The dirty war
On the road this week in Southern Ontario, I stopped by Frank Valeriote's campaign office in Guelph yesterday to see how things were going.
Guelph has already been the epicentre of a Liberal-Conservative dispute over ballot boxes at the university. When I arrived at Valeriote's office, he and his campaign workers were talking about how and when to issue a news release about some questionable tactics they've been seeing in that riding. They're not blaming anyone, but Valeriote says that none of the other candidates seem to be the target of these tactics/pranks.
One of Valeriote's campaign workers said they have had "numerous" complaints from Guelph residents who say they're getting calls after 9 p.m. from people claiming to represent the Liberals.
Valeriote isn't the only Liberal candidate complaining of these tactics. Joe Volpe alleges that it's happening in Eglinton-Lawrence too, and Bob Speller has told the media that harassing calls are being lodged in his name in Haldimand and Norfolk as well.
Valeriote also says that people with Liberal signs on their lawns have been getting visits from volunteers identifying themselves as Conservative campaign workers, who are warning these would-be Liberal voters that voting for Michael Ignatieff will result in handing control of the country to Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe.
Like Volpe, Valeriote is saying that this is all part of a voter-suppression effort. Green Party leader Elizabeth May talked about this at the Star's editorial-board meeting a couple of weeks ago -- the nasty tactics may not drive any votes toward a particular party, but instead, disgust people enough about politics that they simply stay away from the ballot box on May 2. Much of the Liberals' whole campaign this time has been focused on boosting turnout, so these 12-year-old-kid pranks could be a real problem.
Then again, it all does give average citizens a glimpse of what's become business as usual in Ottawa in recent years.