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A House of Commons mail-out to electors from an unknown number of Conservative MPs alleges a government plan to “rig” the next federal election by forcing through a new voting system that will favour the Liberal Party.
“The Liberal Plan to Rig the 2019 Election And How You Can Stop It,” screams the mail-out in capital letters across the top of its first page.
Mail-outs, also known as “householders,” are subsidized by the Commons and available to all MPs as a way of communicating with constituents and conducting surveys.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill Times, guides recipients to Parliament’s website, and urges them to “demand” a referendum by signing an electronic petition sponsored by Conservative MP Scott Reid.
Constituents can also snip off the bottom third of the mail out, and mark in either support or opposition to a national referendum on any changes to the electoral system, the same choices that were offered in a vote Conservative MPs also held through householder mail-outs as part of the party’s campaign for a referendum before a new electoral law is passed by Parliament.
The strident language in the petition householder is reminiscent of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent allegations his opponents have already “rigged” the election to be held Nov. 8, but also reflects similar language the Conservative Party used in an earlier fundraising email this past summer.
A spokesperson for Conservative Interim Leader Rona Ambrose (Sturgeon River-Parkland, Alta.) said Tuesday he was not immediately aware when MP offices distributed the householder alleging Liberal plans to rig the federal election scheduled for Oct. 21, 2019, or how many were distributed.
“I don’t know off the top of my head,” said spokesman Mike Storeshaw in an emailed response. “MPs are responsible for sending out their own householders so I don’t really have a way to know exactly what each individual MP sent out, how many or when.”
Mr. Storeshaw denied the wording originated in the Conservative caucus research bureau. “The research office sometimes does templates for MPs which they can either use as-is or adjust for themselves. There’s nothing our shop designed that used that language,” Mr. Storeshaw emailed later.
This householder sent to constituents of Conservative Len Webber guides recipients to Parliament’s website, and urges them to demand a referendum by signing an electronic petition sponsored by Conservative MP Scott Reid.
This householder distributed in the name of Alberta Conservative MP Len Webber guides recipients to Parliament’s website, and urges them to demand a referendum by signing an electronic petition sponsored by Conservative MP Scott Reid.
The Hill Times obtained a photo of the front page of one of the mail-outs that was distributed under the name of Conservative Alberta MP Len Webber (Calgary Confederation, Alta.).
Mr. Webber endorsed the concern expressed in the newsletter, apparently based on Conservative allegations over the summer that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and his government secretly intend to introduce a ranked-ballot system of voting that, according to experts who have analyzed trends and voter preferences in past elections, would benefit the Liberal Party the most.
Saskatchewan Conservative MP Randy Hoback (Prince Albert, Sask.) said he had not seen the householder after being shown the photocopy obtained by The Hill Times, but also expressed concern about what the government intends to do.
He brushed off comparisons with Mr. Trump’s language, and said: “Donald Trump, is Donald Trump.”
Mr. Trump alleged vote-rigging in the U.S. while trying to diffuse a storm of controversy over allegations of past sexual harassment, ignited after several women came forward after he attempted to downplay a recording of past sexual and degrading comments he had made about women.
“They even want to try to rig the election at the polling booths, and believe me there’s a lot going on,” Mr. Trump said in remarks broadcast by the CBC and other networks.
The Conservative mail-outs alleging Liberal plans to rig the next federal election in Canada focuses on the Liberal MPs who represent the government on a special Commons committee that has held more than 40 public meetings since last July.
The panel heard from a range of Canadian experts and specialists from other countries, including several that have proportional electoral systems, where smaller parties are assigned legislature seats based on the percentage of the vote their candidates receive.
The committee on Tuesday began making plans behind closed doors for drafting a report to the House of Commons, due by Dec. 1 under the government motion that mandated the committee last June.
“Justin Trudeau promises to change the way you elect Members of Parliament,” the Conservative mail-outs say. “Only six Liberal MPs will determine how all Canadians vote because he refuses to hold a referendum.”
The claim is based on the composition of the committee, which the government agreed would consist of all parties in the Commons, including the Green Party, whose leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.), is the party’s only MP, and the Bloc Québécois, which also has only one MP on the committee.
The Conservative Party has three MPs on the panel and the NDP has two. The Liberals have five, including Montreal MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who chairs the committee.
If none of the opposition parties can reach a consensus, either among themselves or partially among themselves and also with the government, it’s possible a majority report with recommendations to the Commons might be dominated by either the Liberals alone, or the Liberals along with one or more MPs from the other parties.
Liberal MP Mark Holland, parliamentary secretary to Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef (Peterborough-Kawartha, Ont.), described the Conservative allegations as “over the top, ridiculous.”
“They’re pre-judging the process and making accusations that are fantastical, without any evidence,” Mr. Holland (Ajax, Ont.) said in an interview.
“This is supposed to be their outreach,” said Mr. Holland, as he pointed out that only a handful of Conservative MPs hosted town-hall meetings to sound out constituents on electoral reform, as suggested in the Commons mandate motion last June.
“Their public input is this over-the-top partisan nonsense,” Mr. Holland said.
Mr. Reid (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, Ont.) last week said the Conservative Party would not agree to any consensus report unless it included a provision calling for a national referendum before any electoral system changes are passed through Parliament.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.), his party’s democratic reform critic, blamed the strident mail-out on Conservative Party “operatives,” and said he wants to focus on trying to reach a consensus with Mr. Reid and the other two Conservative MPs on the committee.
“I’m trying to separate a bit between the work Scott Reid is doing, because I think that he and Blake [Richards] and others are actually curious about democratic reform, not this kind of garbage, which I think is just trying to get people riled up,” Mr. Cullen said in an interview.
“I just assume the party is looking for a cheap hit to raise some money,” said Mr. Cullen, who spoke teasingly about the similarity of the Conservative fundraiser to Donald Trump’s claims.
“Who copied who?” said Mr. Cullen. “I mean, imitation is the best form of flattery; it should worry the Conservatives if they ever have messaging that’s exactly the same as Donald Trump.”