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On Accusing the RCMP of Playing Politics
Recently, the RCMP executed a search warrant on Conservative Party officers as part of an investigation by Elections Canada on whether the party violated (inadvertently or otherwise) election spending laws during the 2006 election campaign. Now, an RCMP search is significant news, and one cannot help but take a political hit from that. The Conservatives believe that their tactic of using fine-print tweaks to national ads and paying for these ads out of individual MP campaigns isn’t in violation of the law, but Election Canada disagrees.
This is the price one pays when respecting something as complicated as laws protecting the democratic process. What we have here is a dispute on the spirit and the letter of the law which eventually the law will have to sort out. There is no evidence to say that Elections Canada is being politically motivated in pursuing this matter against the Conservatives, and the Conservatives would be wise not to say so. Similarly, it is within Elections Canada’s mandate to ask for the assistance of the RCMP in order to ensure that any potential violations in the law are properly investigated.
I think, if left to their own devices, Canadians would see this investigation as a dispute about technicalities, and not a malicious attempt by the Conservative party to step outside the law in order to influence an election. If the Conservatives made a mistake, Canadians would expect them to pay their damages and make corrections, and if the Conservatives accepted the ruling gracefully, Canadians would respect them for that. Likewise, the search conducted by the RCMP would be considered as merely part of the process and should be handled accordingly.
Impugning the integrity of the RCMP by ascribing political motives to a particular raid puts the Conservatives in very troubled waters. Because anybody with a decent memory will remember the RCMP investigation into an income trust leak that took place during the 2006 election and which included Liberal minister Ralph Goodale. Now this investigation was a lot more serious and a lot less about technicalities than the dispute here, and even though Ralph Goodale was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, I believe most Canadians believe the RCMP did what needed to be done as well. Despite the influence it clearly had on the 2006 election, and despite the fact that the RCMP may have accidentally violated its own policies in not naming certain suspects when Ralph Goodale got linked to the investigation.
Calling the search of Conservative Party headquarters a “publicity stunt” calls into mind some Liberals’ accusations of Conservative-RCMP collusion for the Ralph Goodale investigation, and I believe most Canadians see this as being in tinfoil hat territory. Certainly the Conservatives didn’t object to the timing of the RCMP’s investigation back then, and complaining so strongly about an investigation now is, at the least, hypocrisy. Certainly it suggests that the Conservatives feel that they have things to hide, and they are reluctant to accept the outcome of the institutional processes of accountability that they swore to uphold upon taking office.
Combine this with the hysteria about the RCMP investigating NDP BC premier Mike Harcourt’s back deck, and I suppose that we can only conclude that the RCMP are in the pocket of the Greens. Either way, it’s stupid.
Canadians want to see their parliamentarians accept their responsibilities, including responsibilities for their mistakes. This contrary attitude is part of what got the Liberals canned in 2006, and it risks getting the Conservatives canned two years later. And well it should.
If Harris-Decima is to be believed, the Conservatives and the Liberals are engaging in an unprecidented race to the bottom in terms of Canadian popular support. The poll suggests that, nationally, the Liberals have the support of just 33% of the electorate, just ahead of the Conservatives who have 30%. The NDP have 16%, and the only ones smiling are the Greens, at 11%.
Let’s compare: when the Conservatives won their minority government back in January 2006 they did so with 36.3% of the vote. That was the lowest level of popular support ever accorded to the most popular party in an election. Think of it: 63.7% of Canadians who bothered to vote, voted for someone else. For every Conservative voter out there, they are outnumbered by everyone else by almost 2-1.
The record that they broke was set by the Liberals in 2004, when just over 36.5% of Canadians were happy enough to give them their vote. But these numbers by Harris-Decima break another record of infamy: they’re below the 35.7% received by Joe Clark in 1979 in the lowest level of popular support ever accorded to a party that formed the government (thanks to the weirdness of first-past-the-post, the Liberals actually won the popular support in that election with 40%, though that didn’t translate into enough seats to take power).
And let’s not forget that the newly minted Conservative party has yet to pass the combined popular support totals enjoyed by the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance before the right was “united”.
I have to speak out to people out there who are still partisan supporters of the Conservative and Liberal parties and ask them to take note of these numbers: the two of you are flirting with unprecedented lows. What does that tell you? That should tell you that Canadians are dissatisfied with both of you, despite all of your posturing so far that you are not the other guys. How do you intend to fix that? What mistakes do you intend to fix? What new principles do you intend to embrace? Because the ideas so far? The tax cuts, the window dressing? It ain’t working. And Canadians are crying out for change.