Even the most keen observers of the Fair Elections Act could be forgiven for not tuning into the late-night marathon sessions of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, as they scramble to hear from as many witnesses as possible. On Tuesday, the committee sat once in the morning, and again at night — not rising until nine o’clock.
Towards the end of the evening, while interviewing former Elections Canada Commissioner William Corbett, Dave Van Kesteren, MP for the Southern Ontario riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex, told us a little story about his very own experience with voter fraud.
Van Kesteren was inspired by a previous anecdote from Tom Lukiwski (which he has stated before, and which current commissioner Yves Cote addressed directly by saying Lukiwski’s conspiratorial mindset is entirely wrong.) Below is a magical tale of voter fraud and wonder, with the transcript below. Corbett’s answers are in italics.
I really don’t agree with you when you suggest that most, or all elections in Canada, are fair and honest. For the most part, I think that that’s correct. But I got to thinking of this little phrase: what is it? Eyes not seen, or ears not heard. What people’s imagination will conjure up. Back in 2004, first year I ran, I was one of these narrowly defeated MPs. 403 votes or something like that. Green as grass, never run an election before, never been involved in one. Somewhat dejected and depressed, we went back to the drawing board and looked at the polls and started looking at all these numbers. We noticed this one particular poll and, doggone it, we were wiped out. I mean, wiped out. Not close, wiped out. 53 to 2, or whatever it was. It was somewhat depressing. Obviously, the question was: what are these polls? Well, they’re nursing homes. Now, I ask you — because I know the answer — surprisingly, the next time around, we put people in those nursing homes and, doggone it, I think we won most of those nursing homes. I want to go back to what you were saying about prosecution. I would think, being just like everybody else, who would be somewhat fearful and nervous abut doing something wrong. If there repercussions, or something that would result in a little more than may result in a little more than Mr. Lukiwski was talking about where just, nothing really happened. I would be reluctant if I were involved in a scheme like that. So wouldn’t you agree that maybe that kind of change in the election act might prevent that sort of fraud from ever happening again.
Change to what, again, sorry?
Let’s call it hankypanky. Those little irregularities that people have conjured up through the years. Y’know, if you were working inside a polling booth or something, wouldn’t you think that maybe people would be afraid of pulling something like that off?
If there was an offence, you mean?
Well, it’s an obvious offence.
You’ll have to give me a better definition of the offence, here. I mean, in the polling station, there are numerous people who are watching what’s going on, including scrutineers from the political parties.
Well we didn’t have scrutineers at the particular. Well. We can argue that it’s my fault, you’re right, I probably should have had scruitneers. We didn’t have the people, we were new at this game. Isn’t it wrong, whether or not there were scrutineers, isn’t it wrong to take, I’m guessing, some old folks who didn’t know what day it was, let alone who they were going to be voting for-
Yes it is. It’s influencing the vote. I presume there’s an offence in the Act, amongst those 200, that fit it already. I think that’s a genuine concern, as to how voting is conducted at nursing homes.
Would it be possible that, if we were better able to identify those things and if the repercussions would be such that it would be a little more than—
A little more than a couple of thousand dollar fine? That’s what your legislation will do now. It will make the penalties more severe.
Yes, folks, Van Kesteren has proof suggesting that the Liberals are dragging Alzheimer’s patients into the voting booth and forcing them to vote Liberal. Yes. He has the proof.
Now, putting aside the obvious reality that seniors are not known for their open minds and love of change especially amid an election flooded with TV ads warning them that Stephen Harper was going to walk into their room and pull the plug, I decided to do a bit of digging into Van Kesteren’s suspicions anyway.
Surprise! They’re unfounded!
I went back and looked through Mr. Van Kestern’s results from 2004 and 2006. In 2004, he lost by just a shade over 400 votes, like he said. In that first election, he obtained an average of 37% of the vote in each poll, while the standard deviation (the average divergence from the median) was 8%. He scored under 30% in 37 polls. In non-nerd lingo: for it to be really surprising, he would have to score roughly below 20%.
Van Kesteren scored 20% in one retirement home, 18% at a mobile poll in a long-term care facility, and a mere 7% in a third poll.
But in 2006, he went into those polls and cracked down on the fraud!
Well, only insofar as he did get more votes in those nursing homes and hospitals. But so did his opponent.
And the third poll? It’s a First Nations reserve where the Conservatives can only ever count on about seven votes.
So he didn’t actually win those polls next time around, nor was there really any polls where he was “wiped out.” He did badly amongst a few dozen seniors, and he is unpopular on a reserve in his riding.
Yet he still trotted it out as obvious proof of voter fraud, and spent his entire time questioning a committee witness about it.
Great job, there, Nancy Drew.
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