Many, many complaints to Elections Canada, not just a few

The agency has been inundated with 31,000 “contacts” on the bogus calls issue

by John Geddes

In the government’s highly improvizational response to the fraudulent phone calls story, one of the least persuasive elements (and that’s saying something) is the claim that very few complaints were actually raised during last spring’s election.

Just yesterday in the House during Question Period, the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary, Dean Del Mastro, said this: “We know that Elections Canada received 30 complaints nationally. That is what the report of the Chief Electoral Officer says and now some nine months later we have the NDP coming forward with new complaints and new evidence. It is all nonsense.”

Del Mastro apparently plucked the notion of just 30 complaints, not from a report from the Chief Electoral Officer at all, but from a Global News story. And Global—working not from an authoritative single report, but from many records of incidents logged by Elections Canada—found 30 cases involving complaints about bogus poll location changes.

The actual report from Elections Canada on the work it did during last spring’s campaign said it fielded 1,003 complaints deemed substantial enough to require an individual response. (Many more were judged not to require that sort of attention.) Obviously, most of those complaints didn’t involve confusion about dubious poll location changes. In fact, 30 in that one category strikes me as quite a lot.

And today Elections Canada tells us that since the story of bogus calls in Guelph broke last week, it has been inundated with 31,000 “contacts” on the issue. Fortunately, the agency has authority to hire extra staff and bring in other enforcement bodies (notably the RCMP) to handle this flood of information.

There’s a lot of confusion around this story, but the sheer scale of it hardly seems too small to justify a lot of concerned attention. It will be interesting to see if the Conservatives will drop that dismissive line of defence.




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Many, many complaints to Elections Canada, not just a few

  1. I wonder how many of those purported calls actually existed before concerted opposition and media hype started…

    • Dan Gardner:
      In March, 1954, newspapers in Seattle reported that some car windshields were damaged in a city 80 miles away. Vandalism was suspected. But then something strange happened.

      People started to find car windshields speckled with tiny pits. Reports multiplied. Within a couple of weeks, the police had taken 242 calls from concerned citizens reporting damage to more than 1,000 cars …. 

      What became known in sociology textbooks as The Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic is a classic illustration of how easily mass delusion can set in if we don’t think carefully about evidence. We need to remember that warning now, as reports of electoral fraud and chicanery multiply rapidly.

      No, I am not saying there is nothing to those reports. On the contrary. There is solid corroborating evidence in enough cases that we can now be confident that phone scams were real and widespread.

      But since this story was broken last week by the intrepid journalists Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, reporters, politicians, and party officials have been working feverishly to find more incidents. In that atmosphere, the risk of something like a Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic becomes very real.

      • I think you missed something in this article:
        “The actual report from Elections Canada on the work it did during last spring’s campaign said it fielded 1,003 complaints deemed substantial enough to require an individual response. ”

        These are reports to EC before the controversy hit the news last week.

        Why is the government claiming that there were only 30?  Do you have a socio-mumbo quote to add, or maybe another Rourke?

        • Tony’s searching for an appropriate quote. Patience, dammit!

          • I’m with Lorraine, haven’t had the daily P.J. O’Rourke quote yet …

          • Well, this is strange.  I’m going in on Tony’s side. 

            He is not disputing the widespread phone scams.  He is suggesting that there can also be a very relevant mass delusion that occurs in things like this.  Also Salem witch trials–this isn’t a new phenomena.  It doesn’t mean by any means that all of the 31,000 complaints are made up or illusions, but he is suggesting the possibility that some of them are. 

            And I think that’s reasonable.

          • I really don’t think 31,000 Canadians or any portion thereof are having a mass delusion.

            Phones are over a century old, no one is leery of any new-fangled invention, and we’ve all gotten robocalls before selling everything under the sun.

            It’s not a ‘mass hysteria/delusion’ situation.  That involves physical symptoms they can’t find a cause for.

          • “He is not disputing the widespread phone scams.”

            Fair enough. It’s AVR that’s disputing the widespread phone scams.

          • “And I think that’s reasonable.”

            Thank you 2Jenn. You are scholar and gentlewoman, a pearl amongst swine.

          • Yeah, I too have wondered how many of the newly reported calls are real. I don’t doubt some are; others, after all this time, may be misremembered, and still others may be the bandwagon effect.

            Those original post-election contacts, on the other hand, are much more likely to be valid – and merely a sampling of how many there actually were, as it is highly doubtful that it represents all – or even a substantial percentage – of the calls that were made. Most people just wouldn’t bother to report it.

      • And to what social phenomenom do you associate this (from Leblanc, in today’s Globe):

        A series of search warrants made public this week show the fraudulent robo-calls were lodged around 10 a.m. on May 2. Two days later, Mr. Mathews started digging into the phone number – 450-760-7746 – that appeared on the call display of complainants.

      • Tony, you do understand that the whole point of robocalling is volume – thousands of people can be contacted efficiently, that’s the whole point of it.  It’s too expensive to be used for a few hundred people here and here so the fact that there are large numbers of people reporting to have received calls is to be expected. 

        • Tony makes a very clear and obvious explanation involving basic human behavior about why there has been a large number of complaints recently.
          Those that are able to see this explanation at first reading show that they are thinkers. That is a rare quality on the internet.
          Those that are unable to see this explanation are best ignored.

          • So you’re a thinker and I’m not – is that it?  I am a little slow so I just want to make sure I’ve got that right.

          • Typical arrogant nonsense. Get off of your high horse, you’re making yourself sound ridiculous. Just like Tony called the one person who agreed with him “a peal among swine”, you are showing yourself to be nothing more than a bloated ego. Stop trying to defend Del Mastro’s blatant lying, him and the other Con artists have been doing it since this story broke.

            I wonder, where will you arrogant, ignorant people hide when knowledge and truth are the authorities, and not your smug bullies?

      • When will you learn to provide the whole article rather than the. Bits you like. I’m down to my I ph so I can’t figure out how to provide the link( I’ll ask my 10 yr old when she gets home).
        Gartner goes on to call for a judicial enquiry.

      • @Tony_Adams:disqus 

        None of which has happened.

    • “It will be interesting to see if the Conservatives will drop that dismissive line of defence.”

      Well, according to AVR, it hasn’t been dropped yet.

    • Most Canadians assume that people do not have sinister intentions, and rightly dismiss calls like these as isolated. However, when people find out that it was actually a concerted effort, it makes people rethink their generosity and the event in question. That people remember events like these underlies how annoyed they were at the incident.

      This kind of crap happens in Zimbabwe. Not Canada. At least it didn’t until now.

      • It also happens in the US, and perpretrators usually get away with it unless the US Department of Justice is handed a rock-solid case. I hypothesized in another article that midlevel CPC staffers may have learned some tricks from their GOP allies and counterparts down south.

      • The operation probably works without raising widespread concern (at least at the time) for the same reason that some seniors fall victim to the fraudulent phone call from a “grandson” who’s in dire straits and needs money right away. The target (victim) either terminates the conversation right away without taking further action, or assumes the call is authentic and unique. In either case, until/unless they hear of similar cases, they are likely unaware that the scam is pulled by boiler room call centers thousands of times.

        • The question is then what is the baseline level of this activity?  Elections Canada reported 1003 complaints prior to the recent surge of publicity regarding the calls.  The National Post quotes Bob Rae as noting that elections historically result in 600-800 complaints.  That would suggest 2011 was an increase over the historic baseline on an apples-to-apples basis, but doesn’t suggest that this is new or unprecedented.

    • It’s easy to give the benefit of the doubt until you hear that it has happened in multiple ridings across the country. Canadians are innocent when it comes to elections. We believe in our system enough that we would never suspect this type of widespread corruption.

      This problem is multi-layered. The CRTC has allowed a situation whereby we are unable to *69 callers who use private caller or fake #’s as their caller ID. We don’t know which branch of the Government we are supposed to complain to, and when we do complain, we are put through a time-consuming and often futile system which in the end offers no solutions. Many have given up on trying to source these calls. Just because the caller said they were from Elections Canada, the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party does not mean that they actually were. The calls could have originated in India using Voip technology which re-routes numbers to look like they are nearby, or no ID at all.

      Many things have to change to make sure this doesn’t happen again starting with our right to know who is calling.

    • I agree. Bogus reports from sore losers.

  2. Poor harper; he is overlord of a nation of liars, 31,000 strong from sea to shining sea. 

    • Strange; I thought there were more hard-core CPC supporters than that…

  3. Canadians are just loyal. The Prime Minister said that if anyone has evidence of voter suppression they should  provide it to Elections Canada, so they did. Unlike certain political parties most individual Canadians don’t need to be served with warrants and dragged into court to “cooperate” with Elections Canada.

    • These Canadians are willing to put their names to their claims and their integrity on the line.  They don’t act in secret, like members of parliament who impose their majority voice and hold committee meetings deliberations and votes pertaining to Elections Canada.

  4. Dean Del Mastro- not so hot at Catholicism and not so good at math either….

    • And a failure as an improv performer.  I almost (repeat almost) feel sorry for him.

  5. How many calls/emails did Maxime Bernier claim he received protesting the mandatory long form census?
     Somehow those unconfirmed emails lead to a census change, but these complaints are meaningless?

     That is plain ol’ BULL SHEET!

  6. So far 76 ridings have reports of hoax phone calls. some of these call may not have been actully illegal, and some reports may be false. But there is substantiation for some of them, and some people did complain to Elections Canada right after the election.

    76… one quarter of 308 = 77, so almost 1 in 4 ridings now have reports of hoax phone calls.

    http://sixthestate.net/?p=3646 

  7. last time tories in power in ontario ran polls and were not allowing us to vote turned away at polls had to go try 3 times just to vote and people stupid enough to vote in again the tories?

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