Dr.Dawg

Roboscam: Abuse of constituents

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Roboscam was centrally organized, was targeted at those identified as non-Conservative voters, and was widespread (31 ridings implicated so far). A Conservative Party database was used—one that included details of voters improperly gleaned from constituent meetings with Conservative MPs.

At this point the doubters—Conservative spin-merchants to a man and woman—are starting to look pretty foolish. First, go over to Alison’s place and read her excellent round-up of the hard facts.

(There’s a fun sideshow going on, too, in Julian Fantino’s riding. Bagman Sam Ciccolini is caught in a big fat lie. Delicious.)

But be sure to check out the new revelations by former Conservative MP Inky Marks. He shines a little more harsh light on the frantic wriggling things being unearthed at the moment:

Mark says every time he or his staff would meet a constituent and get their phone number, they were expected to log the information and any details, including the person’s political leanings and personal interests.

He says the party had control over the nationwide database. An MP and his staff were at the mercy of headquarters, Mark says, because they had the power to allocate and revoke database passwords.

“I always have thought independently, even with (election) signage at home,” Mark says. “I always knew that I had to do my own thing, because… they can control you 100 per cent, and that’s exactly what happened with CIMS.”

Alison makes the point once again about central control, one that we have to keep hammering away at just so long as the Cons try to claim it was all local stuff, just happened in Guelph, was inconsequential and without effect, etc. But the other issue raised here is equally relevant, one of crucial importance for those who want their Canada back.

Imagine this. You’re a constituent who needs the help of your Member of Parliament. Perhaps you’re having a hard time getting a passport, or your old age security. So you phone or email, and a bright young staffer asks you a bunch of questions. You figure the information is to help resolve your problem, so you freely give it.

Now, as it turns out, the information may well be handed over to the party to which the MP belongs. And the party may use it in the future in all sorts of ways—including directing the people in question to phantom poll-booths.

But a Member of Parliament is supposed to represent all of his or her constituents. Is this misuse and diversion of information even legal? It certainly isn’t for a government institution.

Lest anyone think I’m being partisan about this, let me recall the case of Liberal wingnut Tom Wappel, who refused to help a disabled veteran because, as he brazenly stated, the latter had voted for the Canadian Alliance Party.

“According to my records, you were a past supporter of mine, yet it seems that in this past election you supported the Canadian Alliance. How is that you are writing me for help if you did not think enough of my abilities to justify voting for me?” Wappel wrote.

He didn’t explain how he knew Baxter had voted for the Alliance.

Wappel later told the Toronto Star he felt justified in finding out how people voted before he gave them help.

“Very much so,” he said. “I can decide who to help or not to help.” [emphasis added]

Wappel was eventually called to heel by his own caucus, from the Prime Minister on down. His behaviour was (typically for him) execrable. But, so far as I know, the source of his information was never discovered, and somehow the question got buried in the general indignation.

The issue of whether or not an MP represents all constituents was settled, more or less, by the general outrage that greeted Wappel’s thuggish and hateful behaviour. But the second issue—the effective theft of information from voters to serve the partisan interests of an MP—clearly has not.

In the Wappel case, the information flowed from some unknown source to his office. In the cases before us now, the information apparently was systematically directed the other way—from office to CPC database. But the issues raised are the same.

We can see here yet another fundamental threat to the small amount of democracy Canadians presently enjoy. Our right to elect a representative is granted to us every few years. Between elections, he or she is expected to attend to the needs of constituents, not to milk them for information to be dumped into an extra-parliamentary database for use or misuse in the next election.

Much has been said recently about Parliamentary privilege. Maybe it’s time for citizens to acquire a little privilege of our own—and a place to challenge its flagrant breaches.

UPDATE: More from former MP Garth Turner—in 2007! Were we all asleep?

[H/t David Ort—and “Anonymous” from Alison’s comment thread. Now get moving before the Toews police get you!]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr.Dawg published on March 16, 2012 2:00 PM.

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