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Friday, February 08, 2013 

"Push polls better suited for thugs" - Murray Mandryk - Political Columnist Regina Leader-Post


There is at least one noticeable difference between the justifications for push polling that you're now hearing from law-and-order federal Conservatives and what you would hear from the criminals the Tories rightly aim to lock up. Most criminals at least go through the pretense of remorse - if for no other reason than to get more lenient sentences.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper et. al. apparently feel no such compulsion - or so we have learned in the wake of last week's push poll, which seemed designed to mislead the Saskatchewan public on the proposed new federal electoral boundaries. But there again, why would one be remorseful? Isn't it just easier to point to the Liberals and NDP and note that they have used push polls, too?

Remorse? Why bother when the risks of being caught "miscommunicating" the truth are virtually non-existent? What's the point of remorse when the reward is so great for manipulating the public/commission into keeping the current inequitable boundary map with eight split urban/rural seats?

Keeping the current Saskatchewan federal boundary map may give the Conservatives two more seats they may not otherwise win under the new map with six urban-based seats. A couple of seats may be the difference between a Conservative minority and majority. So what's the value of that compared with the non-existent consequences of smearing the reputations of boundary commissioners Justice Ron Mills or professor John Courtney by implying in the robocalls that they are deliberately not representing "Saskatchewan values"? 

Herein lies the problem.

It is one thing for the Conservatives to justify their wrong-doing in a way that sounds suspiciously similar to what one might hear in the hoosegow. But there's something broken in the system when every justification of their action becomes a further attempt to deceive the public for political gain. Even crooks don't get away with that.

Perhaps some will accept the Tories' explanation that "there is nothing illegal here". That said, the fine work of the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News in securing a forensic voice analysis that may link the Chase Research voice message on the Saskatchewan robocalls to those automated messages directing Guelph voters to the wrong polling station in the 2011 election is very interesting. This may now make last week's robocalls a matter for Elections Canada.

Perhaps some will buy into the notion that there's nothing wrong with such push polls - the unethical practice of telephone polling aimed at swaying public opinion with biased or downright misleading information, rather than soliciting public opinion. That some countries and U.S. states are trying to get them banned tells us much about how welcome push polls should be in our country.

Perhaps some might even buy into the nonsense from Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre MP Tom Lukiwski that local Conservatives knew nothing of these deceptive acts and he believed they were the responsibility of Conservative political director Jenni Byrne.

That the Conservatives denied involvement in the anonymous robocalls until being caught, red-handed, by the PostMedia voice analysis makes this explanation a dubious one. But that they have kept repeating the deceit at every available opportunity pretty much shows how disingenuous their denials really are. At every available opportunity, the Conservatives have attempted to manipulate the federal boundaries commission process. And perhaps to their credit, the Tories proved to be simply better at it than either the NDP or the Liberals.

They offered nonsense briefs to the commission arguing Saskatchewan hadn't grown much in the past 10 years and rural and urban voters had identical interests anyway. They stacked the meetings with friendlies spewing similar nonsense. They exaggerated how many of their friend-lies actually attended the meetings or presented briefs and then they claimed these meetings represented 75-per-cent provincewide opposition to the new boundaries
.
And even when caught with their little "miscommunication" of the truth - even when the Conservatives had to own up to the fact that they were the ones responsible for the phoney and misleading push polling - they remorselessly did it in a way in which they simply repeated every one of the above falsehoods all over again.

Remorse? You've got a better chance of finding it in most federal prisons.

Mandryk is the political columnist for the Leader-Post.
Regina Leader-Post



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