Monday, March 5, 2012

Do As We Say...But We're Not Following Suit

Source: CTV News: Conservatives Refuse to Release Phone Records

There's a few things we're going to talk about, but I'm only providing a source for one of them. Firstly, we're going to look at the newest information to come out with regards to the Robocall Scandal. Secondly, we're going to look at some polling information and why Canadians should be paying closer attention to the polls that are coming out and who is producing them.

A busy day on the Robocall front, as Parliamentary Secretary Dean Del Maestro continued his job as Harper's attack dog on this issue in the House of Commons. Del Maestro and other Conservatives have lambasted the Liberals and have placed the blame on them for the Robocalls. They're going as far as to suggest that the Liberals themselves have placed these calls.

In response to that, Liberal Leader Bob Rae has announced that his party will be releasing their phone records and contracts from the last election, once they've cleared doing that with the companies they hired to do their calling. The opposition parties are demanding that the government follow suit and produce their own records to the public, to which Del Maestro has responded that such an action is out of the question. Using the "we know we're innocent, just trust us on this" defence, the Conservatives are refusing to release their records.

But let's look at the Conservative defences that have come out so far:

1.) We're not saying anything about this, it had nothing to do with us.

Debunked: Despite their claims of innocence, the Conservatives have ties to several telemarketing and research firms that could be connected to the Robocall Scandal. Furthermore, employees at live call centres have come forward and said that a Conservative campaign paid them to direct voters to the wrong polling stations.

But the Conservatives have not addressed these points and refuse to. Furthermore, there's the firing/resignation of Michael Sona. His 'so-called' involvement in the Robocall affair led to his leaving his job, or possibly being dismissed, and Peter Mackay implied that he thought Sona was involved. As such, Sona's abrupt departure leads to some questions over why the young man was dismissed or resigned.

2.) Did you know the Liberals used call centres in America! They were the only party to use non-Canadian call centres in the last election!

Debunked: Not only did the Conservatives get this one wrong, they also lied about the last part. The Conservatives confused to similarly named companies, one in BC and one in North Dakota. The Conservatives ran with the North Dakota one, but it didn't hold water when it came out that the Liberals used a firm with almost the same name in BC instead.

Furthermore, a day later, it came out that the Conservatives used a call centre based in the United States to make calls during the last election. So, with that in mind, the Prime Minister of our country stood up and told a lie on the floor of the House of Commons. After all, it was in the Commons that Harper first announced that the Liberals were the ONLY party to use outside Canada call centres.

It was a lie on two fronts: One, because it wasn't true at all. And two, because the Conservatives (and Harper) should have known that they hired American firms during the elections to do calls for them.

3.) But wait! We're victims too! Some of our ridings got these robocalls as well!

Debunked: Out of the 31,000 complaints received by Elections Canada, how many of those are from Conservatives who received these calls? Furthermore, look at the number of Conservative candidates/MPs who have made comments about receiving these calls VS the number of opposition members and defeated candidates who have made these claims.

Now, Conservatives are saying the opposition made these calls to themselves. So, I can say this without sounding like a conspiracy nut job: If I were making illegal phone calls to suppress voters, I'd call a few of my 'safe' ridings and misdirect my own voters. That way, when the story eventually came out, my party could cast some doubt by saying that we received false calls as well.

Whether or not that's what happened, we won't know until something comes out to prove it or disprove it. But if the Conservatives can claim the opposition are behind their own doubtful calls, we can also assume the Conservatives are behind their own as well.

That more or less covers the Conservative defences, and the reasons why the arguments are not valid. But let's cover a new argument that was thrown out today by Maurice Vellacott, a Saskatchewan MP.

Vellacott took the next awkward step of blaming Elections Canada for the robocall scandal. Saying that voters lists are often incorrect with information such as address and phone numbers and that this could have led to mistaken phone calls being sent to the wrong voter.

Vellacott also condemned the lack of regular enumeration before elections, noting that the practice has gone to the wayside slightly and makes voter contact and accurate information a little bit more spotty.

I'd never thought I'd say this, but I actually slightly agree with Maurice Vellacott. Not to the full extent of his argument, but some of the points here are actually valid. Since Elections Canada was legislated in 1997 to move away from enumeration and use information based on Revenue Canada returns, as well as working with provincial bodies to verify address and other information, enumeration is falling to the wayside.

While enumeration isn't completely gone, the quality of it has fallen down hill. I received a blank enumeration card when enumerators came to my building and I was not home. The card was not filled out, which meant that I was given no means to contact Elections Canada. There was no address of the nearest returning office, or a phone number to call them.

I was not the only one who had issues with enumerators in the last election, as many people didn't even see an enumerator during the last election campaign. So yes, enumeration has gone down hill in recent memory. But it's also odd to see Vellacott defend a detailed voters list, when at the same time his party voted to destroy the long form census which could have helped provide more information to confirm a voter's details such as address.

But is he right that this ill-record keeping by Elections Canada plays a role in this? Hardly.

Part of an election campaign, I know I've worked on several, is making sure that the information you have on your voters list is accurate. You go door-to-door and not only ask if the household is supporting you; but that you have the right information down on the list provided to you.

Yes, sometimes people will not want to give you their name on the doorstep; especially if they don't support your party. But, you ask and try to confirm that the information is correct. Vellacott, however, announced that this step of the election process was a waste of time during an election campaign.

Well, if confirming voters residences is too much then ultimately an election is too much of a waste of time. After all, door knocking and voter contact are important. And you do this to identify supporters and confirm your information is correct. But no, this is a waste of 'valuable campaign time'. But this is part of the campaign, if not one of the most important parts.

So, while Elections Canada's voter lists are not always accurate, it is part of the campaign to ensure that your information is as accurate as possible and that you are updating as you go. To place the blame solely on Elections Canada is a fallacy because it is a two-fold problem: Elections Canada provided outdated information, but your campaign failed to try and update this information. You share the blame as much as Elections Canada would under this defence, and that is why it will be added to the growing list of failed Tory defences with regards to this scandal.

Moving right along, we're now going to talk about some poll information...Yes, I know, how exciting.

Two very different polls have come out this week, one from CTV's Nik Nanos and another from Frank Graves over at EKOS. The important thing here is the difference in support numbers.

I saw the EKOS poll first, so let's have their results. EKOS Poll.

As you can see, the Conservatives are barely ahead of the NDP in this poll. While other respondants clearly answer that the government is moving in the wrong direction and that the country is just barely moving in the right direction.

I'll mention that the EKOS poll surveyed 3,600 Canadians.

That brings us to the NANOS Poll, which surveyed just under 1,300 Canadians. NANOS Poll.

Wow, what a difference a few thousand survey takers makes...

The big news on this poll is the idea that the NDP is not within striking distance of the Conservatives, but rather running in third behind the Liberals. So, how can one poll have the NDP with numbers just shy of 30%; while another has them with numbers barely at 25%?

Well, the difference in the number of respondants is problem number one. Problem number two stems of course from biases within the marketing company itself. Anyone who has followed Nanos' polls since before the last election can clearly see that the company has some built in biases. While I wouldn;t say that it's a pro-Conservative bias, it certainly is an anti-NDP one.

But pointing out media biases in today's world isn't exactly news...What is important is that we all keep this in mind when we read these polls. I'll point out the last poll that mattered: Election Day. All the pollsters were predicting another Conservative Minority, with the Liberals still in opposition, and the Bloc Quebecois remaining a political entity.

That was not the reality we saw come election day. As such, all polls need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Probably tomorrow, I'll put up a post about the Saskatchewan Government's decision to appeal the courts overturn of their Essential Services Legislation. And we may or may not discuss some 'mysterious' allegations being levelled at NDP Leadership candidate Thomas Mulcair. And of course, we'll continue to talk Robocall as more news develops.

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