Despite serious questions being raised about whether the vote that put him in Stornaway was rigged, the 38-year-old political lifer maintains it’s a party matter.
The logic behind that posture is seriously skewed. It goes something like this: since the CPC ran the convention, and the CPC has publicly stood behind the result, it’s none of his business to comment on the possibility that his victory may not only be tainted, but invalid. Pontius Pilate couldn’t have said it better.
Sadly for Scheer, nothing could be further from the truth. One of the reasons that Stephen Harper’s regime was turfed in 2015 was that the Canadians had had enough lies, corruption, and ideology imported from the U.S. Republican Party to last them a lifetime. Who will be more deeply forgotten in a few years than politicians like Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander, and all that they say they stand for?
Scheer has seemingly missed the obvious. The most important thing for any new leader is to announce through his actions, not merely his words, that a fresh start is underway.
Paul Martin knew that when he called a public inquiry into the ad sponsorship scandal upon replacing Jean Chrétien as Liberal leader. Yes, it killed his prime ministership. But it also made party renewal — and a candidate like Justin Trudeau — possible. It did that by publicly bringing closure to the Liberals’ terrible abuses of power. Had Martin hidden, instead of faced those problems, the Grits would probably still be sitting on the other side of the House of Commons wondering if they would ever have chauffeurs again.
In Scheer’s case, showing that he represents a fresh start is already difficult. From a policy point of view, he presents as a social conservative. He will have nothing new to offer Canadians other than the Harper agenda delivered with a smile — tax cuts, a balanced budget within two years of his election, (hold the laughter), bombers back to Iraq and Syria, smaller government, and a Leave-it-to-Beaver vision of the world.
It should be noted, in fairness, that Scheer has proposed putting flags of origin on gas pumps. His supporters can only hope he will soon begin speaking in his Big Boy voice.
So let it be said: being a Harper acolyte will surely not help Scheer create the sense of a new policy beginning for a hopelessly out of touch party. But not caring enough about whether the recent convention was on the up and up could kill him.
Here is the heart of the matter. It’s not just the people who lost who need and deserve to get the truth about what happened. The guy who won needs to verify how, and even whether, he won.
If he doesn’t, there will be a cloud over Scheer’s leadership that could usher in a Tory ice-age in opposition or third party status. It is paramount that Scheer lends his voice to those who are asking very troubling questions about over 7,000 mystery ballots that could easily have skewed the result.
After all, it is not as if there isn’t a history here. Conservatives have been caught multiple times cheating in the electoral process, or fiddling with it for political advantage.
The In-and-Out scandal caught the CPC breaking election expenses limits in the 2006 election, forcing the party plead guilty to a criminal offence and to repay $230,000 to Canadian taxpayers.
The ex-PM’s parliamentary secretary, Dean del Mastro, was sentenced to a month in jail and four months house arrest for violating federal electoral rules in the 2008 federal election. (His second appeal of his conviction will be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal on June 22).
Former Harper-era Intergovernmental Affairs minister, Peter Penashue, resigned in 2013 over spending irregularities in his 2011 campaign. He was defeated in an attempt to win back his seat in a by-election.
Then there was the robocalls voter suppression scandal arising out of the 2011 election. Federal Court judge Richard Mosley confirmed that widespread voter fraud had taken place that year as part of a “concerted campaign” by persons who had access to the database of a political party. The judge found that the “most likely” source of the list used to perpetrate robocalls was the CIMS database controlled by the CPC.
The CPC also initially lied about a second robocalls campaign in Saskatchewan — until reporters Stephen Maher (now the executive editor at iPolitics) and Glen McGregor (now with CTV) outed them using forensic voice analysis. This second campaign centred around the issue of redrawing riding boundaries.
Nor can Scheer argue that his party’s legacy of cheating around elections is ancient history. Great balls of fire, these guys have already accused each other of cheating, not once but twice in the very leadership process that the former speaker of the House just won.
In the first go around, then leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary accused unnamed candidates of mass voter fraud. Then the Bernier camp accused O’Leary of vote buying involving Tamil Canadians. The rules said that new memberships had to be paid for by personal cheque or personal credit card. Turns out that candidates were cheating right and left and the Party had to admit it. In fact, 1,351 memberships were fraudulently purchased through two IP addresses through the Conservative Party website. All those were thrown out, but the Party wouldn’t say who the culprits were.
Now supporters of Maxime Bernier have raised another dark spectre for the Cheating Party of Canada. Did they fudge their own count of the ballots that elected Scheer? The question being raised is fairly basic. How could there be a 7,466 vote discrepancy between the ballots cast and the final number announced at last weekend’s finale to the leadership? And how did those ballots get counted, precisely? Whatever the answers, the number of rogue votes was more than enough to change the result.
The CPC says that 141,362 votes were counted but the so-called “strikeout” list that each candidate receives showed a different number — 133,896. Bernier has a legitimate beef. Did someone stuff the ballot box and change the outcome, and if so, who? Why were there nearly 7,500 more ballots in the box than the Party announced? And what does the CPC intend to do about if affidavits are filed this week outlining voter cheating?
Party brass have risen up in choir boy unison to insist that all was on the up and up. They say 3,000 people voted in polling stations outside Toronto and weren’t entered into the party’s database. The party also says that there is a digital image of every ballot cast, and that a recount on that basis would confirm Scheer’s victory.
Have you ever photo-shopped a snapshot? Let’s just say digital images aren’t necessarily the last word in reality. But that’s all that is available for a recount, if one were ever to be ordered. That’s because party director Dustin van Vogt ordered that all ballots be destroyed immediately after the vote was taken and the results announced. The Globe and Mail reported that this decisive measure was taken without informing scrutineers. Bernier supporters say this is very bad practise indeed.
In a party that has never seen an electoral process it doesn’t want to fiddle, this has all the hallmarks of wiping the fingerprints off the murder weapon, and all too much like deja vu all over again..
Author: Michael Harris