Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Fraudulent election calls traced to Edmonton firm with Tory links

National Post: Fraudulent election calls traced to Edmonton firm with Tory links
[Sue] Campbell had just returned home after voting on the morning of election day when a call came in saying her polling station had been moved to the Quebec Street Mall in downtown Guelph.

“At first, I thought. ‘Oh, that’s strange,’” Campbell recalls. “Upon reflection, I thought, ‘This can’t be right. Why on Earth would it change on the day election?’”

She wrote down the digits on the caller ID — the number in Quebec — and called Elections Canada to complain.

Internal Elections Canada emails obtained under Access to Information legislation show officials were rattled by the calls.

At 11:06 a.m., election officer Anita Hawdur sent an email to to legal counsel Karen McNeil with the header: “URGENT Conservative campaign office communications with electors.” Hawdur reported that returning officers were calling to ask about the calls. McNeil responded by asking Hawdur to alert Rennie Molnar, the deputy chief electoral officer. He later emailed Michel Roussel, a senior director: “This one is far more serious. They have actually disrupted the voting process.”

Around the same time, Guelph Liberal MP Frank Valeriote got a call at his home, telling him that his campaign staff was hearing from Liberal supporters in the riding about the same kind of bogus Elections Canada calls.

What they first thought were a few nuisance calls, the Valeriote campaign recognized was an orchestrated campaign to discourage his supporters from voting.

Voters who ended up in the wrong place and were turned away were unlikely to persist and go to another polling station. A campaign worker was quickly dispatched to the mall, armed with a binder of polling maps, so he could redirect supporters back to the right place. Within an hour, more than 100 voters had turned up at the mall.