Robocalls alleged in local riding

Former MP Gerard Kennedy says his supporters received questionable calls

The federal riding of Parkdale-High Park was not immune to the robocall scandal that has gripped the nation.

Workers from former Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy’s campaign say supporters have complained of suspicious calls during the campaign and on election day.

According to Jason Easton, who was responsible for all call centre operations for Kennedy’s campaign, they received reports of two types of calls.

“(The first) were categorized as harassing phone calls, repeated phone calls, or late at night phone calls,” he said. “Those were made by live people to Liberal supporters or potential Liberal supporters pretending they were from the Gerard Kennedy campaign.

“The second types of calls that we did receive were election day phone calls, misdirecting voters away from their polling stations.”

Easton did not know whether the election day calls were automated messages or live speakers but Kennedy said they would have the same result.

“Both of the tactics would have the same effect, which is to discourage someone from voting,” Kennedy said.

The question his campaign wants to find out: Who was responsible for the calls?

“There’s no point accusing anybody because we don’t have any evidence as to who’s behind them,” he said. “Obviously whoever (made the calls) stood to gain something.”

The Conservatives, who have had the finger pointed at them since news of the scandal broke, were never considered as having a chance at winning the riding. However, Kennedy said that doesn’t mean they had nothing to gain.

“Keep in mind that for most of the campaign there was a question mark as to whether there would be a majority or minority Conservative government,” he said. “All things considered, the Conservatives would be happier to have the NDP take seats away (from the Liberals).”

Conservative candidate Taylor Train could not be reached for comment and the Conservative Party of Canada did not respond to voicemail messages requesting a statement on suspicious calls in Parkdale-High Park.

The NDP, who Kennedy accuses of running a mail-based smear campaign against him early on in the race, were reported to have included Parkdale-High Park on their list of ridings that received suspicious calls.

However, a spokesperson for MP Peggy Nash said that her campaign did not receive any complaints as NDP supporters who had received suspicious calls lodged complaints directly with Elections Canada.

According to Easton, Kennedy’s campaign has not filed a formal complaint with Elections Canada but Kennedy said the issue was brought up.

“We did bring it up at the time,” he said. “There should have been more of a response from Elections Canada.”

Kennedy said one of the problems is Elections Canada seems hesitant to use some of the powers and resources they are privy to while pursuing these types of cases.

“We need a bolder Elections Canada,” he said.

He also said one supporter has provided his campaign with the phone number associated with the suspicious call he or she received and that it has been passed on to Elections Canada.

While Kennedy, who lost the election by more than 7,000 votes, said he doesn’t believe the calls affected the overall results of the election in his riding, he said he would like to see those responsible found and punished.

“We have information that voters that were supporting our campaign were targeted so on their behalf we’re going to try to document as much as we can,” he said. “The only thing we’ve learned since the election is that there’s the distinct possibility that these were much more organized and much more widespread.”

About this article:

By: Tristan Carter
Posted: Mar 29 2012 1:36 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto