Elections Nova Scotia has concluded its investigation into a polling firm hired by the provincial New Democratic Party and says it found no intention to mislead electors when the firm misidentified rival candidates during a survey.
The agency launched its investigation into Toronto-based Forum Research Inc., the polling firm hired to make the calls, after receiving complaints that the Liberal candidate in the electoral district of Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River was misidentified, as was the Progressive Conservative candidate in Timberlea-Prospect.
Elections Nova Scotia revealed a third candidate — the Progressive Conservative candidate in Kings North — was also misidentified.
The agency said it spoke to the president of Forum Research Inc. and representatives of Nova Scotia's New Democratic Party during its investigation.
"Their explanations of how the misinformation occurred indicate that the use of erroneous information was inadvertent," Elections Nova Scotia said in a statement.
The agency said since the New Democratic Party learned of the error, they had tried to remediate any adverse effects by calling the residences involved and correcting the information. That involved contacting nearly 150 residences — 49 electors in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, 50 electors in Kings North and 50 electors in Timberlea-Prospect.
"We believe that the errors resulted from simple mistakes and that the remedial action taken is proportional to the error," Richard Temporale, the province's Chief Electoral Officer, said in a statement.
"We have found no evidence that the calls were meant to intentionally mislead electors."
Chorus of criticism from rivals
The errors touched off a chorus of criticism from the province's Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties, who accused the New Democratic Party of intentionally misidentifying its rivals to confuse voters.
Critics said the misidentification of candidates is particularly significant in this campaign because people can vote on any day leading up to the Oct. 8 election by going to their local returning office and writing their chosen candidate's name on a blank ballot.
The incident also led to a snarky Twitter exchange between a Liberal candidate and the wife of a New Democratic candidate, prompting Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil to warn his members to watch their language on social media.
The candidates running for the three affected electoral districts are:
- Mary Lou Harley for the Green Party in Kings North.
- John Lohr for the Progressive Conservatives in Kings North.
- Jim Morton for the New Democratic Party in Kings North.
- Stephen Pearl for the Liberals in Kings North.
- Linda Moxsom-Skinner for the New Democratic Party in Timberlea-Prospect.
- Bruce Pretty for the Progressive Conservatives in Timberlea-Prospect.
- Iain Rankin for the Liberals in Timberlea-Prospect.
- Thomas Trappenberg for the Green Party in Timberlea-Prospect.
- Charles Cox for the Progressive Conservatives in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River.
- Barry Mellish for the Liberals in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River.
- Lenore Zann for the New Democratic Party in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River.