Rise of the Machines

Voters Take a Stand Against Robocalls Scandal

photo jacob roberts
photo jacob roberts

Furious over the Conservative government’s “robocall scandal,” around 200 protesters marched through downtown Montreal carrying signs reading “Dude, where’s my polling station?” and “We want Robocop,” to draw attention to what they see as an assault on democracy.

The scandal started last month after people came forward alleging voter fraud was committed against them during the Canadian federal election of 2011. Voters are alleging that they received calls informing them that their polling station had been moved and that they were to vote somewhere else. The calls were eventually traced back to RackNine, a company employed by the Conservative party.

“We were pretty disappointed,” said New Democratic Party Member of Parliament, Hoang Mai, who spoke at the protest. “There was an attack on democracy, that’s new for Canada. That was really, really shocking.”

Protesters, organized by the group Canadians Against Electoral Fraud, demanded that a criminal investigation be made by the RCMP into the robocall scandal.

“This is not just a criminal investigation in one or two ridings—it’s an investigation across the country,” said protester organizer Niall Clapham-Ricardo.

So far there have been reports from 77 ridings and complaints from 31,000 people that they received automated messages claiming to be from Elections Canada just before the last federal election.

“We want to have a follow up on all of those complaints. We want every riding in this country to have a justified and criminal—and independent—investigation to this,” said Clapham-Ricardo. “We do not want any political mingling in those investigations.”

The calls were traced to Racknine Inc., an Edmonton call center that worked on the Conservative Party’s national campaign as well as the campaigns of at least nine Conservative Candidates.

The Harper government has publicly denied the allegations that they were involved with the potential voter fraud.

“I think it’s extremely troubling. I think that it really demonstrates an essential difference between Harper and many of the previous governments that we’ve had,” said protester, Matt McLauchlin.

Elections Canada is currently investigating the scandal, but voters are concerned that they lack the power to access the information needed to conduct a criminal investigation on this scale.

A motion by the NDP is being put forward in the House of Commons on March 12 to grant Elections Canada greater investigative powers.