That was the question Senator Howard Baker asked as the United States Congress moved toward its decision to impeach Richard Nixon. And that is the question Lawrence Martin asks this morning. At present, we have no definitive answer:
Thus far, the evidence as to the incidence of the dirty work in the last election is mixed. No one should start jumping to any conclusions. It’s very unlikely that Stephen Harper was an architect of any widespread vote suppression campaign. Even if he were, it’s unlikely we’d ever know about it. Failproof deniability scenarios would surely have been put in place.
The real question, Martin writes, is whether Harper turned a blind eye. A review of the record would leave any unbiased observer suspicious:
It need be recalled that respect for democratic practises has never been high on the list of this prime minister and his coterie. If getting their way required running roughshod over the system, they were prepared to do it. There are dozens of examples, not the least which were Harper’s being found in contempt of parliament, his proroguing of parliament for crassly political ends, his use of closure and time limits to cut off debate, his putting in place a vetting and censorship second to none. Given all this, it would hardly be shocking to imagine voter suppression tactics being employed.
Against that record, Harper and Guy Giorno have offered categorical denials that their party was involved in any voter suppression scheme:
Harper and Guy Giorno, his former chief of staff, have both strongly denied any involvement by the Conservatives in the robocall scam. Those denials were so categorical that they should be accorded a good deal of weight. At the same time, a lot of denials on a lot of charges have been made by this government over the years and the record shows that many of them have not withstood the test of scrutiny. In matters relating to the Afghan detainees affair or the “in and out” scam, or the G-8 spending boondoggle to name just a few, the track record for truth telling is hardly impressive.
Canadians should not be prepared to take either man at his word. But they need an answer to Senator Baker's question.