The report from Elections Canada on irregularities in the 2011 election is due at the end of the month. Lawrence Martin foresees three possible scenarios unfolding:
One is that Elections Canada finds that the dirty work was limited to just the riding of Guelph. In that case, no worries for Mr. Harper. We move on.
A second is that Elections Canada finds evidence of robocalls and other acts of subterfuge in many ridings, but leaves hanging the question of whether the Conservatives were the perpetrators. In this case, the party would likely assail Elections Canada as biased (“team jersey” wearers, as Mr. Poilievre recently hinted) and try to ride out the storm.
A third possibility is that Elections Canada comes forward with strong evidence that the party hierarchy was behind a concerted and widespread effort to subvert the voting system. This would be far bigger than the Senate expenses scandal – all hell would break loose. The Harper team’s fate would be sealed. Big-time Conservatives who spoke at the Manning conference could start revving up their leadership campaigns.
It's the third scenario that is causing the Harper Party to lose sleep. And that is the reason behind their insistence that the bill be passed quickly. Martin writes:
Some see the bill, with its downgrading of powers and many rule changes, as a bid to give the Conservatives an escape hatch from any culpatory findings by the agency’s investigation. James Sprague, a former Elections Canada lawyer, says the new act can be interpreted as forbidding the Elections Canada commissioner from disclosing any information that comes to the agency’s knowledge as a result of an investigation. Instead, it would be up to the director of public prosecutions to include the information in an annual report to the justice minister.
When Preston Manning suggested over the weekend that the bill was a barrier to democracy, he was not speaking theoretically. He knows his man.