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Robocall Protest Draws Small Crowd

An election-fraud protest drew a small crowd, but the organizers vow to keep on going.

A small crowd gathers at Sunday's robocall protest. Photo by Dean Bradley.

A rally Sunday at Old City Hall, the objective of which was to demand an independent public inquiry into voter suppression during the 2011 federal election, turned out to be a bit of a non-event.

With fewer than two dozen protesters gathered around a tent, listening to speeches blaring out of what looked a guitar amp, the rally fell short as a show of force. That said, lead organizer Jon Allan isn’t fazed. He points out that this is the third in a series of ongoing protests.

“The very first rally we had about 3,000 people, the whole thing was just full. The second one, we had a few hundred, and this is a die-hard handful,” he said. “There is an element of protest fatigue, but this is important and this is an issue that can’t be swept under the rug.”

Co-organizer Tara Ferrell said that while protesters may have been thin on the ground, the busy Queen Street location provided them with a great opportunity to let the uninformed know more about the so-called “robocall” scandal, which saw thousands of voters in Guelph receive automated calls, supposedly from Elections Canada, during last year’s election. The calls told those voters that the locations of their polling places had changed, when in fact they had not. It is suspected that similar tactics were used in several other ridings, but only the Guelph calls are currently being investigated internally by Elections Canada. The protesters were calling for an inquiry that would cover robocalls allegations beyond Guelph, and that would be open to the public.

“Unfortunately, more often than not, when you speak to people about the robocalls scandal, they don’t even know what that is,” Ferrell said. “I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist on this, but politics always seems to take the back burner [in the media]. Unless it’s some scandal involving sexual deviance. That will get in.”

The event was also short a guest. Former Etobicoke Centre Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who lost his seat to Ted Optiz by only 26 seats, was scheduled to speak but had to back out at the last minute. Wrzesnewskyj has accused the Tories of rule-breaking in the Etobicoke Centre riding, and has launched a lawsuit against the Conservative Party, which is ongoing. It was because of the case that he was unable to appear.

Former Green Party leader and current Huffington Post columnist Jim Harris did speak. He cautioned against referring to the robocalls as “dirty tricks,” saying that the phrase downplays the fact that the calls weren’t just underhanded. They were illegal.

“This is something that is deeply concerning to Canadians,” he said. “We’re upset about this, it violates our sense of fairness.”

Allan says that he will keep staging these rallies in spite of the small turnout, because the robocalls scandal is just too important to ignore.

“This is the foundation of our entire democracy,” Allan said. “We’re living in a developed country, people see all the shiny buildings and they forget that you need a democracy for things to function fairly.”

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