What is voter suppression? It’s finding ways to discourage voters who might vote for someone else. A common tactic is to try to disenfranchise the voters altogether. (You’ll recall that the Harper team called on Elections Canada to nullify all the student votes at the poll held at the University of Guelph where the students would be unlikely to vote Conservative.) Raise spurious arguments. Let them fight it out in court. By the time the courts rule in their favour, you’ve won.
There’s another voter suppression technique well known in the US: call the other guys’ voters. Pretend you’re on his team. Call them in the middle of the night, early in the morning, during holidays. Annoy them until they turn against their preferred candidate.
But we don’t do it in Canada, right? Wrong.
Elections Canada is investigating exactly that phenomenon. Repeated calls, some in the middle of the night, professing to be from Liberal candidates. According to the CBC, the most recent complaints have been from residents in the Toronto riding of St. Paul’s, where Jewish voters complained about receiving harassing calls during last night’s Passover celebrations that didn’t come from Liberal Carolyn Bennett’s campaign. Liberal candidate Joe Volpe’s riding was also targeted during the Sabbath. According to a story in the Vancouver Sun:
“‘It looks like a classic situation of voter suppression. Somebody has identified some segments of our voter base and decided to harass it as much as they can to cause it to get annoyed with us. And they’ve succeeded in part,’ said Volpe.
“The Liberals say the calls originate from the 701 area code in North Dakota, which appears to be a calling centre.Volpe said he believes the ‘American Republican-style campaign tactics’ are being orchestrated by the Conservatives because one of his volunteers reported that’s who a caller said they worked for.”
The CBC has also received complaints from residents from Eglinton-Lawrence, Simcoe-Grey and Sudbury claiming that they are getting repeated calls from a North Dakota area code, with either rude live callers or automated messages purporting to be from Liberals.
A strange coincidence, one might say, that the only targets so far have been Liberals. If you believed in coincidences (I don’t). But Volpe’s right: this kind of stuff is right out of the Republican playbook.