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July 02, 2009

Dean Del Mastro Calls Little Lake Poll "A Victory for Democracy": Peterborough Citizens Are Reminded of Orwell's Classic Political Satire 1984

There's democracy - and then there's Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro's idea of what constitutes democracy.

The Peterborough Examiner quotes Del Mastro as describing the results of the poll as "a victory for democracy."

Others, including Peterborough Federal Liberal Riding Association President John Nichols, heartily disagree. “He expended all kinds of taxpayers’ money to disseminate 98,000 ballots. Dean should be spending his time dealing with federal issues for which he was elected. He should not be acting as a lobbyist for a private developer, nor should he be trying to encroach on municipal jurisdiction to self-promote himself.”

Del Mastro's idea of what constitutes a victory for democracy is the stuff of which great Orwellian novels are made. (Think 1984 being played out in Peterborough in 2009.)

Here are a few examples of the very un-democratic ways in which this whole fiasco has played out so far.

- The list of people who received mail-in ballots was never enumerated. This resulted in a huge number of errors on the so-called voters list. Ballots were received by dead people. People received multiple ballots. People who haven't lived in the riding for years were eligible to vote.

- The ballot-counting process was conducted in-house by our MP (someone with a vested interest in the outcome) without any external scrutineers or auditors overseeing the process.

- Voters were required to include their names, addresses, and telephone numbers on their ballots. How can our MP be bragging about how democratic the process was when the sacred democratic principle of the secret ballot was sacrificed?

- Personal privacy was sacrificed. Our MP has drawn some conclusions based on his analysis of the information voters were required to provide: he has stated that voting occurred along partisan lines. I did not provide my name, address, and phone number so that my MP could attempt to link my name with political party records or use my data for partisan purposes. Perhaps this explains why the votes on the No side were not greater. (Anyone who monitored public opinion on this issue had the sense that public opinion was about 90% opposed to the process and the project.) It's possible that a lot of No voters boycotted the referendum because it was so flawed - and because, in the end, it had no legal standing. Why sacrifice your privacy for the sake of a ridiculous exercise in pre-election data-mining orchestrated by your MP?

- 4.5% of the ballots were declared spoiled - some because they contained an obscenity. Citizens were invited to provide comments, but they were not provided with any comments about whether the content of those comments might result in a ballot being declared invalid.

- The referendum was not conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Elections Act. The Act states that referenda must be conducted in conjunction with a municipal election.

Clauses 8, 9, and 10 of this document remind citizens of the high standard of conduct that is set for MPs. It is our duty as citizens to ensure that the people that we elect are seen to be following these guidelines.

Is the issue dead now that the poll results are in? Only in Dean Del Mastro's dreams. As Jeannine Taylor, an organizer of the Little Lake Protection Group, told the Peterborough Examiner, “I don’t think it’s a dead issue and it’s still really of concern. We’re going to keep plugging away at it … We can’t let this happen again.”

Anyone who truly cares about democracy recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done in order to ensure that this kind of breakdown of democracy is never allowed to happen again in our riding.

Our MP either fails to recognize the implications of his actions - or he doesn't care. Either possibility is mind-boggling - and should serve as a wake-up call for citizens of this riding.

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Comments

Thank you for your additional comments, Bruce. I didn't have the opportunity to examine a photocopy of the original ballot until this morning. Your comment is totally correct:

BRUCE WROTE:
"I've scoured the ballot and nowhere on the ballot does it say that completing personal info was optional. There's nothing in the fine print that says it was optional. In fact, the ballot says, right beside the fields to put your personal info, that "Each response will be verified for authenticity". This actually implies that you *have* to enter personal info.

I also stand by my original comments.

Further to Lara L.'s comments and my follow-ups, I've scoured the ballot and nowhere on the ballot does it say that completing personal info was optional. There's nothing in the fine print that says it was optional. In fact, the ballot says, right beside the fields to put your personal info, that "Each response will be verified for authenticity". This actually implies that you *have* to enter personal info.

I stand by my original comments. A flawed and misleading ballot on all accounts.

Lara L: With regard to your comment about the obscenities, 656 ballots were declared spoiled, many as the result of obscenities, according to comments made by our MP to a citizen who called his office asking for information about the vote.

I wasn't referencing the case of the gentleman from Lakefield who spoiled 5 ballots (Source: Dean Del Mastro's comments in the Peterborough Examiner).

One final comment: Wasn't it kind of inappropriate for our MP to disclose how a constituent voted on the ballot, even if that voter did spoil multiple ballots? "A gentleman from Lakefield." Hmmm... I wonder if I could figure out who that gentleman might be if I asked around town.

And how did that gentleman happen to come to possess multiple ballots? Because there were so many duplicate ballots in circulation. And whose fault was that? The people behind this terribly flawed ballot, of course.

A. Political - Thanks so much for your comments. I agree that it's important to push back when these types of tactics are being used.

Bruce Head - Thank you for raising all these additional points that I hadn't even thought of. The ballot was so poorly designed. It's no wonder people were confused - and are still confused. People are still writing in to the Peterborough Examiner, asking when they can expect to receive their ballot. (A Letter to the Editor expressing such concerns was published earlier this week.)

Lara L - Thank you for bringing forth an additional bit of information, which I was able to verify by checking with additional sources.

Apparently, some fine print on the ballot indicated that it was possible to omit your personal information, if you so chose. Unfortunately, because our MP provided blanks for name, address, and telephone number on the ballot itself, I (like many other residents of our riding) concluded that this information was mandatory. This is yet another reason why the ballot should have been designed by a professional with expertise in survey/ballot design.

Correction to my previous post. I'm told it might have been in the fine print, but I don't remember seeing it. Somebody can confirm.

In any case, that doesn't change the fact that if the information was not required, the ballot shouldn't have asked for it. That's Privacy 101.

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