Rick Mercer would be proud. His has become the rallying cry for students across the country to mobilize to vote either on or before May 2, and the University of Guelph has become the epicenter of that struggle.
Late in the day on Wednesday, a slightly over-zealous member of the local Conservative candidates inner sanctum became enraged at what they determined to be an illegal special voting centre at the U of Guelph campus, and attempted to grab the ballot box which contained the votes of roughly 700 students. The overly-excited Conservative was stopped from taking the ballot box, and now the twin battles begin: the Conservatives attack the legality of the special voting centre claiming there were violations under the Elections Canada Act, and the Liberals add this to their arsenal of examples of Conservatives attempting to disrupt the democratic process.
Ignatieff was asked about the incident at a press conference he was holding in someone’s messy garage, it would appear. He had this to say:
One in five of Canadians who turned 18 in 2008 bothered to vote at all. What kind of message does that conduct send to those young Canadians? You got to check your Facebook page before you go to a political meeting, and when you do try to vote on a campus some political party comes in and tries to grab the ballot box?
CBC.ca has a very in-depth report on the matter. This is not earth shattering, and likely those students votes will be counted, failing a successful Conservative legal argument that the ballots are tainted somehow. Still – the optics (my gawd, the optics) do not look good for Stephen Harper, as he is once again forced to act like these repeatedly undemocratic actions done by his party in his name do not matter.
No wonder he has ruled with a mighty iron fist when in power: when you look around Stephen Harper, it seems the vast majority don’t quite know how to behave themselves.
The best result of this bizarre incident? Steeling the resolve of more students to make sure they vote in this election, regardless of who is trying to stop them!
(UPDATE: 17:25, Apr. 15): As reported in the CBC, Elections Canada has stated that the 700 ballots cast by students of the University of Guelph will indeed be counted in the upcoming federal election.
According to Elections Canada, “All information at our disposal indicates that the votes were cast in a manner that respects the Canada Elections Act and are valid.”
Visit CBC.ca to read the entire article.