A probe into “robocalls” that misdirected Canadian voters to fake polling stations during last year’s election, won by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories, is casting suspicion on the results. It is not yet clear who was behind the automated telephone calls to voters in the town of Guelph, Ontario in spring 2011 that reportedly led to a chaotic scene at a polling station, and likely led some to give up on voting. The opposition parties, whose supporters were apparently targeted, pointed fingers at the Conservatives, but the Conservatives denied any involvement while hitting back at what they claimed was a “smear campaign.” Elections Canada, after being inundated with complaints, is now investigating the rogue calls, aided by the federal police, as new allegations are raised daily. At a press conference on Tuesday, outspoken New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin described the misleading pre-recorded calls claiming to be from Elections Canada as a “heinous affront to democracy.” “How is this different from a bunch of goons with clubs blocking the door to a voter station,” he said.
Liberal MPs also expressed suspicions that the “robocalls” may have been part of a coordinated effort to discourage supporters of the Liberal and New Democratic parties from getting to the ballot box. Elections Canada traced the calls to a single telephone number that showed up on call displays and a disposable “burner” cell phone registered to an unknown “Pierre Poutine” at a fictitious address in Joliette, northeast of Montreal. (Poutine is a Quebec dish of French fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy.)
According to court documents cited by PostMedia News, the cell phone was used to set up an account to make the phony calls two days before the May 2 election at an Edmonton, Alberta call center. The call center company, Racknine Inc., worked for the Tories’ national campaign, but said it was unaware that its servers were being used to make “fake calls.”