The hunt for Pierre Poutine


The CBC thinks it has detected a pattern.

An investigation by CBC News has turned up voters all over Canada who say the reason they got robocalls sending them to fictitious polling stations was that they’d revealed they would not vote Conservative.

Although the Conservative Party has denied any involvement in the calls, these new details suggest that the misleading calls relied on data gathered by, and carefully guarded by, the Conservative Party.

The Chief Electoral Officer says Elections Canada is looking at 700 suspicious calls. Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher look at the investigation. The NDP goes to Peterborough. And the story goes international.


The hunt for Pierre Poutine

  1. This is why we have a secret ballot….people forget that at their peril.

    • Absolutely right – I realized that years ago, 1988 election, when the election was akin to a referendum on free-trade and my hubby’s firm publicly supported the agreement.  I got calls asking me by name (Hello, Mrs. L) who I intended to vote for. I have never since answered a phone poll.

      However, I’m a donor to a political party; as such my name and postal code are public, readily availble on EC’s website, and I’m sure on political parties DBs. 

      We know who you are…

      • Yes, and it’s known if you do any volunteer work for a party, or if there’s a sign on your lawn. Or even what you say in ordinary conversation if there is a worker from another party in the room.

        That’s all bad enough in the current political atmosphere without announcing it over the phone.

        Those things never mattered before, but they sure do now.

    • Are you suggesting that people might confuse you for a Conservative voter ?

      Heh. I think its fairly easy to tell who’s coalition or who’s Conservative. Its an either/or prospect.

      • No actually it’s not.  So far you’ve confused me with everything under the sun.

        I was PC for 30 years. Then tried Reform/CA where I was a riding president.

        I haven’t been a member of any political party since the Reform/PC merger.

        At the moment I vote on an election-by-election basis.

        I’d prefer an entirely new party in Canada…one that’s practical and in tune with the 21st century.

        • So what you’re saying is you are not a Conservative party member.

          Then you are a coalition member.

          How hard is it to understand “with us or against us” ??

          • You aren’t a conservative either….none of you are.

            Just kids playing games. like your post.

          • Uh huh. Doing the ol’ Andrew Coyne impression eh ? (He’s not a conservative either …)

            I used a capital C. Whether anyone is lower case c is irrelevent to our discussion.

            You’re either with the governing party or you’re not. And you are clearly not.

          • This comment was deleted.

          • Yes, all Conservatives are American Teabaggers.

            Liberal Talking point #21.

          • This is bizzare. You’re arguing a point nobody made.

            I said that nobody would ever mistake you for a Conservative voter. I was clearly right.

            You’re talking about conservatism as a political ideology. I doubt anyone would mistake you for subscribing to it either but that’s beside the point.

          • @yahoo-K5XAITELSHKETDEDYIH6U5AF54:disqus 

            Yup…chip, shoulder

            So lose it


          • @yahoo-K5XAITELSHKETDEDYIH6U5AF54:disqus 

            Dear gawd JD….I have spent years telling people I’m not a member of the idiotic Con party.

            What finally made you clue in??

          • Chip. Shoulder. ’nuff said.

      • Don’t you mean ‘evil coalition’ – you’ll get in trouble if you wander off the script, JD.

      • You’re with us or you’re with the terrorists!

        Above all, you’re not free to think for yourself in case you change your mind… 

      • And do you know who OE1 is, or is her ballot still secret?

  2. This beyond bizarre now. Assuming all 700 were misdirected they seem to be spread over 30 ridings. As an effective voter suppression strategy this seems less then ideal. For the first time I’m inclined to think this wasn’t sanctioned from the CPC brain trust. Although… I could be persuaded other wise when you consider that includes the likes of Tony C and big D the PM’s sidekick.

    • The 700 refers to the number of specific complaints of wrongdoing Elections Canada is investigating. It does not necessarily mean there were only 700 such calls made. We really can’t say for certain whether there were more calls made or how many there may have been, but I would think it unlikely that everyone who received such a call has made an official complaint to EC.

      However, according to former RCMP inspector Al Mathews, “call logs showed 281 people called the prepaid “burner” cellphone used to launch the fraudulent Guelph calls on May 2 after the number appeared on their caller ID screens.

      Mathews said a voice-broadcasting expert told him that robocalls typically solicit a one per cent callback rate. “On that basis, he was of the view that the Elections Day calls to electors must have numbered in the thousands, even assuming a significantly higher call back rate by upset electors.” (Ottawa Citizen)

      • If people don’t report abuses they aren’t likely to be investigated. But I can see how the number might be higher. Is all that info in today’s OC? Time for a visit methinks.

        • It’s in the link Aaron provided.

      • Racknine would easily know how many calls were made from the Poutine account.

        So would EC.

        Its a bit of a weird distinction to make though. A lot of those calls would have gone to disconnected numbers, fax machines, private bussiness, non-voters, etc etc.

        Its more important to figure out how many people were victims of attempted electoral fraud.

        On that basis its likely to be closer to the 700 complaints.

    • I’ve always figured this wasn’t a “top down” concept, as it’s too small scale to be run by the real CPC war room. My best guess has long been a half-dozen young-turks figuring to make a name for themselves by coming up with a fool-proof election strategy. If the strategy works, they quietly take credit and get promoted. If not, no names are attached.

      What concerns me more is what kind of attidude must exist within a party that, if this is true, they would expect to be rewarded for such behaviour.

      For the party itself, it becomes an issue not of evil intent by the PMO, but of letting the foxes watch the henhouse. A whole generation of youngsters might find themselves suddenly cut off from tactics, and sent back to hammering in lawn signs while the databases get purged. And in the end, this reflect badly on the party, and especially the older donors.

      • Yeah, but per your first paragraph, what I keep coming back to is the utter stupidity.  “Make a name for themselves”?  How?  By doing one of the stupidest things in political history?  How could anyone in their right mind think that this would not have generated a massive number of complaints to EC and that it wouldn’t have resulted in a massive public stink (as it has)?   That’s truly what has me scratching my head.

        There really ought to be an offence of criminal stupidity in the Criminal Code, and this would be a perfect case in which to lay that charge.

        I’m also at this point logistically challenged:  I’m still trying to wrap my head around how, from a national database, the perpetrators were able to identify alternative (fake) polling locations for individual ridings.  In other words, if it was a single perpetrator or group of perpetrators operating with the use of that single database, how they also were able to tailor calls specific to individual ridings with respect to the fake alternative polling sites.

      • You seem to be making a lot of sense. There’s got to some price paid as wasn’t over the finding of contempt, or this crap is only going to get worse, with even fewer good people going into politics, as opposed to more and more willing partisans.

      • Well the robo call thing with Poutine seems to be a Geulph only thing. So its probably just one guy.

        The harrasing phone calls were alleged to have happened in a lot of close ridings. Both Liberals and Conservatives claim to have been the victims of dirty tricks from opposing parties.

        So I don’t think we need to infer there is some broken, corrupt political culture unique to the Conservatives.

        I hate to break it to you Mostly Civil but ALL political parties tend to attract hacks.

        • Ah yes, we’re back to the one (and very young) Con staffer gone rogue spin. 

          • Beside some sporadic complaints from various opposition partisans and confused individuals the calls seemed to have been confined to Geulph.

            One individual has been involved in all of this – whoever is Pierre Poutine.

            SO yes. All the evidence and signs point to one Con staffer. Young or old who knows. Find the guy and arrest him please and then lets move on.

    • 700 surely is just the tip of the iceberg.  But this government is big on punishing “unreported” crime, so I’m sure they’ll get to work identifying everyone who was misdirected but didn’t bring a complaint to EC. ;)

      • Don’t have their ace sleuth Stockwell anymore though; just who’s going to do the…er, research?

        • Fantino.

  3. Wow…from the NYT link …..guess anyone can publish an ‘opinion’.

    “Much of this is about regional differences: the ascendancy of Harper Conservatives since 2006 has also meant the rise of a political culture heavily tinged with the values of Alberta Province, where Harper built much of his political career.

    With its cowboys and its oil wells, Alberta is Canada’s Texas, and the brand of politics practiced out there is as far removed from the genteel tones of Ontario and Quebec politics as a Dallas N.R.A. meeting is from a Boston Rotary Club luncheon. Indeed, while the Eastern Establishment howls at the criminality seemingly involved in the robocalls, the Conservatives’ response has been a bemused what’s-the-big-deal? shrug of the shoulders.”

    From the G&M today…much more like it….anything goes just to be first. 

    “The Elections Canada investigation into Guelph has become more difficult since reports of the probe first surfaced Feb. 22, and the agency’s lead investigator, Al Mathews, has privately complained that media reporting is complicating his work.

    The watchdog has had to contend with news reports where sources familiar with the investigation – and people Mr. Mathews has interviewed – appear to be divulging choice bits of relevant information to journalists.” 

    • Yup, Texans in touques.

      Very big regional differences.

      • Quebecers are Texans in toques? Seems a bit harsh, but appropriate.

        TorStar ~ March 2012:
        Following in the footsteps of France, some Quebecers are starting to worry that halal meat is increasingly being sold to consumers without their knowledge.

        TorStar ~ Oct 2011:
        Redford’s victory brings the PC party back to an urban base that had scattered with the election of Stelmach. Under her leadership, the governing Conservatives has now positioned itself as an urban party against the rural base secured by its rival Wildrose Alliance led by Danielle Smith, Harder said.

        “We’re going to see a sharpening of the ideological divide. Redford represents the left side and Smith will orient herself as a fiscal hawk.”

        Similar to the victory of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, a newcomer who managed to recruit an army of young volunteers previously disengaged in politics, Redford said many of her volunteers were under the age of 26.

        • Albertans are Texans in touques.

          Try and pull yourself together, Tony.

        • I have yet to read anything but negative comments from Albertans about Redford.  Ralph Klein did a lot to contribute to Alberta’s cowboy image.  Redford could go a long way to correct that,  but Albertans don’t seem to want that.

          • Danielle Smith isn’t exactly a tobacco-chewing, slack-jawed hick, however much I might disagree with her political views.

          • Where did I say she was?

    • That NYT bit is a piece of totally ignorant crap.

      • Thus my ‘wow’ as in how can BS like this get published?

        Getting sick and tired of the media’s half-a$$ facts being thrown out there, but of course that is what the opposition wants…..can’t find a scandal so lets create one.

        • Perhaps because the writer is an internationally famous journalist and political analyst.

        • Oh come, 700 complaints to EC is certainly more meat on the bone to create a scandal than a fake $1.29 receipt for a pack of gum!

  4. I’m sick and tired of how journalists twist what Elections Canada said. The 700 number refers to the number of complaints about illegal or improper actions. For all we know, 650 of the complaints were from those complaining about improper activities by Liberals and NDP supporters. While I admit this is unlikely, I hope it helps make the point that there are a lot of people jumping to assumptions based on incomplete information. Elections Canada has the benefit of being non-partisan. I would suggest that it is in the best position to investigate these allegations, particularly as it can draw upon resources from the RCMP and elsewhere. Once it reports on its findings, Canadians can then make their own conclusions about next steps. I don’t see what all the rush is about since there is almost 4 years to go until the next election. Indeed, I suspect it is the CPC that would like to see the investigation finished the most quickly.