Two of the candidates in the 2011 federal election in the Nanaimo-Alberni riding say they heard of confusing calls to their constituents on voting day — but one of them was a Conservative.
New Democratic Party candidate Zeni Maartman said she heard about a couple of suspect calls as she was making last-minute stops at campaign offices in the riding on election day.
“I heard about a couple of calls in the Bowser area,” she said. “They indicated they had a couple of odd phone calls from our supporters who were a little bit miffed because they got a phone call to go to Qualicum Beach, when in fact they were supposed to vote in Bowser.”
In the frenzy of election day, Maartman said she didn’t think anything of it.
“We just thought people were confused,” she said. “There was some confusion between Qualicum and Bowser and, to be quite honest, we thought it was just a couple of mixups. We didn’t think anything about it, except that there was a bit of confusion about the polling and we let it go.”
The comments come in light of the so-called robocall scandal, which involves voters being given inaccurate information about where to vote.
However, MP James Lunney emphatically denied using so-called robocalls at all in the riding and stressed that any calls made on election day in the riding came from Conservative Party supporters at the campaign office — to Conservative supporters.
“We find people in our riding don’t like those automated calls, so I haven’t used them for years,” Lunney said from Ottawa Tuesday. “Any calls from our supporters came out of our own office — with real people phoning from our own campaign. Our calls were for our own identified supporters to get them out for the vote, which is what every party should be doing in an election.”
Lunney noted there were many changes to polls across the country in the last weeks of the election campaign, suggesting this may be behind at least some of the complaints about incorrect polling information.
“Elections Canada confirmed there were 127 polling stations with changes in the last days of the campaign,” he said. “That means thousands of polls and hundreds of thousands of Canadians had changes in the last week and there was a scramble across the country in the last week to inform people of the changes.”
Lunney said he did hear about one call of interest, however.
“The only call I had in my office was from one of our own supporters, who said she got a call to the wrong poll,” he said. “That’s the first time we heard about it.”
Maartman concedes it’s doubtful any misleading phone calls — if there were any — would have made a difference to the eventual result, as she lost by over 5,000 votes to Lunney. However, she said that was not the case everywhere.
“Between James and me it probably wouldn’t be an issue, but in ridings where there were only a couple of hundred votes separating them, it might have,” she said.” This needs to be thoroughly examined and investigated to get to the heart of it. When you hear about election fraud, you think of developing countries where democracy isn’t so strong, so to hear about this in our own country, to me it’s beyond disappointing.”
Maartman urged anyone in the riding who received suspect calls to contact her at 250-753-7255.