Robocalling election results into question

Another Yukoner has contacted Elections Canada after receiving a misleading robocall just before last May's federal election. Tom Parlee answered the phone to an automated message informing him his polling station had changed due to higher-than-normal voter turnout.

Another Yukoner has contacted Elections Canada after receiving a misleading robocall just before last May’s federal election.

Tom Parlee answered the phone to an automated message informing him his polling station had changed due to higher-than-normal voter turnout.

So the Whitehorse resident called the Yukon returning officer, who informed Parlee his polling station had not been moved.

“I thought it was odd,” said Parlee.

Then the robocall scandal hit the news and Parlee immediately called Elections Canada.

“I hope a thorough investigation happens because I don’t want this to be dismissed,” he said.

It’s a sentiment shared by Yukon Conservative MP Ryan Leef.

“If these calls occurred, I hope we get to the bottom of it,” said Leef from Ottawa on Tuesday.

“And if there are things I can provide Elections Canada to help expedite the investigation, I will do so. I am pushing (Elections Canada) to demonstrate all the things I can do to show we ran a legal, ethical, clean campaign.”

Information about misleading robocalls in the Yukon first surfaced on Leef’s Facebook page.

The Nardi household received a call two weeks before the election asking if they were voting Conservative.

They weren’t.

Then, just a few days before the election, 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 so they 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 Bob Nardi in a past interview with the News.

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

The Nardis contacted Elections Canada about the misleading call, but they still wanted more answers. So Nardi posted his experience on Leef’s Facebook page.

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

So Nardi tried again.

This time his post remained on Leef’s page for just over two days before it too disappeared.

“I don’t remove posts,” said Leef.

“You can look down my long list of Facebook comments and see plenty of disparaging remarks. So I would never have removed Mr. Nardi’s comments.”

Only the administrator or the person who put up the post can remove it, said Leef, who said he contacted Facebook to find out if there was any way someone else could have deleted Nardi’s post.

“And I am the only administrator, so there are only two options, and I can say absolutely, without exception, that I didn’t remove the posts. So, you can read between the lines on that.”

“I would have responded,” added Leef.

But the week Nardi posted on his page, Leef was hunting in the bush with his son and “was nowhere near a computer,” he said.

Leef thought it was a good time to get away, during the NDP leadership race, and before the House resumed to release the budget.

“I said watch, all hell will break loose when I go, but this is one of the last things I thought would break loose.”

Leef hasn’t responded to Nardi, but he did see the post.

Someone emailed it to him.

“Mr. Nardi has an honest, legitimate question and concern,” said Leef.

But Leef’s campaign manager Michael Lauer begged to differ.

“I assume that since you are an employee of the Yukon Employee’s Union, that you were working on the NDP campaign in the last election,” Lauer wrote to Nardi on Facebook.

“I find it rather interesting that the two people to publicly come out and say that they were called 11 months ago both had ties to another campaign and both would have gone straight to the media when it happened to try and raise issues to support their campaign at the time,” he said on Facebook.

But Nardi says he had nothing to do with the NDP campaign nor does belong to that party.

“This story has moved from the robocalls themselves to attacks on the constituents who reported them,” said Nardi.

Lauer also singled out Sylvie Leonard, another Yukoner who received a misleading robocall just before the election informing her that her polling station had moved.

But Leonard had already voted during the advanced poll and paid little attention, until the scandal made national news months later.

Leonard is married to Jean Francois DesLauriers, who ran for the NDP in the last territorial election, something Lauer was quick to point out on Facebook.

Lauer has since apologized to Nardi for his comments.

But he was not the only one attacking Nardi.

Conservative blogger Dean Skoreyko sent an email to Nardi’s work address, despite the fact Nardi’s personal email is available on Facebook.

“And (Skoreyko) copied it to my supervisor at work,” said Nardi.

“If that isn’t an attempt to intimidate, what is?”

Nardi also scoffs at the claim that he deleted his own posts from Leef’s Facebook page.

“Of course not,” he said. “I didn’t even know that was possible.”

At least five Yukoners say they’ve received misleading robocalls in the lead-up to the last election.

“I encourage people to come up with as much data and information for Elections Canada as they can,” said Leef. “Then let’s air it, let’s put it out there and find out who did it.”

The simplest way to do this is call up Northwestel and get a record of the numbers that called the Nardis the day before the election, said Leef.

“If I were him, I’d provide that information,” he said.

Impossible, said a Northwestel operator on Wednesday morning.

“We don’t track local calls,” she said. “And if it was a long distance call, the only way there would be a record of it was if it was a collect call – then it would show up on your phone bill,” said the operator. “The only calls listed are ones you paid for,” she said.

Leef’s campaign employed 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.

“We used robocalls,” said Leef. “But there is confusion about robocalls, which are legal, and misleading calls, which is electoral fraud.”

Leef employed RMG for “voter identification and to get people to go out and vote,” he said.

“It’s a recorded script that says something like, ‘Hi I’m Ryan Leef, your Conservative candidate … on election day I hope I can count on your support’- Click.

“There was no discussion about polling, or polling stations or anything like that,” he said.

“There was nothing that constituted misleading or illegal calls.”

This week, the Council of Canadians asked the Federal Court of Canada to overturn the election results in seven ridings across the country where misleading calls may have kept voters from the polls.

The Yukon is one of them.

Leef says that’s “preposterous.”

“It’s a politically opportunistic strategy that won’t gain ground,” he said.

The ridings were chosen because electors came forward and the margins of victory were comparatively small, meaning there is reason to believe the misleading calls could have changed the election result, Council of Canadians lawyer Steven Shrybman told the National Post.

To date, there have only been two Yukoners who have contacted elections Canada about misleading robocalls, according to Leef.

But Elections Canada refused to comment on its ongoing investigation or confirm these numbers when contacted by the News.

“Not to minimize it, but two calls are not swinging an election,” said Leef.

“I recognize there are some people in the territory who are not happy I was elected,” he added. “And it was a close election, but it’s a shame … they’re just finding whatever strategy they can find to unseat results they don’t like.

“Now they’re suggesting illegal calls shaped the election,” he said.

“But they’re not willing to accept perhaps these calls came from another party, or they came from a rogue individual who nonetheless needs to be held accountable. It could have been a Conservative, Liberal, Green or NDP supporter, or someone who just doesn’t believe in electoral system,” said Leef.

“But right now all fingers are pointing at me, because I won the election.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

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

Just Posted

Kwanlin Dün First Nation chief Doris Bill holds up a signed copy of the KDFN <em>Lands Act</em> agreement during an announcement at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 20. Under the new act, called Nan kay sháwthän Däk’anúta ch’e (We all look after our land) in Southern Tutchone, KDFN will be able to allot citizens land to build their own houses on, for example, or to use for traditional activities. The First Nation will also be able to enforce laws around things like land access and littering. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Lands Act comes into force

The act gives the First Nation the authority to manage, protect and enforce laws on its settlement lands

Two doctors in Watson Lake say they are at risk of losing their housing due to a Yukon Housing Corporation policy that only allows one pet per family. (Wikimedia Commons)
Healthcare workers in Watson Lake say housing pet policy could force them to leave

The Yukon Housing Corporation has threatened evictions for having more than one pet

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Most Read