Tories try to pin ‘robocalls’ on Liberals

OTTAWA — The Conservatives sought to toss what the opposition called a red herring Thursday into the ocean of allegations about voter phone calls during the recent federal election.

OTTAWA — The Conservatives sought to toss what the opposition called a red herring Thursday into the ocean of allegations about voter phone calls during the recent federal election.

As complaints mount about harassing or misleading phone calls made during the campaign, the Conservatives said their party didn’t use U.S.-based call services to get out the vote.

The Tories say that means they can’t be behind phone calls reportedly originating from American area codes during the last campaign.

The calls came at odd or inappropriate hours, and complainants have said callers were often rude or confusing in their messaging.

The Conservatives accused the Liberals of possibly being the source of the calls, suggesting they use voter contact firms with American ties.

But the Liberals immediately sloughed off the accusations, calling them a smokescreen designed to detract from legitimate concerns about voter fraud. They also questioned the Tories’ research skills.

In question period, Prime Minister Stephen Harper challenged Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae to produce evidence that the Conservatives were linked to the calls.

“We’ve done some checking,” Harper said. “We’ve only found that, in fact, it was the Liberal party that did source its phone calls from the United States.

“I wonder if the reason the honourable leader of the Liberal party will not in fact show us his evidence is it will point in fact that it was the Liberal party that made these calls.”

The Conservatives pinpointed two firms used by the Liberals as having U.S. links.

But one, First Contact, said the only link it has with the U.S. is when it does telephone town halls.

“All of our live calls are made from centres in Canada under our direct supervision,” First Contact President Mike O’Neill said in a statement.

“All of our data and servers are hosted in Canada. We have never engaged a U.S.-based call centre and we have no links to any businesses operating in North Dakota.”

In the House of Commons, Conservative MPs also said that former Liberal MP Joe Volpe had paid “Prime Contact, a calling company with offices in North Dakota,” for their services during the campaign.

Kim Kemmer of Prime Contact in North Dakota said his company has done no work for Canadian political parties or candidates and does not have a Canadian arm involved in political activity.

In fact, Elections Canada returns show Volpe paid Prime Contact Group, a Canadian company, for its services.

That company did not immediately return a call for comment about whether it has any ties to North Dakota.

Rae said the Conservatives are stonewalling.

“As we get closer and closer to the problem, they are only able to mount one particular kind of defence and that is to attack,” he said.

“So they will attack. They will make an attack on another company. They’ll make an attack on this or that. They’ll talk about something that’s completely irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the subject at hand. The problem hasn’t changed.”

Prime Contact Group was also used by Liberal candidate Alex Smardenka in the riding of Simcoe-Grey, where some misleading phone calls were reported.

The riding association posted a statement to its website Thursday saying the “third party services were not being used during the time complainants claimed they received their calls.”

In pointing fingers at the Liberals, the Tories did not try to link them to calls voters received directing them to wrong or non-existent polling stations.

Elections Canada is investigating one such incident in Guelph, Ont., and there are now reports of others.

The New Democrats said the allegations raised by the Tories are clouding the issue.

“There’s a real effort to muddy the waters lately,” said New Democrat MP Pat Martin.

“And it’s getting a little frustrating because there’s a big, big difference between mischief and nuisance calls during the election campaign and the criminal fraud involved, with identifying yourself as a government official and lying to somebody about their polling station moving.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Westerner Days could be in line to have patrons in attendance this summer as the province teased reducing COVID-19 capacity limits on outdoor events. File photo by ADVOCATE staff
Province provides hope for attendance at summer events

The province has given a positive update to organizations that hold summer… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Downtown Iqaluit, Nunavut, is shown after 2 p.m. sunset on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Nunavut has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 in Iqaluit after 12 new cases were reported overnight. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Emma Tranter
COVID-19 outbreak declared in Iqaluit as infection numbers rise after first case

COVID-19 outbreak declared in Iqaluit as infection numbers rise after first case

Three vials of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine are pictured in a new coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccination center at the Velodrome-Stadium in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Sohn, pool
Pfizer supply bolstered as Moderna cuts delivery, Ontario turns down Trudeau’s help

Pfizer supply bolstered as Moderna cuts delivery, Ontario turns down Trudeau’s help

Lights on an internet switch are lit up as with users in an office in Ottawa, on February 10, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Analysts say CRTC ruling will help regional carriers with new limits on Big Three

Analysts say CRTC ruling will help regional carriers with new limits on Big Three

In this May 26, 2018, file photo, people listen to Michael Franti perform at the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival in Napa, Calif. Canadian music festival organizers hoped this summer would mark a return to concerts, but as COVID-19 cases rage on many have already dropped off the calendar. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Eric Risberg
Facing the music: Summer concert festival organizers see no path ahead in pandemic

Facing the music: Summer concert festival organizers see no path ahead in pandemic

FILE - Ali Stroker accepts the award for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical for her performance in "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma!" at the 73rd annual Tony Awards in New York on June 9, 2019. Stroker teamed up with middle grade author Stacy Davidowitz for a new children's book "The Chance to Fly," published this week. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
Singer with disability shines in Ali Stroker’s new kids book

Singer with disability shines in Ali Stroker’s new kids book

Retired Ohio sheriff and tiny K-9 partner die the same day

Retired Ohio sheriff and tiny K-9 partner die the same day

Musicians play Sikh hymns during Vaisakhi celebrations at Guru Nanak Darbar of Long Island, Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in Hicksville, N.Y. Sikhs across the United States are holding toned-down Vaisakhi celebrations this week, joining people of other faiths in observing major holidays cautiously this spring as COVID-19 keeps an uneven hold on the country. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Sikhs mark toned-down holiday amid continuing virus concerns

Sikhs mark toned-down holiday amid continuing virus concerns

Have an opinion you'd like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
Letter: MLAs who are against tougher restrictions have no plan for consequences

The group of UCP MLAs pushing to end lockdowns are exacerbating what… Continue reading

Most Read