Friday, March 02, 2012

You need to shut your face and you know what you increasingly irrelevant silly little man wearing the bacon neck shirt!

MP Martin accuses Tories of suppressing votes to further ‘starve’ opposing parties of federal subsidies, Conservatives call Martin ‘silly’

NDP MP Pat Martin argued Thursday the Conservative Party may have had a secondary motive in alleged attempts to dissuade NDP and Liberal voters from casting ballots in the 2011 election—'starving' the opposing parties of thousands of dollars in federal subsidies by lowering their vote count.

NDP MP Pat Martin and Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro (The Hill Times photographs by Jake Wright)

By Tim Naumetz
Thursday, March 1, 2012

PARLIAMENT HILL—NDP MP Pat Martin argued Thursday the Conservative Party may have had a secondary motive in alleged attempts to dissuade NDP and Liberal voters from casting ballots in the 2011 election—“starving” the opposing parties of thousands of dollars in federal subsidies by lowering their vote count.

Mr. Martin (Winnipeg Centre, Manitoba) made the claim after Conservatives MPs jeered him in the Commons for quoting an email the NDP received from an 83-year-old Calgary woman who added her name to a growing list of voters claiming they received phony telephone calls on election day last informing them their polling stations had changed location.

As the Commons uproar over the so-called “robocalls affair” continued for its fourth consecutive day, centering on a confirmed Elections Canada investigation into fraudulent telephone calls to voters in Guelph, Ontario, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, Ontario) ridiculed Mr. Martin for suggesting Conservatives would attempt to suppress Liberal or NDP voters in ridings like Calgary’s, where neither opposition party had a hope of defeating Conservative candidates.

“The Conservatives want proof, how about this letter from 83-year-old Florence Grottenberg from Calgary?” Mr. Martin said.

“I don’t know what’s so funny,” he quickly added after government MPs laughed aloud.

Mr. Martin said Ms. Grottenberg of Calgary emailed the NDP to say she received a telephone call from the Conservative campaign the day before the May 2 election and asked for her vote, but she replied she didn’t support the Conservatives.

On voting day, Mr. Martin said Ms. Grottenberg received another call, from someone telling her that her voting station had changed to a location 20 blocks from where she lived.

“I wonder if someone on the Conservative benches would like to stand up and apologize to Florence Grottenberg for lying to her and cheating her out of her vote,” Mr. Martin said in the House of Commons.
In the tumult following the question, Mr. Del Mastro told the Commons: “This might be the only MP in the House silly enough to suggest that we would have to suppress votes in Calgary to win.”

Outside the Commons, though, Mr. Martin told reporters that vote suppression tactics could also have benefited the Conservative Party by lowering the amount of money opposition parties receive from the federal per-vote subsidy.

The NDP on Thursday released a list of 52 ridings the party said are either under Elections Canada investigation for alleged electoral interference or where voters have come forth with stories of harassing or fraudulent calls.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alberta.) continued to insist in the Commons that the Conservative party had nothing to do with fraudulent calls under investigation in the Ontario riding of Guelph—which re-elected Liberal MP Frank Valeriote with 43.4 per cent of the vote—and accused the opposition of a “smear” tactic.

Mr. Harper introduced a new element o the Conservative defence against the opposition attack—that the recent allegations of voter interference had not been reported in the nine months since the election.

“The fact of the matter is that there is an investigation in one particular riding that has been going on for some time with the assistance of the Conservative Party,” Mr. Harper said.

“Beyond that, these complaints have their origin nine months after the election, which is obviously a deliberate smear tactic by a party that lost the election,” he said in response to a question from NDP Interim Leader Nycole Turmel (Hull-Aylmer, Quebec).

Voters who want to challenge the fairness of an election in any individual riding have 30 days to lodge a complaint, but former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley suggested in an interview on CBC Radio’s The House last Saturday that the 30-day period would begin after voters were generally made aware of the problem through a news report by Postmedia News and The Ottawa Citizen.

The Guelph investigation and other incidents, along with Conservative connections to an Edmonton robocall firm linked to the Guelph calls, were first made public in the report.

Many voters who have since spoken to the news media about suspicious or harassing calls on election day have said the attention reminded them of the voting day problems with callers and claims of changed polling locations.

Outside the Commons, Mr. Martin said the Conservative Party would benefit by weakening the opposition parties financially—aside from benefitting at the polls—if voter suppression drove down the number of ballots cast for the opposition.

Though the government has passed legislation that will gradually reduce the $2-per-vote federal subsidy and eliminate it by 2015, the allowance continues to be crucial for the smaller opposition parties.

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“They’re laughing and they’re saying, ‘Oh well, Martin must be insane.’ Why would the Conservatives try and suppress the vote in Calgary, where they get like 75 per cent of the vote?” Mr. Martin said outside the Commons. “I’m telling you why, because they’re trying to starve their political opponents for resources.

“If you make 10,000 calls and only 10 per cent of them have the effect of suppressing that person’s vote, that’s a thousand people times two dollars per vote per year, that’s $8,000 [over four years],” Mr. Martin said. “I think that’s a pretty damn good secondary investment.”

Mr. Del Mastro scoffed at Mr. Martin’s claim, saying the previous Conservative minority government had included elimination of the vote subsidy in a budget it tabled in Parliament before the opposition parties forced the election.

“Mr. Martin knew for a fact that that subsidy was a do-do, extinct,” Mr. Del Mastro told The Hill Times.
“Mr. Martin knows full well that what he’s saying is ridiculous. Mr. Martin knows full well that was in the budget, Mr. Martin knows full well that we brought forward that budget and we intended to eliminate the per vote subsidy, so this new rationale brought forward by Mr. Martin is just as silly as the other things he’s been saying,” Mr. Del Mastro said.


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