Canada’s Conservative government is being accused of using tricks seen in American elections to suppress voter turnout for supporters of other parties—an allegation the Conservatives deny, saying they were also hit by “dirty tricks.”
An automated call service company used by the Conservative Party has been linked to misleading phone calls directing voters to incorrect polling stations during the last federal election.
Elections Canada, the parliamentary body responsible for administering federal elections, is investigating the “robocalls” and whether they were used as part of an effort to misdirect voters during the federal election in May 2011.
New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Pat Martin told reporters the phone calls could mark “the end of innocence in Canadian electoral campaigns.”
“Voter suppression techniques are commonplace in the United States with high-priced consulting firms specializing in sabotaging elections. But I don’t think anybody really expected a Canadian political party to stoop so low that we didn’t take the necessary steps to protect ourselves from it,” said Martin.
Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae has called on the speaker for Canada’s Parliament, Andrew Scheer, to grant an emergency debate over the matter. He’s also issued a list of 27 ridings where he said the Liberals received reports of false or misleading phone calls.
Previous reports had detailed bothersome late-night calls from people purporting to represent political parties.
While the opposition parties have claimed they lost votes and pointed to the ruling Conservative Party as the culprit, the Conservatives have issued a statement saying they ran a clean campaign.
“Voter suppression is extremely serious and if anything improper occurred those responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” the statement said.
In another statement from Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, the party called on Elections Canada to “get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible so the truth is known.”
“My own campaign in Peterborough was the victim of dirty tricks phone calls, with Conservative supporters harassed by late night abusive calls, and our Party condemns these acts,” stated Del Mastro.
The calls were traced by an Ottawa Citizen and National Post investigation to RackNine, a company that has worked on Conservative campaigns.
RackNine CEO Matt Meier issued a statement denying any knowledge of the incident.
“I was shocked and distressed to learn that some party had used our services to try and disrupt voting during the 2011 federal election. We take these allegations very seriously.”
Meier wrote that his company would fully cooperate with the Elections Canada investigation.
The RackNine blog posting with Meier’s statement said the company does not monitor outgoing calls customers make through its automated service.
“We just provide the software and hardware platforms. Blaming RackNine for any wrongdoings using those services is akin to blaming Apple for any criminal activity in which the use of iPhones are involved.”