As April 2011 careened to a close, there were a few pollsters willing to stick their neck out and predict a Conservative majority, but the general consensus was that they would not quite achieve that mark. Moreover it was generally expected, particularly among Conservative ranks, that the NDP and the Liberals would not put up with another Harper minority. Instead they would join forces, and, absurd as it might have sounded even two months before, the late Jack Layton would be prime minister. Harper’s career would be over. So would those of the coterie of pseudo-intelligent political strategists with which he’s surrounded himself.
So, at some point in that last worrying week of April, the decision was made to order several different units to do what they could to suppress the vote, using tips and tricks they’d picked up from campaign training sessions with American Republicans. We know these sessions happened, we know that these sort of dirty tricks are quite routine fare (for both parties) south of the border, and, in fact, in some states deliberately misdirecting people to bogus polling stations isn’t even against the law.
I’m not sure who these units were. Maybe they were inside the Target Seat Management Unit. Maybe they were in the Conservative Resource Group. Maybe they were just whatever little network of local campaign staffers were personal friends of whichever senior strategist decided to activate Plan B. Whatever it was, they weren’t entirely prepared for it. They had a general idea what to do, but they hadn’t planned it out in advance — again, because if they had, they would have done a better job of it.
From the perspective of the individuals activating the covert op, there would have been no real downside. If they won a majority, they would be able to stonewall Elections Canada from now to judgement day, or at least until the next election. (This was actually happening, until Postmedia broke the story wide open in February and suddenly Elections Canada decided it should be seriously investigating the case after all.) If they lost and the NDP seized power, what would it matter? Their careers would already be over anyways, and the NDP would be too busy enjoying their newfound power to look too carefully into a vote fraud scheme that hadn’t even worked anyways.That's about the way I would break it out, although I would add a few other features.
There is a reason we do not allow the young lieutenant or brand-new sergeant to plan and execute delicate military operations, especially those which require enduring cover. They always leave stuff out. That's not because they're stupid; it's because they haven't had the sense of invincibility beaten out of them yet. It's one thing to be able to produce a covert action plan; it's quite another to be able to plan it in enough detail to have it executed without leaving evidence behind.
One of the common threads of those whose names keep appearing, (and that is not to say that they are guilty), around the voter suppression issue, is their relative young age. Behaviours involving high-risk, without consideration of possible consequences, tends to fall into the arena of young males. That fits the analysis provided by The Sixth Estate. A quick look at the two outcomes of a covert operation would not reveal the pitfalls to be avoided. The whole thing looks like a very poorly planned operation executed with arrogant invincibility. Not the work of a seasoned campaigner.
There is another dangling thread which may have panicked the Harper campaign. The Christian conservatives, a considerable force in the minority Harper-base, were not happy. They wanted their people elected to a majority Conservative caucus so as to put the squeeze on Harper himself. Some wanted to see themselves in enough control to replace Harper. A minority victory would give them as much ammunition as they needed to turf Harper into the gutter.
Even if a minority showing did not result in an NDP led coalition government, (which I believe would have happened), the Harper faction of the Conservative party would have been toast. In a party with no clear field of succession, the loose fusion of western separatists, Christian conservatives, racists and right-wing authoritarians would have likely collapsed in an all-out pig-fight for the leadership.That aside, again, the only way the Harper loyalists could possibly keep their jobs was to squeeze out a majority to fend off the threats from within their own party.
That brings up something of a post-script. Simon puts the bristles onto Speaker Andrew Scheer and his involvement in the Guelph riding. Far from being non-partisan, Scheer is a member of the faction which would have exiled Harper to the wilderness in another minority government. In a majority however, although wholly unsuited to the position, he becomes the HoC head referee. As much as I believe there is some quid pro quo involved, I also see Harper's Dionysius to Scheer's Damocles.
The literalist, authoritarian, Christian right cannot be discounted as possible players in the whole affair. But that's for another time.