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Harper’s Canada: Threats to democracy

The final installment of our series highlighting key events and issues in Canadian politics – a look at how recent events have shaped the narrative around elections and democracy.

A lot has happened during the past year in Canadian politics and current affairs. Canadians are increasingly speaking up about federal policies, and threats to democracy are raising concern among citizens and experts from coast to coast.

For the final part in our “Harper’s Canada” series, here’s a fact sheet addressing new developments that have increased public concern over Canadian democracy.

Campaign scandals and alleged election fraud fuel federal opposition

  • In the 2006 election, Harper's Conservatives were found to have exceeded campaign spending limits by over $1 million
  • The Elections Canada investigation went on for 4 years, and in the end after the Tories plead guilty, the charges were dropped and the party paid a $52,000 fine
  • At the end of 2009, Harper took intense criticism from the Opposition when he decided to prorogue Parliament for two months, killing a number of new bills and calling for a "truce" during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver
  • Conservatives called the prorogue "routine", but critics slammed the decision claiming it was a step to "muzzle Parliament" and "shut down democracy"
  • Harper had also prorogued Parliament in 2008, to avoid a no-confidence vote
  • Feb. 23, 2012 - the ongoing “Robo-gate” election scandal began
  • Reports surfaced about voters in a number of ridings receiving automated phone calls during the May 2011 election, that falsely led them to believe their voting stations had been changed
  • Opposition immediately called for an investigation, but Conservative party leaders say they had nothing to do with the calls
  • Fake calls have now been reported in 77 different ridings across the country, and in some of them the election results show very slim margins for Conservative wins
  • Elections Canada is now dealing with over 31,000 “contacts” regarding these hoax calls
  • Some calls have been traced to a number under false name “Pierre Poutine”, which corresponded with Conservative-linked voice-broadcast firm Racknine
  • Racknine owner Matt Meier is assisting with investigation, discovered additional information about “Pierre Poutine” including another name, Pierre Jones
  • Amid early rumours of his involvement, young Tory staffer Michael Sona resigned from his position (though he maintains he had nothing to do with the calls)
  • Personal accounts describing a campaign training session at the Manning Centre for Democracy reveal that Conservatives attending training were told about “voter suppression” tactics like robo-calls


For more on “Harper’s Canada”, read VO’s other cheat sheets:

Harper’s Canada: A Conservative government policy cheat sheet
Harper’s Canada: An environmental policy cheat sheet
Harper’s Canada: A public safety and privacy cheat sheet
Harper’s Canada: A local and provincial politics cheat sheet

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