It’s early days, but the ongoing robocalls scandal has already delivered a bunch of surprises. For instance, it turns out some people still answer their home phones. I’m as shocked as you are.
Anyway, what’s important is that the Conservatives had nothing to do with misleading phone calls meant to lure Liberal and NDP voters from their proper polling stations. NOTHING AT ALL. Conservatives love democracy. They’re always talking about its origins as the coming together of two Greek words: “kratos” meaning “power,” and “demos” meaning “gimme.”
Sure, Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid an election and, sure, his party admitted lying to constituents in Montreal so they’d think their Liberal MP had quit and, yes, Conservatives confessed to violating election finance rules in the 2006 campaign but, on the other hand, awkward silence.
MPs have been armed with talking points to defuse the scandal. They read:
1. We had absolutely nothing to do with any attempts to suppress voter turnout (wink).
2. Don’t actually wink when you say that first thing.
What matters for the future is that subverting the democratic will of Canadians isn’t going to be so easy next time. Voters will be wary, so Conservative operatives will need to find more advanced ways to keep their opponents from the polls.
To the brainstormery!
1. Robo-collars. Disguised as elegant chokers, these collars deliver a painful electric shock to any member of the electorate who so much as daydreams about voting for an opposition party. They can also be configured between elections to function as an appetite suppressant or a way of making a conversation with Vic Toews seem pleasant by comparison.
2. Mass hypnosis. Many of us have attended performances where full-grown adults have fallen under the control of a cruel master bent on making them look foolish. Some of us have seen much the same thing at Conservative caucus meetings. There’s evidence that Harper has already been practising hypnosis in preparation for the 2015 campaign. Why do you think Rob Anders keeps falling asleep? Keep your eyes on the pocket watch, Canada. You are getting very, very Conservative . . .
3. Sinister weather machines. Turnout is way down for elections. It won’t take much to coax even more people to stay away. For example, hurricane-force winds ought to be enough to make voters hunker down in Liberal-friendly Newfoundland. Same goes for four centimetres of snow in downtown Toronto.
But how to manipulate the weather? Cloud-seeding technology has advanced in recent years. Plus, Kate Bush had that neat storm-making contraption in her Cloudbusting video and it’s probably just sitting in Donald Sutherland’s garage. (Young people: just Google it.) Alternately, scientists at Conservative Labs are rumoured to be developing a proprietary system in which John Baird screams at the sky until it surrenders its moisture.
4. Robocalls are great but you know what’s even more effective? Actual robots. Picture the scene: it’s election day, a loyal Liberal supporter is putting on her coat to head to the polls and, whoa, where did her Roomba get that switchblade? Standoff.
5. Freaky Friday-style body switching. Across the country in too-close-to-call ridings, party volunteers are zapped into the bodies of opposition supporters for just long enough to vote Conservative and maybe get a tattoo of a shirtless Peter MacKay across a shoulder blade.
6. Criss-cross. Remember Strangers on a Train? You do my evil deed, I’ll do yours—and no one will ever suspect a thing. Air Canada would seem to be a good fit here. The airline can pepper voters with misleading calls and, in return, all the Conservatives need to do is put me on hold for two hours.
7. Moats. Sometimes the best modern tactic is the best ancient tactic. Just ﬁnd an opposition-friendly voting poll—then gather together some earth-moving equipment, a supply of water and a few crocodiles. All of a sudden, casting that ballot for the NDP doesn’t seem so important, does it hippie? The best part is the deniability factor: those could be anyone’s crocodiles.
8. Offer a positive, compelling vision for the country and behave in a decent, civil manner so that you inspire the support of enough Canadians that party operatives don’t feel compelled to resort to dirty tricks. But that sounds like a lot of work.