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Everyone Freaked Out About Voter Suppression For No Good Reason

10/23/2015 12:32 EDT | Updated 10/23/2016 05:12 EDT
Todd Korol via Getty Images
CALGARY, AB - October 19, 2015: - Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses supporters after he lost the federal election in Calgary, Alberta, October 19, 2015. (Todd Korol/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

There will be endless analysis in the coming days, months and years, but remember this: everything the opposition and media said about Stephen Harper and the Conservatives' election strategy was wrong.

All of the controversy over the Fair Elections Act and common sense election-related legislation has hilariously backfired -- not against the Conservatives, but against the critics who went nuclear opposing it.

Complaints about Conservative "voter suppression" were unfounded. Mr. Trudeau alleging that "Mr. Harper still has tricks up his sleeve," in a thinly-veiled reference to inappropriate "robocalls" in the 2011 election, completely ignored reality. In fact, not only has the CRTC implemented strict new rules regarding the use of automated phone messages (under a Conservative government, mind you), but the simple mention of a "robocall" is bound to elicit such a visceral response that they simply won't be used as they once were. The alleged controversy took care of itself and was a non-issue for the 2015 campaign, even though Mr. Trudeau pushed the issue.

Myths about restrictive voter identification requirements "suppressing" and preventing non-Conservatives from voting were also exactly that: a myth.

Rather, voter turnout hit 68.3 per cent, the highest turnout in over two decades. It turns out, when you have reasonable standards to allow 38 different pieces of identification, people will overwhelmingly use those pieces of ID and just get on with voting.

The vouching system remained -- it was merely trimmed back to avoid one person from being allowed to vouch for an entire busload of people. Something tells me the Liberals are unlikely to complain about the result of last night's election on the grounds of any non-Liberals not being able to vote.

ID requirements were all clearly communicated by Elections Canada -- online, in person, via mail and over the phone. Speaking of this, remember that barely 20 months ago the media and opposition went hysterical with claims that the Fair Elections Actwould "silence" Elections Canada and make it illegal for them to tell people to vote.

If you saw the TV commercials, you would know this was patently false. In fact, Elections Canada paid to promote tweets and Facebook posts; they ran TV ads; and they included the usual voting information through Voter Information Cards sent by mail. Elections Canada's mandate is, was and remained to promote and facilitate elections -- a mandate that was clearly not changed as this election proves.

The fixed election date -- which was passed by the Conservatives -- allowed the election date to be known years out. There was no excuse for anyone to say they didn't know there was an election because it was literally written into law years before the election took place.

When Stephen Harper dropped the writ on August 2, initiating the longest election campaign since the 1870s, he did so to prevent the NDP and Liberals from campaigning on the public dime. Unfortunately, the drawback was that it gave Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair the time to appear polished and competent, especially when it came to appearing in multiple debates on specific topics. Some complained that this was a ploy to drain the war chests of the other parties and ensure victory by blasting the airwaves with ads. Clearly, it didn't work.

Strategic voting strategies also failed to materialize. The near-collapse of the NDP cannot be attributed to strategic voting, but to Mulcair's poor responses to questions on the niqab, which hit him especially hard in Quebec and Ontario. Mulcair also ran a centrist campaign while Trudeau ran to the left, mimicking Kathleen Wynne's victory in Ontario in 2014.

This left Mulcair to answer why he would support "right wing" policies like balanced budgets and the Universal Child Care Benefit. A successful strategic voting campaign could have reasonably been expected to boost the fortunes of some NDP MPs and candidates, especially where they were seen as being more likely to defeat the Conservatives. Instead, basically the entire NDP shadow cabinet was wiped out. Party stalwarts like Pat Martin, Jinny Sims, Peggy Nash, Megan Leslie and Peter Stouffer suffered sizeable defeats. The Bloc Quebecois also increased their seat count sizably, returning to 10 seats in the House of Commons. No strategic voting campaign could have recommended propping up the Bloc when the province could have more reasonably voted Liberal.

The results of Canada's 2015 federal election are what they are, but let's be clear: much of the media and opposition's complaints about election laws and the Conservatives "fixing" a win just weren't true.

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Canada's Election Night Photos 2015