Where did the calls go?
Canadians from Saint John, N.B., to Saanich, B.C., have said they received calls purporting to be from Elections Canada telling them their polling station had changed. While complaints are concentrated in the Guelph, Ont., riding where Elections Canada’s investigation originated, reports of similarly misleading phone calls have emerged from across the country. Many of these ridings, such as Nipissing-Timiskaming, were closely fought races; others, such as Ottawa-Vanier, not so much. In many cases it was clear the list of people to call had been compiled from someone with little knowledge of the local community: People in small-town Ontario, B.C. and New Brunswick who live a few blocks from their polling station were told to drive 20 kilometres away.
Who received the calls?
Most of the people contacted by The Globe say they got calls during the campaign asking them how they planned to cast their ballot – and indicated they didn’t intend to vote Tory.
Saint John resident Charles Cochrane got a call from people identifying themselves as Conservatives two weeks before election day. Could they count on his vote? Definitely not, he replied.
The Saturday before the election, he got an English-only robo-call, purportedly from Elections Canada.
“They told me my polling station was way into town,” he said. “It was really strange because since 1984, my polling station has been just a mile away.”
Who was on the other end?
It varied. Some of the calls were prerecorded messages – a male voice informing the recipient that because of unexpectedly high voter turnout, the local polling station had been moved. But even these robo-calls differed: Some were bilingual, while others were English-only.
In other cases, an actual person made the call. Kenneth Ferance and Linda Hearst, in Nipissing-Timiskaming, and Rod Hebner, in Saanich-Gulf Islands, got calls on or just before election day from a polite man who sounded like he was in his mid-20s. The phone records of Mr. Ferance, who volunteered for the Liberal candidate in his riding, show the number came from a Toronto-area mobile phone. Calls to the number now indicate it is unassigned.
“He said, ‘I’m phoning from Elections Canada to inform you your polling station has moved,’” Mr. Ferance recalled. “I said, jokingly, ‘Is that at the Legion?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’
“And I said, ‘Well, you must be from the government because that information is totally wrong.’ He asked why. I said, ‘I just voted, and I live right next to the polling station. I can see people coming and going.’”