Conservatives Robo Calls

March 1, 2012 by staff 

Conservatives Robo Calls, Anger over alleged election fraud is spreading further afield as ridings with close results and alleged suspicious phone calls targeting voters are shaping up to become potential battlegrounds in the continuing “robo-call” saga.

As political parties continue to name more ridings in which there were reports of voter suppression, an examination of election results in ridings where seats were won by thin margins shows where the alleged dirty tricks campaign may have affected election outcomes.

In six sample ridings — out of the 55 that the Liberals and the NDP say had reports of suspicious or harassing calls during the campaign — most incumbents, nearly all Liberals, lost by thin margins, and in many cases, saw support drop substantially compared to the 2008 general election results.

Although it’s unclear what effect any of the alleged phone calls had on election results, opposition MPs say voters were deterred and are calling for an independent probe into the allegations.

In the Ontario riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming, for example, Liberal incumbent Anthony Rota was unseated by Conservative candidate Jay Aspin by just 18 votes. Rota says “a light went on” when he later learned of calls, allegedly from Elections Canada, telling voters their polling locations had changed.

“We were the closest riding in the country but it’s not about Nipissing—Timiskaming, it’s about the electoral system,” Rota said. “What worries me is that this group, whoever they are, if they get away with it this time, then the next election they’ll try it again. Then we’re no better than a Third World banana republic.”

Aspin refused to comment Wednesday, but told the North Bay Nugget earlier this week that his party has condemned the practice and said anyone found to have participated in or authorized those types of calls should be charged. A Conservative spokesperson on Wednesday said the party is cooperating with Elections Canada and is unaware of any other investigations “despite the unsubstantiated smears from the Liberals and NDP.”

Candidates of all political stripes in the last election employed live or automated call centres to reach voters. Elections Canada has been investigating the use of Edmonton-based RackNine Inc. to place calls to voters in Guelph that directed them to the wrong polling station. Former employees in Thunder Bay with The Responsive Marketing Group have suggested they may have been asked unwittingly to do the same when calling electors primarily in Ontario.

In Etobicoke Centre, former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who lost to Conservative candidate Ted Opitz by 26 votes, has asked the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to overturn the result and declare a by-election in the riding.

Wrzesnewskyj has alleged mistakes by Elections Canada officials and “irregularities, fraud or corrupt or illegal practices” at polling stations in Etobicoke Centre on May 2. There are also reports of misleading phone calls made to voters in the riding. The Conservatives are disputing the allegations. The case will be heard in April, with a decision expected the following month.

Former NDP MP Jim Maloway, who was the incumbent in the Manitoba riding of Elmwood—Transcona going into the last election, says robo-calls and harassing calls contributed to his loss by just 300 votes to Conservative Lawrence Toet.

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