Crank yankers

by Aaron Wherry

The Kitchener-Waterloo Record traces mischievous calls made during the election to the Conservative party.

The complaint filed by Joe Nowak, president of the Kitchener-Conestoga federal Liberal association, was obtained by The Record and includes the phone number Siopiolosz traced. When called, the number goes to a voice mail for the “Conservative Party.” The message asks callers to leave their name, number and a detailed message and says the party will get back to them within three business days. [Fred] DeLorey, director of communications and deputy director of political operations for the Conservative Party of Canada, confirmed in an email “that the number was ours.”

Numerous complaints about crank calls were made during the spring campaign.

The Conservative party has now released a statement explaining its side of the story.

“Yesterday afternoon a reporter from the Kitchener – Waterloo Record contacted us about a person being told to go to a wrong poll during the past federal election. We confirmed that the call came from a call centre that we hired for the campaign, using a line clearly labelled as belonging to the Conservative Party.

We have found that the person named in the article, Carolyn Siopiolosz, was in our database twice. Once under Carolyn Siopiolosz living in Kitchener—Conestoga and the second as C. Siopiolosz, living in Kitchener Centre. The phone number was the same for the two profiles.

The call was made by RMG, which was one of our companies hired to do calling by Kitchener Centre and the Party. Because she was listed as living in Kitchener Centre she was instructed to vote in a polling station in Kitchener Centre.

We made over a million calls on Election Day. In this case there was a mistake. We have corrected Ms. Siopiolosz’s information in our database to avoid this in the future.

We spend the entire campaign identifying supporters and we work hard to get them out to vote on Election Day.

Our job is to get votes out, we do not engage in voter suppression.”




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Crank yankers

  1. It seems like such a boneheaded move to make calls from a number traceable back to the party.  Were it anyone but the Harper Conservatives, I might even be skeptical.  But “so blatantly bad, with no fear of any consequences” is their methodology. 

    • That does seem unbelievably stupid — on the other hand, certain details of the original Watergate break-in were similarly hard to believe, in terms of their stupidity and incompetence.


  2. Our job is to get votes out, we do not engage in voter suppression.

    Voter suppression is just a CPC hobby, that’s all!

    • Our job is to get votes out, we do not engage in voter suppression. . . that’s what we hired Campaign Research Inc. for.

  3. ‘Kitchener-Conestoga Conservative MP Harold Albrecht, reached on Monday, was so surprised by the situation that he called the number himself. He said he found the ownership of the number troubling and the message unprofessional. “I will be asking some questions, absolutely,” said Albrecht, adding he will investigate. “It’s not the kind of actions I would support.”‘

    I really hope he means that. This crap isn’t OK.

  4. If only there were actual consequences for undermining democracy, other than having more Tea Party MPs than otherwise.

    • I think the Americans have shown that dirty tricks, by their very nature, evolve ahead of any attempt to regulate them.

      It’s kinda like terrorism (hear me out, I’m not equating the two) in that dirty tricks can take any form the perpetrator can think of. Trying to stop it is a hopeless matter of chasing the last form while Nick Kouvalis (or some other sleaze merchant) develops creative new ways to suppress voting.

      Meaningful consequences have to come from voters. For that to happen, voters have to complain to Elections Canada, complaints must be investigated, and publicity must be attached to every dirty trick.

      • You could always pass an expansive law against vote supression and political misinformation. The law need not be prescriptive.

  5. More of the Con version of ‘free speech’ I take it.

  6. “But, in Mayrand’s report on the last election, he states he is looking into “crank calls designed to discourage voting, discourage voting for a particular party, or incorrectly advise electors of changed polling locations.”
    On May 2, Elections Canada reported it received more than 100 complaints of phone calls offering fake polling station information from the Waterloo Region and Guelph areas, telling residents to go to the poll on their voter registration card. ”

    For the record – and from the Kitchener Waterloo Record link

    • I would like to add that I hope that the Conservative Party will have a credible explanation for each and every complaint. 

      Those 100 are from people who officially filed complaints – would there have been more calls? 

      • Unreported crime is a growing public menace…

  7. I haven’t read my own newspaper yet, but I did have breakfast with Joe Nowak this morning, and he told me about it.  The Conservative explanation is just laughable, because it happened in Kitchener-Waterloo and Kitchener Centre as well as Kitchener Conestoga (in fact I didn’t know it had happened there as well until this morning).  Just because one person had the wherewithall to trace the call and go on the record, does not mean many, many others weren’t called who at least halfway believed them because we were called to double check.  When you are unsure, you tend not to think of tracing a call.

    But perhaps it does explain why my letter to the editor wasn’t printed. :)

  8. Personally, I’m entirely capable of believing that there was no malice intended here and that the party did indeed make 100s of these types of calls through sheer incompetence on a gargantuan scale.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s any less of a concern considering these are the same incompetents who are attempting to run our country.

    • Even so, it’s just another act bordering on, but not criminal.

  9. The Conservative-hired company said her polling station had changed… not that her voting station was X

    • Yes. Suggesting that the person not go to the polling station on their voter registration card is probably illegal.

  10. Suppose (devil’s advocate here) the CPC explanation on the face of it is correct.

    My question is, where is the accountability for the accuracy of data in the CIMS System?  The data listed there is not public, if Ms. Siopiolosz were to ask the CPC what records they have on her, they wouldn’t disclose that.  They don’t comply with PIPEDA voluntarily, and political parties received an exemption from PIPEDA.  If what happened to her happened to, say, 1000 people in a riding, do the CPC still get off scott-free if they claim it was a data error on their part?

    I personally am afraid of ever contacting my MP on an issue because I know the second I do, I’ll be added to the CIMS system (which I want no part of), and which I cannot ask to be removed from because political parties are exempt from PIPEDA (one distinction: the Liberals state they voluntarily comply with PIPEDA).

    I think, accepting the CPC explanation for the error, further bolsters the argument that political parties should not be exempt from PIPEDA.

    I’d write my MP on the issue, but I don’t want to be added to CIMS.  What am I to do?

    • Write to the Privacy Commissioner.

      • The Privacy Commissioner has no jurisdiction.  They oversee compliance on two acts:
        1) The Privacy Act, which covers federal departments and agencies; and
        2) PIPEDA, which covers the private sector.

        As I said above, political parties are exempt from PIPEDA, and they do not fall under the Privacy Act either as they are not federal departments/agencies.  They are not subject to any regulations regarding the protection of private data.

        Again, I’d write my MP on the issue, but I don’t want to be added to CIMS.  What am I to do?

        • See if you can find one of those quaint phone booths we used to have, and telephone your MP.  Tell them you’ll call back in a week to get their response.  Of course, they’ll automatically consider you to be a crank  caller, but still.

        • But by writing the privacy commish, you give them a basis on which to argue political parties should be subject to PIPEDA.

          So next move, close the circle by writing to a liberal on the relevant committee and telling them you’d like them to call the privacy commish for a study on whether or not political parties should be subject to PIPEDA.

          • Although I hear what you’re saying, do you truly think that would be a productive course of action?  The Privacy Commissioner has already stated several times in media stories over the years they have no jurisdiction over political party databases; given recent news over Conservative conduct at committee meetings, do you not think such a proposal would just be voted down?

            Maybe the underlying theme I am trying to get at is, why doesn’t the media cover this issue more?  And maybe what I’m suggesting is that, in light of this news story, perhaps they should cover this issue more.  Why should political parties be exempt from rules that apply to both the private sector and to federal departments/agencies?

          • Politics is the business of the possible.

            Conservatives vote down committee proposal to study application of PIPEDA to parties? News item.

            Contacted, the privacy commissioner says they’ve received calls from the public supportive of making parties subject to PIPEDA. Story has legs.

            It’s got at least as much chance of making a difference as writing your MP*, without the CIMS risk.

            *it must be noted that writing your MP would be a lateral improvement from doing nothing in most cases.

  11. This just in: 

    WATERLOO REGION — A phone number owned by the Conservative Party of Canada that was traced to a misleading call a St. Clements woman received during the federal election campaign has been disconnected. http://www.therecord.com

    • Obviously the Conservatives have discovered the error of their ways and will no longer use lines that can be traced. Hooray for democracy!

  12. Ottawa Centrist is right. The CPC story is obviously a lie, it was about a change of voting station location, NOT you vote here. The statement is a further lie.

  13.    My wife received a similar call on election day. The caller identified himself as a representative of Elections Canada and told her that our polling station had been changed to some inconvenient new location. She immediately called Elections Canada and asked if this were indeed the case, as it already sounded fishy to her. They confirmed that there was no change and said they would look into it.
       My wife and I have never been supporters of the PCs or the CPC. Perhaps we are in their database for having told them as much; I wouldn’t put it past them. The point being, the only reasonable explanation is that the caller aimed to keep us from being able to cast our vote, or at least impeded our ability to do so, freely and fairly. 
       Isn’t this the same kind of tactic that international observers identify as tampering when they declare another country’s election as corrupt? If it comes to it, will our Honourable Speaker have to recuse himself from making a judgment this time? 
       Why aren’t more Canadians leaning out their windows and throwing up on their lawns over this permanent and nasty campaigning?

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