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Robo-call scandal and Conservative bills: Parliament Hill live blog

The Vancouver Observer in on Parliament Hill - only days after an election fraud scandal broke, with allegations of vote-suppression. Photos by David P. Ball.

Today, the Conservative government faces a grilling in Ottawa over allegations of election fraud, its widely criticized omnibus crime bill, and a increasingly confrontational tone in the House of Commons.

The Vancouver Observer reports live from Parliament Hill today, with staff reporter David P. Ball on-scene to report on our federal government. Follow our reports on our live blog, and on Twitter at @VanObserver.


2:30 p.m. PST:

It's been a long day on the Hill, and time to head home to Vancouver, three hours behind.

Bob Rae and Charlie Angus won an award (from me) for debating skills and fiery rhetoric. Joe Oliver won another for coolly engaging reporters (one of the few Conservatives who did), even ducking down closer when he couldn't hear a question. Odd fashion award goes to the unknown MP wearing a Dick Tracy-style beige fedora hat, silver tie and shirt, and fake-fur lined parka.

Accusations flew today about who exactly was responsible for the electoral fraud known as 'robo-calls.' Who is responsible, and how high does that responsibility go? Conservatives pointed to the resignation of a 23-year old campaign staffer, Michael Sona (who worked until this week for Conservative MP Eve Adams). Sona was the same campaigner who attempted to physically remove and flee with an on-campus advance voting booth in Guelph - after which the Conservatives' argued the results should be invalid (Elections Canada counted those ballots regardless).

One junior staffer down from both Conservatives and Liberals (that one over a Twitter feed leaking details of public safety minister Vic Toews' life). The Conservatives will no doubt make the most of the @Vikileaks30 revelations, given that the Liberals are saying the Sona resignation wasn't enough in the RoboGate scandal.

I spoke at length with national news and comment site's parliamentary reporter, Karl Nerenberg, about the climate on Parliament Hill under the Conservatives. He's a veteran Gemini award-winning reporter with experience on the Hill (and vouched for me to get my all-access blue day pass, which I'll be holding onto as a souvenir, thank you very much).

"This is a government that loves talking about law and order," Nerenberg said, pointing out the irony of the fact they are accused of using election dirty tricks. "If up to 38 ridings had uncertain tactics, that's very dangerous for democracy.

"Was the election tainted because of that? The issue is whether the law was broken. This is a very serious matter."

He recently wrote in a column about the history of political scandals in Canada, going back to founding Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald. But most scandals revolved around improper financial transactions, power and prestige. This RoboGate affair takes things to a whole new level, he argued - to an attempt to corrupt democracy itself.

"As hobbled as our democracy is already, if a Prime Minister starts behaving like a dictator - to reference Pierre Trudeau - just watch him," Nerenberg warned. "This isn't a hockey game where it doesn't matter if you win by a couple goals.

"This is an election. It's like children - we know what happens if children get away with misbehaviour."

Signing off for now, thanks for following.

1:30 p.m. PST:

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