OTTAWA – Rude calls, calls in the middle of the night, swearing and even a mysterious message from North Dakota are among the robocall stories collected from 56 ridings by Elections Canada investigators.
The details of the calls were included in documents filed in Federal Court this week as part of a continuing investigation into misleading calls made during the 2011 federal election.
The calls were both recorded and live. Sometimes the caller claimed to be from Elections Canada or from one of the parties and would direct the voter to an erroneous or non-existent polling station. The investigators said they believed some of the calls were designed to make an individual not for a certain candidate.
The investigators want major phone companies, including Shaw, Rogers and Videotron, to turn over details of who was calling their customers — sometimes in the middle of the night.
Many complainants said they received harassing calls from individuals claiming to be from the Liberal party, such as one call to a voter in the B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Alberni.
“She said (the caller) demanded to know whether she would support the Liberal Party. The complainant said she informed the caller she had already voted and had voted for another party,” wrote investigator John Dickson.
The caller than hurled a four-letter expletive at the voter.
Another Canadian in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands said individuals purporting to be from the Conservative party called twice after 11 p.m.
“He said that one went so far as to ask him whether had finished high school, and whether he was unemployed, and whether he hated Canada,” Dickson wrote.
In one mysterious case, a voter in Winnipeg Centre said he received calls from a North Dakota area code, and a message telling him of a change in polling station. Thinking it might be a relative living in that same area, the individual called the number back asking for the family member.
He told Elections Canada that whoever answered the phone put down the receiver to find a person with the relative’s name. In the background, the Canadian said he could hear people discussing voters in Ontario, particularly Guelph and Thunder Bay.
“The complainant said he heard the person with the same name as his relative say to someone else that no one was supposed to call him at that number,” said Dickson.
“At about that time, the complainant states he said “Hello.” The person with the same name as his relative apparently heard this and said to someone else ‘Idiot. He can hear us.”‘
The stories match some of the same ones shared with the media in the months after the May 2, 2011 federal election.
Despite being told to go to the wrong place to vote, most of the hundreds of people detailed in the court documents ignored the misleading messages and calls and went to the right place.
Still, at least one voter in Calgary North Centre said the location she was told to go to was too far away, and so she did not cast a ballot.
The investigators note each time that they verified with a party about their calling practices in a particular riding. They repeatedly noted that they had asked the Conservatives for information going back to August 7 and August 30, but that party lawyer Arthur Hamilton was still promising to connect them with local campaign officials on October 30.
Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey emphasized Friday that the party has been transparent with Elections Canada.
“As I’ve said before, we have proactively reached out to Elections Canada and offered to assist them in any way we can,” said DeLorey.
“That includes handing over any documents or records that may assist them. We will not comment on specifics as we do not want to compromise any part of the investigation.”
Lawyers for eight Canadians from six ridings will argue in Federal Court on Dec. 10 that the election results should be overturned because of the alleged efforts to suppress the vote. The case is being supported by the left-leaning organization Council of Canadians.
The Conservatives have accused the group of not having any bona fide witnesses who could testify that they actually were dissuaded from voting because of the calls.