Canadian "Robocall" scandal

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ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299
Canadian "Robocall" scandal

Some of you probably don't know about this (well the Canadians will know for sure) or know little about it, but there's a huge political scandal going on in Canada right now about the legitimacy of the last federal election results and whether our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was democratically elected by the people or if the Conservative party has pulled a big scam on Canadians. What happened, basically, is that a whole $hitload of people got phone calls leading up to the election asking them if they would vote Conservative. If they answered 'no', then they would get another call immediately prior to the election (like, the same day) purported from Elections Canada (Elections Canada DOESN'T make phone calls) saying that their polling station had changed, which was a complete lie. So many people who would've voted NDP or Liberal never got the chance to vote because they were intentionally directed to the wrong place to vote.

Question: What should happen if it's proven the Conservative party is behind this scam? Criminal charges? Scrap the election results and hold another federal election immediately?

An investigation by CBC News has turned up voters all over Canada who say the reason they got robocalls sending them to fictitious polling stations was that they'd revealed they would not vote Conservative.
Although the Conservative Party has denied any involvement in the calls, these new details suggest that the misleading calls relied on data gathered by, and carefully guarded by, the Conservative Party.
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand announced Thursday that he now has "over 700 Canadians from across the country" who allege "specific circumstances" of fraudulent or improper calls. CBC News examined 31 ridings where such calls have been reported and found a pattern: those receiving those calls also had previous calls from the Conservative Party to find out which way they would vote.
Tim McCoy of the riding of Ottawa-Vanier was one of those who complained to Elections Canada. He received a bogus recorded message pretending to be from Elections Canada ? but he also had two previous calls from the Conservatives.

"They did call me back from the Conservative Association and ask if they could count on my support," said McCoy, who declined to pledge his vote. He thinks that's why someone tried to mislead him. "It looks like a hijacking of the democratic process," he added. "I would like to know who made the call pretending to be from Elections Canada and I don't really care which way the finger points. I would like to know."

Elections Canada says it never calls voters at all. However, it is only now emerging that calls impersonating Elections Canada followed previous calls by Conservative workers asking which way voters were leaning. That suggests that the "Elections Canada" calls, which are illegal, came from people with access to data gathered by the Conservative Party, which carefully controls access to it.

Asked about that, party spokesman Fred Delorey had no comment and declined an interview.

Election day calls

The pattern of legitimate so-called "Voter ID" calls, followed by bogus "Elections Canada" calls, occurs in ridings across the country.

Charles Cochrane of Saint John, N.B., made it very clear to the Conservatives that they did not have his vote. Then, on election day, he said, "The phone rang and it was a recorded message. This is Elections Canada calling, your polling station has now changed." He checked. It had not changed.

From the outset, the Conservative Party leadership has insisted it had no involvement in these calls.

"The Conservative party can say absolutely, definitively, it has no role in any of this," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. His parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro, calls claims to the contrary "baseless smears."

However, opposition leaders say the scheme could never have gone forward without callers having access to the Conservatives' proprietary database on voter intentions. Known as "CIMS," the database assigns a "smiley" face to supporters, and a "sad" face to non-Conservatives. Liberal and NDP politicians say it would make no sense to call randomly, since many of the voters misled would be Conservatives.

"Who had access to the database? Who wrote the scripts?" asked the NDP's Charlie Angus in question period Thursday. He did not receive an answer.

Lori Bruce of Fredericton thinks she has a good idea. She said the Conservatives knew she was not a supporter, and called her more than once ? even identifying themselves while misdirecting her to the wrong polling station.

Bruce said she received a call stating that it was "on behalf of Stephen Harper and Keith Ashfield for the Conservative party."

"At that point, he told me that my voting location had changed. I, at that point, said no, it's at the same location it always is."

Bruce then Googled the caller's number and found out it was the Conservative campaign office. Still, she wanted to be sure.

"I called the number back," she says, "and I just got an answering machine message, saying thank you for calling the Conservative Party."

Peggy Walsh Craig of North Bay, Ont., told a similar story ? but received two separate calls.

"The first one was a few weeks before the election and it simply asked me one question and that was, was I going to vote for the Conservative Party ? and I indicated no."

Only later did she get an anonymous second call, she said.

'Polling stations have changed'

"That was, it was Elections Canada calling and that they ? due to higher than anticipated voter turnout, the polling station had been changed."

Once again, it hadn't changed at all. The same thing happened to Astrid Dimond of Mission, B.C.

Dimond said a caller told her that, "We're just phoning to let you know that the polling stations have changed."
Dimond knew better.

"And I said, no they haven't, and I hung up on her."

Dimond added that she tracked the call back to its source. The misleading call "came from the same number that all the other calls had come from, which I found out was the Conservative Party."

CBC News came up with many voters with similar complaints, including Saj Aziz in the riding of Mississauga-Streetsville, Carmen Leveille in Victoria, Gordon Webb in Guelph, May Beland in Willowdale and Susan Lapell in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's.

Aziz said a "research company" tried to find out who he was voting for as part of an "independent poll." When he declined to commit to the Conservatives, he was told that "a supervisor" would call him back. Then, he got a call from the Conservative party, trying to win him over. When that didn't work, he finally got a call saying that his polling station had moved. However, he'd already voted in the advance poll, at the right place.

In Guelph ? where the robo-call scandal began ? Gordon Webb says he made it clear to the Conservatives that he would not vote for them. He, too, got a misdirection call telling him to go to a phoney polling station. At least a hundred people showed up there and some of them angrily gave up on voting, blaming Elections Canada.

As for the next step, all of these voters say they want Elections Canada to get to the bottom of it.

"There definitely should be punishment," said Lori Bruce of Fredericton. "They should be punished to the fullest extent of the law."

In North Bay, where the Liberals lost by just 18 votes, Peggy Walsh Craig said, "I care a lot about democracy and so I'm appalled that this is happening."

"It raises enough questions that it makes me wonder about the results here."

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

If there is proof that this was actually done (and not just a bunch of unhappy voters crying fowl) and if there is any indication that Mr. Harper or his campaign team was part of this scam, then that should be grounds for impeachment or recall.

That said, I'm surprised that so many people would be duped like that. If I got a call like that, I wouldn't believe it because that's just not how the system works. If a polling place is closed, which is extremely rare, then they have to put a sign on the closed polling place saying exactly where the new polling place, the sign has to be in every language that ballots are available in at that polling station, and they have to have an election worker with official ID stay there to answer questions. Surely there's a similar process in Canada?

And even if you show up at the "wrong" polling place, you can still vote. You can either decide to go to your correct polling place & vote normally, or you can vote "provisionally," which means that the election department has to verify that you didn't vote at your correct polling place before counting your vote. Any vote that you weren't qualified to make, i.e. if the "wrong" polling place is in a different supervisor district so you voted for John Doe when he wasn't a choice at your home polling place, won't count.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

The electoral system is quite different here, so sending someone to the wrong polling station would absolutely mean they wouldn't be able to vote because we vote for the candidate in our riding to represent us as an MP (Member of Parliament), not for the person we want to see become Prime Minister. Funny enough, guess who the Conservative rep is in my riding? Stephen Harper. Yep, I live in Stephen Harper's constituency. As such, I should give him a call!!!

Anyway, yeah, if you were directed to a different polling station outside your riding you'd be looking at names of candidates you can't even vote for. Lots of people didn't fall for the scam, but the mere fact that these calls were being made is shocking to me. PC reps aren't returning calls, won't give interviews or even comment to the press, and it seems highly coincidental to me that 700 Canadians who have nothing in common and no reason to make up such an elaborate and consistent lie are all saying the same thing about when they were called, who was calling, etc.

I'm not saying I think Stephen Harper himself has a direct role in all this, maybe just some of his campaign organizers who were going to get a nice big bonus for their hard work if the PCs were re-elected. IDK. This is just so surprisingly un-Canadian. Political schemes like this are rare here.

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

There are a LOT of variables in this situation, starting with who was responsible. Was this an official Conservative Party plan or just a bunch of people with access to information screwing around? Although both are wrong, it makes a huge difference in how to deal with it.

I don't think there would have been enough of an impact to skew election results. 700 people isn't all that many and from the articles quotes, most of them weren't fooled.

If I'm reading it right, voters were being directed to vote outside of their riding? Or was it just at a different polling station? There are numerous polling stations here that all are voting for the same MP. Either way, I really think most people would have recognized that call being wrong. The instructions on the voter card are pretty clear and even if I showed up at the wrong place, the people there would have caught that when I signed in and directed me to where ever I was supposed to be voting.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4111

"kris_w" wrote:

There are a LOT of variables in this situation, starting with who was responsible. Was this an official Conservative Party plan or just a bunch of people with access to information screwing around? Although both are wrong, it makes a huge difference in how to deal with it.

Right. I think whoever is actually repsonsible should be punished with whatever charges are appropriate. It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult to find out since they should be able to get the information from the phone records.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

Harper personally appointed the Chief Electoral Officer back in '07. Makes me wonder....