‘Dirty tricks’ investigations spread to include Conservative pollster

Court documents show a cellphone in the robocalls affair was registered to Pierre Poutine of Separatist Street in Joliette, Que. Elections Canada’s chief investigator says the clearly fake name was likely used to cover the tracks of whoever was behind misleading calls to voters in Guelph, Ont., in the last federal election.

OTTAWA — Court documents show a cellphone in the robocalls affair was registered to Pierre Poutine of Separatist Street in Joliette, Que.

Elections Canada’s chief investigator says the clearly fake name was likely used to cover the tracks of whoever was behind misleading calls to voters in Guelph, Ont., in the last federal election.

Voters in Guelph reported getting calls from a phone number with a 450 area code directing them to the wrong polling station.

Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews obtained phone records showing the number behind the Guelph calls was the same one registered to “Pierre Poutine.”

The phone records also show the number registered to Pierre Poutine twice called Edmonton-based RackNine Inc., on April 30 and May 1.

The claims, which have not been proven in court, are in an Information to Obtain a Production Order filed in an Edmonton court in November, and reported Tuesday by Postmedia and the Ottawa Citizen.

As well, the market research industry’s watchdog is launching a full investigation into a Conservative pollster involved in an alleged misinformation campaign against Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.

Brendan Wycks, executive director of The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says the watchdog has received seven formal complaints of professional misconduct against Campaign Research Inc., the company behind the Cotler campaign. MRIA is striking a panel to investigate the matter.

Wycks says the voluntary, self-regulatory body is also looking into suggestions that another Conservative-allied company — Responsive Marketing Group — may be passing itself off as a legitimate public-opinion research company, which is illegal.

Records also show phones associated with Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke and the Guelph Conservative riding association made a total of 31 calls to RackNine between March 26 and early May.

“I think it is reasonable to believe that some sort of consumer relationship existed between the Marty Burke Conservative campaign in Guelph for the 41st general election and RackNine Inc., or between certain Burke campaign workers and RackNine Inc.,” Mathews concludes.

Prime minister Stephen Harper and fellow Conservatives say there is no proof to back up the allegations of a widespread, dirty-tricks campaign in the last election.

“If the NDP actually has any information, we challenge those members to give that information to the authorities,” Harper said in response to a question from New Democrat interim leader Nycole Turmel during question period. “We have yet to see it and no reason to believe them.”

The NDP scoffed at that.

“Who the hell uses a burner cell phone and is not trying to hide something?” NDP MP Pat Martin said.

“If you’re trying to tape a recording through an Edmonton company to play in Guelph, Ontario, why the hell do you use a burner cell phone in Montreal? Only dope dealers and Hells Angels and Tony Soprano use burner cell phones.”

The Liberals and NDP say voters in dozens of ridings report getting misleading or harassing calls before the May 2 vote.

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