These lawsuits, all in ridings where robocalls are rumored to have occurred in an attempt to suppress the vote, are each backed by the Council of Canadians. The Council of Canadians is a 25-year-old organization that is well respected across the country for pushing for progressive policies on fair trade, energy security, public health care and other issues. The Council is currently running a campaign against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (something the Harper government has been lobbying heavily for) and a campaign against the Conservatives’ proposed budget, which makes sweeping changes to environmental assessment, pensions and employment insurance among other things.
Although the Council of Canadians is not an actual litigant in the seven lawsuits, which were filed by affected voters, they are underwriting the suits, and the Conservatives have decided to focus their attack on the council.
Lawyers for the Tories say that the Council of Canadians are ‘professional agitators’ who hate the Conservatives and are trying to take down the government. (They actually also accuse the opposing lawyer of trying to destroy the party).
This is not the first time the government has moved to silence dissenting voices. Vic Toews, the Minister of Public Safety, told the House of Commons that to not support the government’s online surveillance bill was to support child pornographers, environmental groups fighting the Northern Gateway Pipeline were dismissed as radicals who don’t take facts into account, and many members of the opposition have been accused of being unpatriotic or not supporting the troops for asking questions about what’s happening at National Defense.
Of course, their biggest criticism of the Official Opposition NDP is that they answer to their ‘big labor bosses,’ which is the same beef they have with the Council of Canadians. The court submission includes an affidavit from another lawyer who connected council board members with unions. The submission says the council “is of like mind with labour union elites.”
Meanwhile, Conservative spokesperson Fred DeLorey is quoted as saying that the Council of Canadians has been focused on destroying the Conservative Party since it was formed — which would be strange considering the current iteration of the Conservative didn’t exist in 1985, and didn’t form government until 2006.
The complaints have been filed by nine different voters. The seven ridings with elections being challenged are:
Yukon, Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario, Elmwood-Transcona in Manitoba, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Winnipeg South Centre, Don Valley East in Toronto and Vancouver Island North.
The largest vote margin among the ridings is 3 percent in Vancouver Island North, with each of the other ridings seeing a margin of 1.3 percent or less. Elections Canada is still investigating the robocalls, having received more than 1,100 complaints from voters.
Photo Credit: Peter Blanchard