Undemocratic impulses? Who ya gonna call? Not Jimmy Carter!

When it comes to ensuring the integrity of foreign elections, take it from Alberta Diary, Jimmy Carter is outstanding in the field. Below: Alberta MP Linda Duncan and Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovich.

By the sound of it, the international observers of Sunday’s Ukrainian parliamentary elections did manage to catch the government of President Viktor F. Yanukovich getting up to some undemocratic naughtiness.

Their report, which the international media yesterday described as scathing, accused Mr. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions of unfairly benefiting from excessive money from supporters, abuse of government resources to make it look good and heavily biased media coverage in its favour.

So it comes as no surprise that on the same day the party was claiming to have won the election and hung onto its parliamentary majority.

Last week during the lead-up to the Ukrainian vote, I have to tell you I was worried our Canadian observers of that vote wouldn’t manage to notice a thing – not because they weren’t fine people, but because they didn’t have the right expertise.

At least, I was concerned that if they were all like Linda Duncan – the only one of the 500 or so Canadian observers that I happen to know – we might not be sending the right sort people to ensure the former Soviet Republic’s national elections were open and fair.

After all, the Member of Parliament for Edmonton Strathcona, the sole New Democrat MP elected in Alberta in the past two federal elections, is a thoroughly honorable and upright person who won and kept her seat in the face of this province’s usual Tory onslaught solely by dint of hard constituency work and her famously energetic style of campaigning.

Before becoming a successful politician, Ms. Duncan had a reputation as a smart lawyer – which certainly puts her in a good position to understand how dire the implications are when she worries about Ukraine, where, as she put it in a news release before departing for the city of Kyiv on Oct. 25, even before the election campaign there had been “backsliding of democracy and challenges with erosion of law.”

Indeed, as Director of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, Ms. Duncan recently contributed to a report on the growing democratic deficit in Ukraine, a copy of which may be read here.

My worry was simply this: the kind of people who steal elections are by definition sneaks – sort of like computer hackers. Indeed, nowadays a lot of them are computer hackers. They are never people like Linda Duncan, who is honest, upright and prepared to work hard to win. So, I wondered, had we sent exactly the wrong kind of people to solve the problem in Ukraine?

Indeed, wouldn’t an honest politician and an upright lawyer be the easiest kind of person to fool when you send out your sneaks and electoral cat burglars, your robo-callers and push-pollsters, your ballot-box stuffers and vote suppressers? They might not even notice and end up endorsing an election result that in fact was pretty hinky!

I’ve thought for years this is why the Americans are forever asking Jimmy Carter, the former peanut farmer and Democratic president defeated after one term by Ronald Reagan, to make sure foreign elections are clean at the same time as they’re assigning CIA operatives to corrupt the same vote Mr. Carter is checking up on.

The CIA steals the election and laughs up its collective sleeve back at HQ in Langley, Va., while Mr. Carter endorses the result and makes us believe it because he believes it so sincerely himself.

Well, that’s just me wearing my tinfoil hat, probably. And anyway, Mr. Carter doesn’t seem to have made it to Ukraine for Sunday’s election. But still, on the theory that it takes a thief to catch a thief, I say we have many people in Canada who are highly qualified to track down electoral chicanery – leastways if we could only identify who they all are.

I mean, just for starters, the whole Conservative Party of Canada campaign team is not exactly unfamiliar with the concepts of excessive money from supporters, misuse of public resources to make the government look good and heavily biased media coverage in its favour!

And what about the anonymous person who leaked that 22,000-name Alberta Progressive Conservative Party membership list to Environics back in October 2011, so that Environics could do an interesting poll of Tory party members’ leadership voting intentions?

Or what about the robo-callers? Remember them? They were the nice young people who phoned you up if you happened to be a Liberal voter in certain closely fought Ontario ridings the night before the May 2011 federal election, the one in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally got his coveted majority, and advised you that your polling station had been moved to a vacant lot between a pawn shop and a tattoo parlour in a part of town where there weren’t many streetlights.

Last we heard, both Elections Canada and the police were looking into those cases, but don’t expect any results any time soon, and anyway, the courts are now filling up with Conservative appointments, thank you very much, just in case there are ever any actual charges or legal challenges.

But if we could just find one of the people who came up with that scheme – a seemingly impossible task, alas – you’d think they’d be ideal at ferreting out the same sort of thing if Ukrainian telephone call-display units start showing the Moscow area code on calls from extremely rude people claiming to be from the Ukrainian equivalent of the Liberals or the NDP. (Isn’t Ukraine the place where they had an Orange Revolution?)

And what if someone prorogues the Ukrainian Parliament to prevent an expression of the democratic will of the people? Wouldn’t it be better to have Prime Minister Harper or retiring Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty there to spot the signs of incipient undemocratic impulses? Or at least one of their advisors?

Or what if Mr. Yanukovich or one of his henchpersons decides to pass an omnibus budget bill with about 300 provisions that have nothing to do with the budget, or signs a 31-year surrender of national sovereignty with the Russians in the form of secret treaty than no Ukrainian gets to debate before it’s sealed and delivered. Call it, say, the Russia-Ukraine Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.

Once again, wouldn’t someone from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office be better qualified for the observer’s job than, say, Ms. Duncan?

You probably get where I’m heading with this by now. After all, there’s more than a little evidence there’s been some backsliding of democracy right here in Canada, not to mention some challenges with erosion of law.

But, given what was noticed over there in Ukraine, maybe some of the 500 Canadians Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent off with a pat on the back did have the right kind of know-how.

What I want to know is, the next time we have an election here in Canada, who are we gonna call? And please don’t say Jimmy Carter!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

4 Comments on "Undemocratic impulses? Who ya gonna call? Not Jimmy Carter!"

  1. Rob Bernshaw says:

    After reading this recent article a question was posted at the end for us readers to answer.

    Alberta Diary Quote:”What I want to know is, the next time we have an election here in Canada, who are we gonna call? And please don’t say Jimmy Carter!”

    Possible Answer:
    Since it is Halloween and Jimmy Carter is not a viable option would: ‘The Ghostbusters’ be a suitable answer?.

  2. the salamander says:

    Wonderful article (essay) I wish it were on the front page of mainstream papers as well the free papers I see on buses and public transit across Canada. Seriously.

    We don’t have political ‘rainmakers’ as we did in the past.. we have back room – war room – data wonks and live call – robo call outsourced theocrats. I maintain the last election and fraud was not about politics.. it was about Power – Petroleum – Theocracy – BIG MONEY – Ego … Just like proroguing is not about politics, its about Power and Obstruction and Secrecy and EGO

    My premise today is to fight fire with bigger fire.. or even smarter fire. Here’s one example.. kind of an extreme guerilla strategy.. and I have several others tailored to particular frauds, suppressions, lies, incompetence, treasons, idiocies etc.

    Why not pull together a very large ‘REWARD’ .. Publicize that it will be paid to any anonymous witnesses or whistleblowers who can contribute to the identification of Pierre Poutine.. or anyone involved in the the electoral fraud during our latest federal election. Kind of an Election Crime Stoppers. People love an ongoing scandal, love to see the high and mighty fall, love to hear or read about the dirt.

    Since it appears The Harper Government, Elections Canada, The RCMP, The CSIS, The Privy Council, The Sergeant At Arms, The Speaker of the House, The OPP etc.. cannot solve the puzzling crime.. it may be that the citizenry.. can do far better. I am certain there are folks out there who ‘know something’ or saw something’ and as time has passed, may no longer feel the love or loyalty or payment is sufficient. Or perhaps they’d like to write a best selling expose book. Or just have a grudge.

    The reward is a big part of the strategy of course.. and the publicity of raising the money equally so.. but the real power punch comes from the muckraking it generates, the continuous mud it slings, the ongoing reports of new clues being sifted through. Thats critical.. the campaign itself must always reflect and keep current the complete failure of the above mentioned ‘governmental authorities’ continued bafflement. Its amazing what you find by looking under rocks and rotten logs.

    The overall campaign functions as an ongoing threat to the perps or conspiracy, battering at them not just from outside.. but threatening from inside as well.. perhaps even more useful.

    I know, I know .. as Dean Del Mastro used to maintain .. from his vaunted position under Stephen Harper.. nothing happened.. there was no electoral fraud.. no proof. And Vic Toews seemed certain there was no electoral crime.. as did anyone within The Harper Government, its extensive law firms, PR firms, hired American Election Service Companies.

    Let’s see how the private sector does with a huge whack of money, an excellent ongoing public relations concept and a burning curiosity to find out the who, the why, the how… Canada, Canadians and Democracy were screwed with….. and what the perps are planning to do next

  3. Bruce says:

    As a kid who watched the FLQ crisis unfold in October of 1970 and not understanding a darn thing about it, my father told me that we are always two inches from living in a dictatorship. That was after he showed me the cartoon from Aslin, sometime later, where a hefty cop has the Montreal phone book under his arm and declares that they have a list of suspects!

    It’s always with us, even with lily white, pure as the driven snow Canadians, who really believe believe we do no wrong. Delusion is intoxicating.

  4. jerrymacgp says:

    About the only cause for optimism about our democracy that remains is that we are now seeing certain right-wing commentators, like Andrew Coyne and Michael Den Tandt , columnists that are normally apologists for the Harper Cons’ corporatist agenda, being highly critical of their undemocratic moves, from the 2008 & 2009 prorogations to the recent omnibus budget bills. When their own supporters start to snipe at them, they are truly in trouble.

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