April 25, 2014
Elections Canada Commissioner Yves Côté’s report yesterday is not a whitewash. It’s worse than that. It’s a re-write of history, and the scribbling Pharisees are already wanking furiously. “It’s over! There was no fraud! There was no conspiracy! Take that, you leftist goofs! Blar-har-har!”
Is this the time for the rest of us to duck and cover? Hardly.
The bottom line of the report is that Elections Canada didn’t have enough evidence to proceed. Why? Well, potentially valuable witnesses wouldn’t talk to them, and vital telephone records (such as calls emanating from the U.S.) couldn’t be obtained without court orders. EC has no power to compel testimony or force the production of documents, so it was left with relatively little to go on. And that’s really all she wrote, as they say. It was enough, however, for the Conservatives to consider themselves exonerated, and their media cheering section was right there to spread the good news.
But not so fast. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Despite what Côté is saying right now, there was plenty of concern about bogus phone calls expressed by Elections Canada officials before and during the 2011 election campaign, to the point that EC was poised to make a public announcement to warn electors about it.
Was there fraud? Not enough evidence, says Côté, whilst bemoaning the fact that he wasn’t allowed to get his hands on much of it. But a federal court judge, Richard Mosely, has already ruled last year that fraud in a number of ridings did occur.
Is all of this now down the memory hole?
A week, runs the cliché, is an eternity in politics. Previous weeks, and months, and years, get erased from the public mind by a surfeit of events and mad spin in the present. The Elections Canada report didn’t really exonerate anyone, but it appears to, and can easily be framed that way. Clouding the issue further was a raft of complaints—tens of thousands of them—generated after the fact by the on-line advocacy organization Leadnow.ca, the vast majority of which provided no specific information. That seemed frivolous, and has had the effect of discrediting the real complaints mixed in with them.
Did those real complaints, or many of them, have substance? Elections Canada thought so in 2011. A federal court ruled so last May. Let’s try, at least, to keep that in mind as the jeering continues.