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The acid erosion of political trustThe acid erosion of political trust

The acid erosion of political trust

It always has to instantaneously expand from something gone wrong to yet another full-blown scrape us screeching off the ceiling national nervous breakdown. Make no mistake. The information surfaced by Elections Canada—showing that miscreants (as yet unknown) used automated dialing technology to misdirect and confuse voters in the last federal election—is a serious democratic matter. Our one genuine kick at the political can in this country comes every four or five years when we put a ballot in a box. Innocent blood has been shed protecting that electoral sacrament.

Peter Stockland
2 minute read

Our real problem is that it's never enough for it to be what it is, is it?

It always has to instantaneously expand from something gone wrong to yet another full-blown scrape us screeching off the ceiling national nervous breakdown.

We—at least those who still pay political attention—are in the midst of just such an eruption over the so-called robo-dialing scandal that has implicated the federal Conservatives in the practice of the black arts of something called voter suppression.

Make no mistake. The information surfaced by Elections Canada—showing that miscreants (as yet unknown) used automated dialing technology to misdirect and confuse voters in the last federal election—is a serious democratic matter. Our one genuine kick at the political can in this country comes every four or five years when we put a ballot in a box. Innocent blood has been shed protecting that electoral sacrament.

To date, Elections Canada's hard evidence for robo-dialing malpractice has been confined to events in Guelph, Ontario. Most Canadians, of course, couldn't find Guelph Ontario on a wall-sized map in a well-lit room with a GPS in either hand. Indeed, unless you are one of the commuters forced to pass through the Golden Gulag around Toronto, navigating past the smoldering nightmare of modernity that is suburban Mississauga, you probably think Guelph is the sound your voice makes when you try to speak with a dry throat. Yet by the miracle of modern media, and the structural idiocy of opposition politics, Guelph now is Canada. What happened there had to have happened everywhere.

As a result, front-paged obsessed journalists and sound-byte equipped politicos have discovered that similar robo-dialing perfidy might have occurred in 70 ridings across the country. Worse, prepare to be aghast, we are breathlessly told that as many as 31,000 complaints have aired in some forum or other about election day phone calls that might have had something to do with the outrage.

Now, as a journalist, whenever I hear the three magic words "might have occurred," I go into instant skeptic mode. Might have occurred? Did it occur, or didn't it? These are facts we're dealing with, not prophetic visions or swamp gas. Again as a journalist, whenever I see a slew of stories on a sudden outpouring of mass complaints so many months after the fact, I always ask myself where all these complainants were when the dirty deed was allegedly being done.

None of which justifies dismissing or even downplaying the robo-dialing scandal. It is a story and it is a serious story and it is something that all of us who care in any way about parliamentary democracy should be deeply concerned about. The blow dealt parliamentary democracy by what actually happened is precisely why it must not be blown out of proportion.

Yet what ho? The NDP is reportedly set to use Opposition time in the Commons today to press for a debate on increasing the powers of Elections Canada so that all telecom companies that provide campaign services to federal parties must be registered and all users verified. There must, somewhere, be a formula for calculating the ratio of expansion of political hysteria to the expansion of government bureaucracy.

What is incalculable is the inexorable acid erosion of political trust that occurs when everything that is becomes just another excuse for another round of hysterics.

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