Misleading robocalls rang in Yukon

The Conservative robocall controversy has surfaced in the Yukon. Two weeks before the last federal election, Bob Nardi received a call asking if he was voting Conservative. He wasn't.

The Conservative robocall controversy has surfaced in the Yukon.

Two weeks before the last federal election, Bob Nardi received a call asking if he was voting Conservative.

He wasn’t.

Then, just a few days before Yukoners went to the polls, the Nardis received another call telling them that their polling station had been moved from the Hidden Valley School to the Hootalinqua Fire Hall.

It didn’t make a lot of sense to the Nardis, who have lived in the area for more than 20 years and had never voted at the fire hall.

So Nardi checked online and discovered that, in fact, voting was still taking place at the school.

“It’s one of those things you just shrug off,” said Nardi in an interview this week.

But after the robocall controversy surfaced, “the light went on,” he said.

The Nardis contacted Elections Canada about the misleading call. “And Elections Canada called us back twice, and interviewed us for about 20 minutes each time,” said Nardi.

But he still wanted more answers.

So Nardi posted his experience on Yukon MP Ryan Leef’s Facebook page.

His first post didn’t make it to Leef’s wall.

So Nardi tried again.

“It’s important not to overlook the fact that robocalls were also made here in the Yukon,” he wrote.

“Perhaps I missed it, but I haven’t seen you make any public comments on the fraudulent calls made to voters before the last election.

“Since, at this point, there is no way to know who made these calls, this comment does not point a finger at you or anyone else,” added Nardi.

“However, since the election was so very close, the calls could indeed have influenced the result.

“Will you tell me if you are co-operating with Elections Canada’s effort to investigate these calls, and let me know what steps you might be taking to discover if the calls were made by Conservative Party supporters?”

Nardi’s post went up late Saturday, but it didn’t stay for long. By Tuesday, it had been deleted from Leef’s Facebook page.

“That’s disturbing,” said Nardi. “Leef hasn’t answered me, which is troubling, and now he’s deleted my posts.”

Leef’s campaign was a client of Responsive Marketing Group Inc., a company hired by 95 Conservative campaigns during the last federal election.

In the lead-up to the election, RMG staff were asked to read scripts telling selected voters that Elections Canada had changed their voting locations, according to three former RMG employees interviewed last month by the Toronto Star.

One employee was so concerned that something was amiss, she said she reported it to her supervisor at the RMG site, to the RCMP office in Thunder Bay, Ont., and to a toll-free Elections Canada number at the time, according to the Star.

Annette Desgagne, 46, said it became clear to her – after so many people complained that the “new” voting locations made no sense or were “way the hell across town”- that the live operators were, in fact, misdirecting voters, the Star reported.

On its website, RMG says: “Whether it’s raising more money or winning more votes: Bottom line … we get results.”

Leef’s campaign paid RMG $8,143.80, according to his candidate financial report, filed with Elections Canada.

“Things are starting to snowball,” said Nardi, who posted his concerns on his own Facebook page after they were deleted from Leef’s.

And Nardi added another post: “Did anyone out there (or anyone you know) receive a call on election day claiming that their polling station had been moved?”

Local resident Sylvie Leonard responded.

“I do remember getting phone calls asking if I supported the Conservatives,” she wrote.

“I said no. Then I remember getting a phone call on election day regarding the polling station.”

The call informed Leonard that her polling station had moved.

“I thought it was strange because I had already voted at the advanced poll … too bad I didn’t report it or save it.”

Like the Nardis, Leonard originally “shrugged it off.”

“I thought it was a one-off,” she wrote. “But now I see a similar pattern to Bob’s story.”

Nardi isn’t sure why his household got a call.

“If we’d been the only ones, that would have been really weird,” he said.

At first, Nardi hoped Leef would come up with a good explanation.

“You tend not to ascribe nefarious motives,” he said.

But now, he’s not so sure.

“I’m not sure I’d buy that it was an accident,” he said. “That’s stretching it a little.”

Leef won his Yukon seat with just 33.7 per cent of the vote. He received 5,422 votes, defeating incumbent Liberal Larry Bagnell, who finished with 5,290. The difference was 132 votes.

“It was really close,” said Nardi.

“And that’s concerning because you start to wonder if there were enough of these calls to sway the election.”

“It’s really upsetting,” said Nardi. “I can’t believe this is going on here.”

Leef was not available for comment, according to both his Ottawa and Whitehorse offices.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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