Robocalls: Conservative Party’s firm directed voters in Northern Ontario to wrong polling stations, says former employee
OTTAWA—An employee at a call centre used by the Conservative party in last year’s election says she wrongly informed voters in a northern Ontario riding that their polling station had been changed just days before the vote.
The sworn affidavit of Annette Desgagne, a former employee of the Responsive Marketing Group, says she specifically recalls contacting voters in the riding of Nipissing-Tamiskaming to tell them they would have to cast their ballots at a different location than the one printed on their voting cards.
She says she did so while reading a script provided by the call centre, which was hired by numerous Tory candidates during the campaign to identify likely Conservative supporters and to urge them to cast a ballot in the May 2, 2011 vote.
“I talked to many people all over Canada over the three days in advance of the election, reading from the change of address script,” Desgagne says in the April 13, 2012 affidavit.
The document has been filed with the Federal Court to support a motion that would have the election results overturned in seven federal ridings. Only one of the ridings, Vancouver Island North, had a polling station change.
Nipissing-Tamiskaming was among the closest races in the campaign, and Liberal incumbent Anthony Rota ultimately lost to Tory Jay Aspin by 18 votes.
That riding stands out in her mind, she says, because she initially fumbled over the pronunciation of the riding, which includes the city of North Bay.
The Starfirst laid out Desgagne’s worries that she had been instructed to mislead voters, but her affidavit provides more specific details about the actions of RMG, including how she immediately flagged her concerns to a workplace supervisor named Stephanie.
“There was a general feeling of confusion amongst the callers as the supervisors walked the floor and repeated ‘stick to the script,’” she says in the affidavit.
“Our concerns were ignored and we had to keep reading and repeating the same scripts about changes of address for polling stations made by Elections Canada.”
The court challenge has been organized by the left-leaning Council of Canadians in the name of individuals in the ridings who have claimed that they were contacted fraudulently about a polling station change in the dying days of the campaign.
It’s the first court action related to the controversy over robocalls, which Elections Canada says were received by voters in 200 of the country’s 308 ridings. The agency started a probein the riding of Guelph where reports of fraudulent calls were widespread, but complaints have since come in from across the country.
The Conservative party has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing and suggested there is little evidence outside of the Guelph riding of an orchestrated voter suppression plot.
Arthur Hamilton, a lawyer for the Conservatives, said earlier this week that he will seek to have the legal challenge thrown out because it is “flawed.” He characterized the motion as a “publicity stunt.”