Dr. Dawg

Roboscam: who should investigate?

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If Elections Canada had the will, the resources and the powers, clearly Canada would be in the midst of a major, comprehensive probe of electoral dirty doings last year.

At this point I would concede that I have no idea about the will. I am told that resources should not, at least theoretically, be a problem: Treasury Board would be hard-pressed to reject an EC request for more funds to get the job done, although supplementary estimates are subject to Parliamentary approval.

But I emphasize the word “theoretically.” Read this story and weep: EC has been auditing strange occurrences in Julian Fantino’s riding of Vaughan—and, nearly a year later, is still not ready to report.

That’s just one riding.

Meanwhile, the story just continues to get juicier and juicier.

One of the robocalling firms involved in the deepening scandal is Responsive Marketing Group. Its billing of the Conservative Party for services rendered has raised obvious questions:

The call centre earned more than $1.4 million, billing close to 100 local Conservative campaigns for services leading up to the May 2011 election, according to returns filed with Elections Canada.

Those payments ranged anywhere from about $250 in Ed Holder and Julian Fantino’s ridings, up to $29,400 in David Wilks’ riding (all three ran successful campaigns).

But more than half of the campaigns received the exact same bill from RMG. In total, 49 ridings across the country, all with varying numbers of electors, paid the call centre $15,000 (the 16 Quebec ridings included in the list were charged an extra penny).

If Maurice Vellacott’s loose lips didn’t do the job, this report should be sufficient, I think, to disabuse anyone with a pair of neurons of the notion that call-centre irregularities were a riding-by-riding affair. This was all centrally planned and organized, and Canadians need someone to get to the bottom of it if what little institutional democracy we have is to be preserved.

Back, then, to Elections Canada and its current probe. It has expertise, and potentially the ability to leverage additional resources. But it does not have quasi-judicial powers, to compel testimony, for example, or the production of records. It also conducts its investigations under a veil of secrecy, when, more than ever, Canadians require transparency.

There are those, like Alice Funke of Pundits’ Guide, who argue that we should defend Elections Canada and its process, because we’ll never get an independent, full-fledged public inquiry. But the latter is precisely what we should continue to demand, every chance we get, until it becomes politically untenable for the Harper government to refuse.

Read the story of Vaughan again, and tell me if you think that Elections Canada, with the best will in the world, is up to the job. And then ask if the job is worth doing. If you think so, say so, and best say it loud, before all the evidence disappears.

[H/t Rick Barnes]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on March 8, 2012 9:26 AM.

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