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A man casts his vote for the 2011 federal election in Toronto in this May 2, 2011, photo. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A man casts his vote for the 2011 federal election in Toronto in this May 2, 2011, photo. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Tabatha Southey

Conservative robo-calls ran afoul of the law – and my mom Add to ...

It’s a wonder to me that the Conservative Party of Guelph has managed to survive the quietly obdurate presence of my mother in the heart of town.

She never hangs up when Conservatives call her. Instead, she’ll explain – at some length – why she doesn’t vote for them.

They phoned often during the 2011 election campaign, she believes. But while Liberal and NDP callers declared themselves right away, the Conservatives began by asking which party she was planning to vote for, and never told her who they were, instead dropping clues relating to the party platform.

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Later, my father took the robo-call saying their polling station had been moved. The neighbours, also Liberals, got the same call. Both houses ignored it, as they had already voted in the advance polls.

Now when my mother gets a polling call – the most recent was a few weeks ago – she doesn’t disclose her voting plans in any hypothetical election. Instead, she calmly answers these queries with a lecture about the history of the secret ballot, sometimes beginning in ancient Greece.

And when Conservatives call and ask what she describes as “loaded questions” about what party she most trusts to keep her safe from crime, for example – questions designed, she is certain, to manipulate her vote – she keeps the caller on the line. She takes her time, and theirs.

They deserve this, she figures. In the past, Ontario Conservatives have sometimes contacted her asking questions about whether, as a senior citizen, she resents paying school taxes when she has no children at home and is on a fixed income.

If they know she is retired, she reasons, they should know she has a bit of time on her hands as well.

For the record, my mother – who pretty much resents paying for almost anything – doesn’t resent “paying a tax to support a system that educated my four children,” as she puts it to the Conservatives. But she does resent “any implication that because I’m older now, I’m so shortsighted and mean as to have no interest in the education of my neighbours’ children …”

There’s more, but I have a word count I must stay under, which, as any Conservative will tell you, my mother does not.

My mother sends back all the postcard questionnaires the Conservatives mail to her, writing that she doesn’t think these cards are a good use of money. She adds whatever other thoughts their “surveys” inspire in her. She’s sure that because the return on these letters is postage-paid, the cost adds up.

My mother is happy to correspond with Conservatives. She encourages her friends to do the same. Like any daughter, I’ve been at war with my mother, and I can’t believe the Conservative Party of Guelph hasn’t sullenly moved on – stamped its foot, tossed its hair and skulked off to sleep over at Fergus or something – but it’s still there.

Guelph was one of 247 ridings in which there were complaints of harassing or misleading live and automated robo-calls. This week charges under the Canada Elections Act were laid against former Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona, and only Michael Sona, specifically over the Guelph robo-calls.

Mr. Sona maintains his innocence. “I think that there’s some people that maybe had an interest in seeing me take the fall for it,” he has said.

It remains to be seen whether, faced as he is with a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and five years in prison, he’ll say much more.

In my dreams, he is forced to sit in a room with my mother, a woman who loves to vote, who knows that someone or ones attempted to deprive her of that right, and who has in some ways been building to this moment.

I believe that within an hour, not only would that young man have apologized to my mother – and if you knew my mother, you’d know that this in no way assumes his guilt – but he also would find himself coming back in the fall to do her leaves.

And being a nice Guelph woman, she’ll press him on exactly how many people she will need to make lunch for when that happens.

Follow on Twitter: @TabathaSouthey

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