in the seditious black ops and disinformation campaign, insisting only that (perhaps) some “rogue” Conservative operatives in the local constituencies — but not in the national campaign — may be guilty of misconduct and of illegal activities. To demonstrate the point, they threw one dubiously-motivated and seemingly naive Conservative operative named Michael Sona from the Guelph Conservative campaign under the bus. It seems to be an all-too-habitual response of the ruling party to demand that its underlings fall upon their swords for the sake of the Party overlings. Mr. Sona has, however, subsequently denied that he had any involvement with the disinformation campaign.

But it beggars belief that “rogue” elements were behind a nation-wide conspiracy that has affected ridings from coast-to-coast. Moreover, there is an acknowledged precedent from within the highest ranks of the ruling party for the black ops and disinformation campaign as was surreptitiously conducted against a sitting opposition Liberal MP, Irwin Cotler, whose riding is ardently coveted by the Conservative Party. This black ops campaign was subsequently exposed in the House of Commons as having been conceived at the highest eschelons of the Conservative Party, and not by “rogue” operatives and functionaries.

It may say something indeed about the present crisis of democracy in Canada that a man once convicted in the Nixon Watergate affair, Donald Segretti, offered his opinion that the voter suppression scandal in Canada is worse than the scandal that brought down US President Richard Nixon (“Robo-calls worse than Watergate, dirty tricks op opines“).

That opinion was substantially seconded by Joseph Cummins, an American expert in dirty tricks and corrupt politics, in a Vancouver Sun article. It was, in fact, so close to describing the recent events in Canada that one wonders if someone from the ruling party didn’t learn something usable from Cummins’ book on the subject of dirty tricks and corrupt politics.

Many Canadians had best wake up, and fast, to the real price they may have to pay for blindly embracing the devious and corrupting politics of the Pied Pipers of the reactionary right.

In any event, there is a real and malignantly growing crisis of democracy in the Western nations. The reasons for that can be tracked pretty well, I think. There are important lessons to be learned from these lesions, which make mock of Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalism in The End of History and the Last Man.

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