Tory backbencher Paul Lane says he participates in online political polls and encourages his supporters to participate, but insists he does nothing different from other politicians.
"Part of the political process is that you have to ensure that your message is getting out, regardless of what party you're in," Lane said.
"Certainly, I would have no problem saying I would certainly encourage my colleagues, I would encourage our supporters, and so on," Lane said during a panel discussion on Thursday's edition of Here & Now.
Amid accusations that he advised staffers to try to find a way to vote as many times as possible, Lane said his computer skills are limited.
"I will maintain the fact that I do not know how to actually do that at all," he said.
Lane was the focus of a story last weekend's edition of The Telegram that reported on leaked messages sent from his BlackBerry, in which he told staff it was a part of their job to participate in various polls and open line shows.
Lane said it hasn't been easy since the story came out.
"This hasn't been a great week, obviously, but it's part of politics — it's part of the political process," Lane said.
"I knew that when I got into politics, every day wasn't going to be diamonds."
Participation versus manipulation, Liberal says
Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons said all political parties are aware of polls, and participate in them, but they don't abuse these public forums.
"I would say there's a difference between participation and manipulation, and that's what's going on here," Parsons said.
"There's a difference when there's the actual encouragement and, in some cases, very strongly worded emails saying, 'You need to vote, we need you to vote now and vote as many times as you can,' and to encourage people to find ways to crack the code to vote as much as you can."
NDP MHA Gerry Rogers said the alleged poll manipulation is blurring the opinion of the people of the province.
"If I'm paying attention to polls, I'm curious, I want to see what people have to say, I want to know what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador think about different issues," Rogers said.
"For a government to not only instruct people on how to manipulate the polls, but also what the message should be … there's something wrong there, and that's not what [the NDP] engage in."
Tory accuses Opposition of swaying votes
Lane said he thinks the other parties conduct themselves in exactly the same manner when it comes to polling opinions on various media outlets.
"I can tell you that I've certainly seen circumstances where there may be an online poll, and all of a sudden the vote goes crazy the other way, as well," he said.
'Maybe the commentary bashing government is a reason the government should actually listen to the people of this province'—Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons
"When you look at some of the commentary that you see in the articles … if you were to look at them, I would say 90 per cent of the anonymous commentaries are bashing government on everything they do, no matter what that particular issue may be."
However, Parsons said it's entirely possible that the results are simply public opinion.
"Maybe the commentary bashing government is a reason the government should actually listen to the people of this province, rather than manipulate the polls to show that what you're doing is good," he said.
Parsons cast doubts on whether government officials try to sway opinions on the hot-topic issues.
"We've heard from groups, such as the Coalition of Peoples with Disabilities … and one of the polls was saying, 'Was what government did right or wrong,' was heavily stacked in favour saying government was right. Was this one of the polls that was padded to applaud government's actions?"