Podcast: Vikileaks Exposed, Robocon Scandal Widens

Election Robo Calls

While CFAX 1070 host Adam Stirlingand I normally discuss social media, occasionally news and events create the issues for our regular segments.

Adam Stirling

Adam Stirling

This is certainly the case with the @Vikileaks30 Twitter account, which has now been exposed as a Liberal Party staffer, and the almost surreal, widening claims of robot/call centre phone messages which misdirected voters to non-existent polling stations in the May 2nd 2011 Federal election.

There are plenty of media articles, and new revelations daily, if not hourly…

Ottawa Citizen – Allegations Unprecedented

Canada’s former chief electoral officer says recent allegations of systematic voter-suppression phone calls are unprecedented in the country’s electoral history.

“We have never seen anything like this alleged case in terms of this potential organization and impact in terms of numbers,” says Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada’s chief electoral officer from 1990 to 2007. “People vote twice, people destroy the signs, but this automated means and this use of call centres is the first time the allegations go as far as they are going. They’re serious.”

Toronto Star – Call Centre Staff Misdirected Voters

However, one employee was so concerned that something was amiss she says she reported it to her supervisor at the RMG site, to the RCMP office in Thunder Bay and to a toll-free Elections Canada number at the time.

Annette Desgagné, 46, said it became clear to her — after so many people complained that the “new” voting locations made no sense or were “way the hell across town” — that the live operators were, in fact, misdirecting voters.

“We’re sending people to the wrong place,” Desgagné recalled telling her supervisor.

Chantal Herbert – Robo-call accusations raise uncomfortable questions

Under Stephen Harper, the Conservatives have pushed the line of what is considered fair game in partisan politics.

It now basically sits on the divide between what is legal and what is not. The evidence suggests that the closer parties play to that line, the greater the chances that some of their partisans will cross it.

The Liberals just learned that the hard way when it was found that one of their staffers was responsible for leaking details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ private life on Twitter.

Too often, the opposition has been prompt to follow the Conservatives down the same slippery slope.

On that score, the addiction of all federal parties to robo-calling is a telling development.

A technique originally used to dispense useful information to prospective supporters is being turned into an instrument of harassment.

When MP Lise St-Denis left the NDP to sit as a Liberal in January, the New Democrats hired a firm to robo-call her constituents of Saint-Maurice-Champlain.

The NDP was not identified as the sponsor of the calls and recipients were not told that if they pressed 1 to signal their displeasure with St-Denis, they would be re-directed to her riding office — where they swamped the phone lines for a number of days.

There is an Elections Canada investigation underway specifically seeking answers in the Guelph, Ontario allegations. However, as nearly 40 ridings across Canada are reporting voter suppression calls, it is now imperative an over-arching, deep investigation is pushed by the House of Commons. Voter suppression – the most common being negative adverts – is nothing new, and while many feel those are unethical, they are not illegal. Voter suppression which actually inhibits someone from voting, such as saying they need to go to a different polling station, IS illegal.

Podcast: CFAX1070 with host Adam Stirling (and read Adam’s commentary)

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