By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 30, 2012 - 0 Comments
Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher review the latest numbers from Elections Canada.
Dickson writes that Elections Canada has received 1,147 complaints of inappropriate calls, in 247 ridings, including 252 complaints from Guelph, where the “Pierre Poutine” robocall send hundreds of voters to the wrong polling station. Dickson notes the calls in Guelph are the subject of an investigation that is “separate, but related” to his own.
A total of 1,043 complaints are from voters who say they were directed to a wrong polling station by callers, 625 of them from live or recorded callers “claiming to emanate from Elections Canada.” Elections Canada does not call voters to tell them their polling stations have moved. The other calls are rude or harassing calls from people identifying themselves as Liberals or New Democrats, calling at odd hours, swearing or rudely demanding donations.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 9, 2012 at 3:08 PM - 0 Comments
Elections Canada released a discussion paper this week that explained the challenges of cracking down on robocall fraud and harassment.
In addition to the Guelph calls, the paper acknowledges for the first time that Elections Canada has received complaints of harassing live telephone calls at odd hours from the U.S. These are described as “numerous, repetitive, annoying or sometimes aggressive live or automated calls, as well as calls made late at night, on a religious holiday or from American area codes, purportedly from candidates whose campaigns have subsequently often denied making the calls.”
Such deceptive calls appear to be prohibited by Elections Act clauses that forbid preventing voters from casting their ballots, but the structure of the law makes it difficult to enforce, the agency reports. Even though the penalties for the breaking the elections law are light, investigators must follow the more onerous procedures required in criminal investigations. This creates “a significant imbalance between these lengthy and cumbersome procedures and the small fines that may be imposed as a result of a guilty finding, thus limiting the deterrent effect of such a finding.”
The full report is here.
By Tamsin McMahon - Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 12:16 AM - 0 Comments
The surprising ways political parties get inside your head
Canadians were rightly alarmed earlier this year when details of a secretive ﬁgure named Pierre Poutine first came to light. Using an auto-dialing service in Quebec, an anonymous partisan operative allegedly sent voters identified as non-Conservatives to the wrong polling stations during the 2011 federal election. But while the so-called “robocall affair” exposed the underbelly of today’s political campaigns, it also opened a door into a world where political parties exploit our ever-growing webs of personal data.
Mobilizing your supporters and discouraging your opponents, the bread and butter of any election campaign, was once a matter of recruiting enough volunteers to canvass neighbourhoods and drive people to the polls. These days, it’s increasingly the work of data analysts and behavioural scientists who collect reams of publicly available personal information and use computer algorithms to exploit it. Their goal: nothing short of pinpointing the fears and hopes that motivate individual voters, and using that information to target them for donations and votes on election day.
How you vote may seem like the last bastion of individual agency, but political campaigns say they can predict what messages will move you with unnerving accuracy by studying everything from your home address, to your magazine subscriptions, to what you like to watch on TV on a Saturday night—or even whether or not you own a TV in the first place. Dubbed “microtargeting,” these new techniques promise to have profound implications for the political process. “The idea of Pierre Poutine, it was funny,” says Carleton University professor and former Reform party pollster André Turcotte. “But the real story is in what parties are doing and not doing with their data and about how that technique is hijacking the political process.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 26, 2012 at 1:59 PM - 0 Comments
Amid this weekend’s NDP convention frenzy, Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher uncovered a new twist in the tale of Pierre Poutine.
According to Mathews, the second message “had the appearance of being in support of the Frank Valeriote (Liberal Party) campaign in Guelph. The voice sounded to me as though computer generated rather than a script read by a person.” Poutine had set up a call display number with RackNine, also not used, that corresponded to Valeriote’s campaign office during the election.
A spokesman for Valeriote said Friday that their campaign has never used RackNine’s services. The strange call in support of Valeriote suggests it may have been intended to annoy the Liberal candidate’s supporters. In other ridings, numerous voters have complained of calls allegedly coming from Liberal candidates that came late at night or early in the morning.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
The company that Pierre Poutine used to make his robocalls would seem to employ an individual who may or may not exist.
Meier, who is said to be helping Elections Canada with their investigation and has repeatedly said he had no knowledge of the “Poutine” robocalls, has declined to comment on McKnight’s identity. In an interview, when asked how a reporter could get in touch with McKnight, he said “you don’t,” and hung up.
Later, he referred queries to his lawyer, R. Justin Matthews, who offered a cryptic reply. “How does one define a real person?” said Matthews in an email. “Would a web-design employee that chooses to use a different name online (which some people seem to do these days) be considered a real person?”
Meanwhile, Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher talk to the wife of the Conservative candidate in Guelph.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 16, 2012 at 3:25 PM - 0 Comments
John Ivison traces Pierre Poutine to a variety of Ontario area codes.
The call that claimed to come from Elections Canada was sent out to 5,053 recipients in the 519 area code that covers Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Windsor and Sarnia. But it was also received by 35 people in downtown Toronto, 74 in the 905 suburban belt surrounding the GTA, 14 in the 613 area code that includes Kingston and Ottawa, 22 in the 705 code area that includes Barrie, Sudbury and North Bay and one person in Thunder Bay.
By my count, 21 of the 40 ridings on our list are in Ontario: Dufferin-Caledon, Guelph, Haldimond-Norfolk, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, Kingston and the Islands, Kitchener Centre, Kitchener-Conestoga, Kitchener-Waterloo, London West, Mississauga East-Cooksville, Nipissing-Timiskaming, Northumberland-Quinte West, Ottawa-Orleans, Ottawa-West Nepean, Parkdale-High Park, Peterborough, Sarnia-Lambton, Thunder Bay-Superior North, Windsor-Tecumseh, Windsor West and York Centre.
Using MP constituency offices as a guide, those ridings cover six area codes: 519, 905, 613, 705, 416 and 807.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 16, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
The CBC thinks it has detected a pattern.
An investigation by CBC News has turned up voters all over Canada who say the reason they got robocalls sending them to fictitious polling stations was that they’d revealed they would not vote Conservative.
Although the Conservative Party has denied any involvement in the calls, these new details suggest that the misleading calls relied on data gathered by, and carefully guarded by, the Conservative Party.
The Chief Electoral Officer says Elections Canada is looking at 700 suspicious calls. Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher look at the investigation. The NDP goes to Peterborough. And the story goes international.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 12:13 PM - 0 Comments
The hunt for Pierre Poutine now includes a phoney YouTube video and anonymous senior Conservatives.
Sources said on the weekend that someone associated with the Guelph Conservative campaign had decided to step forward and accept responsibility for the calls on Monday, after learning that an Internet Protocol address had narrowed the search for the suspect known as “Pierre Poutine” to a single home in Guelph. Someone who spoke to Sona on Tuesday said that someone else may have gone to Elections Canada, but not him. “Whoever did, and confessed, it’s not him,” the person said…
CTV reported Monday night that senior Conservative sources said Sona had taken responsibility for the calls, but Sona is proclaiming his innocence. “He is going to be contacting his lawyer in regards to what legal response he can make to these lies,” said the person. And a YouTube video posted by someone claiming to be Sona is clearly a fake.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 12, 2012 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Nycole Turmel wanted to talk about the apparently impending confession of Pierre Poutine. Pierre Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph. Ms. Turmel wanted to propose a public inquiry. Mr. Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph.
Switching to English, Ms. Turmel presented an itemized list of grievances.
“Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board said he wants to change the culture of Ottawa,” he noted. “Changing the culture, like replacing Liberal scandals with Conservative scandals? A culture where people can rig elections? A culture where the Prime Minister does not answer questions? A culture with no accountability, no transparency? A culture of denial and partisan attacks? If the Prime Minister wanted to change the culture, he must take responsibility. Will he?”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor tease the big reveal.
The news that Elections Canada investigators are aware of the IP address that “Pierre Poutine” used to set up the Guelph, Ont., robocall account has convinced a suspect to step forward and accept responsibility for the deceptive calls, sources say … the CEO of RackNine, Matt Meier, was able to trace Poutine’s electronic trail back to a specific Internet protocol address, which is apparently assigned to a single home. Sources say that revelation has now convinced someone to step forward and own up to the scheme.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 11:17 PM - 0 Comments
He said he was first contacted during the election last year by someone who identified himself as Pierre Jones, who said he was a student completing a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Ottawa. He claimed he was studying advertising effectiveness and wanted to look at the operation of call centres. “He never was Pierre Poutine,” said Mr. Meier.
… Mr. Meier said he had his “Eureka” moment at 3 a.m. one morning, and by 5 a.m. had written a 22 page report for Elections Canada. “He [Pierre Jones] screwed up. Just for a fraction of a second but it was enough for me to find him,” he said. The information supplied to Elections Canada should expedite the investigation and offer some clues as to whether the robocall was the work of one individual or was the result of a more co-ordinated effort, as the opposition parties have alleged.
The Citizen is unable to find any evidence of a Pierre Jones studying commerce at the University of Ottawa.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
It seemed like an amateurish prank when NDP volunteer Andrew McAvoy received election day calls from a phone that has become ground zero in the exploding robocall scandal. “It was really weird, it really was,” McAvoy said Wednesday, as he recounted the calls he received — first a recording and then a man with an unprofessional manner — claiming to be from Elections Canada and telling him his polling location had changed.
His is one of two complaints from Windsor that are part of a larger Elections Canada investigation into calls from one phone number, 450-760-7746, that were allegedly made to misdirect or confuse non-Conservative voters. The other Windsor complainant is Maureen Comartin, MP Joe Comartin’s (NDP — Windsor-Tecumseh) wife, who took a call from a recorded message at about 10 a.m. on May 2, informing her the location of her polling station had changed. She was immediately suspicious because she didn’t recognize the new location.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 3:32 PM - 0 Comments
Elections Canada traces the disposable phone linked to fraudulent calls in Guelph.
The fraudulent robocall that misdirected voters in Guelph came from a Virgin Mobile disposable cellphone registered to one Pierre Poutine, on Separatist Street, in Joliette, Que, court documents obtained by Postmedia News, the Ottawa Citizen and the Edmonton Journal show.