Past and present Manitoba MPs believe robocalls misled voters during 2011 federal election
Published Friday, February 24, 2012 7:18PM CST
Thousands of voters may have been tricked by fraudulent phone calls during the federal election in May 2011, say opposition parties.
Former Liberal MP Anita Neville blames the Conservative party. She was unseated on election day by Conservative Joyce Bateman in the Winnipeg South Centre riding.
Neville said her office received complaints from Liberal-minded voters on the eve of the election about automated calls claiming to be from Elections Canada, which told constituents to vote at a polling station near Headingley and the Perimeter. That location was not the correct polling station and the calls were not actually from Elections Canada.
"It was all part of a campaign to misinform constituents about my views and to try and wear away at my majority and clearly it helped," said Neville.
The phone messages, which have been termed robocalls, apparently went out to voters in some ridings across the country where political races were closely fought.
"How is this any different than a bunch of goons with guns blocking a voting station as we've seen in Third World countries?" asked Pat Martin, the NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre.
Elections Canada has traced the robocalls to an Edmonton call centre, Racknine, that has ties to the Conservative party.
The prime minister denied the Conservatives were behind the robocalls.
"In this case, our party has no knowledge of these calls," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Feb. 23.
On Feb. 24, however, a Tory staffer in Toronto resigned over the robocall allegations.
"The fingerprints certainly point to the Conservatives," said Neville.
Conservative MP Joyce Bateman refused to comment about the robocalls on Friday.
A spokesperson for her office said she was busy doing work in the constituency.
Neville said her staff members received word from constituents about the calls at the height of the election, but didn't take down official documentation. They called Elections Canada - only to confirm the calls did not in fact come from the agency. Neville said they didn't file a complaint at the time of the election, but she now says they should have done so.
Both the RCMP and Elections Canada have launched probes to examine reports regarding the robocalls.
- with a report from CTV's Jeff Keele
Former Manitoba Liberal MP Anita Neville spoke out about the robocalls on Feb. 24, 2012.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes an announcement in front of students at the Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)