A Conservative Party spokesman is now admitting that his party did recently make calls to Saskatchewan residents about electoral redistribution, after initially denying the party had anything to do with the calls.
Fred DeLorey, director of communications for the Conservative Party, issued a statement Tuesday saying that the calls should have been identified as coming from the Conservative Party, and that an "internal miscommunication" had occurred.
DeLorey did not offer any explanation about why he had previously told Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen that his party had not commissioned the calls.
Some Saskatchewan residents reported receiving the robocalls last week from an unknown caller. The voice on the pre-recorded message claimed that proposed changes to the province’s 14 ridings would favour urban areas against rural and would damage "Saskatchewan values." The call was essentially a so-called push poll intended to prompt callers to indicate that they agreed with the premise of the call by pressing 1 on their keypads
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, the only member of Parliament from Saskatchewan who is not a Conservative, told CBC Tuesday that his office received complaints from people in Regina and Saskatoon who described the robocalls as "abusive and misleading."
"It really is appalling behaviour ... they were clearly trying to manipulate public opinion in Saskatchewan in the wake of the boundaries commission draft report," Goodale said.
He told CBC News that some of the recipients of the calls who contacted him have filed complaints with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and he did too on Tuesday following the Conservative Party's about-face on making the calls.
In August, the CRTC fined Liberal MP Frank Valeriote $4,900 after a worker in his 2011 election campaign office made calls about his opponent's anti-abortion views, but did not reveal that the calls were affiliated with Valeriote's campaign.
Commission proposes new urban ridings
The commission looked at four ridings in Regina and four in Saskatoon. The ridings are spread out like slices of a pie, pulling in a corner of each city and a bigger rural area of towns, villages and farms.
The report wants a change to urban-only ridings in the cities — two in Regina and three in Saskatoon.
DeLorey's statement Tuesday pointed out that the one dissenting member of the three-person commission, David Marit, the head of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, said that 75 per cent of those who made submissions at public hearings opposed "drastic changes" to ridings. DeLorey added that "because of population growth, the next boundary commission will have to change the ridings back to rural-urban blends."
But Goodale pointed out that the other two commissioners, Justice Ron Mills and University of Saskatchewan Prof. John Courtney, found that the public was generally approving of the proposed changes.
"It has sent the Conservatives into a hissy fit because they would prefer to have a map that is biased," Goodale said.
Historically, Conservatives have not done well in urban ridings.
The commission's report is part of a federal electoral redistribution process that will add 30 new ridings to the electoral map in time for the next election, expected to be in 2015. Redistribution is meant to reflect growing populations in parts of the country.
The reports from the various boundary commissions will be debated by a parliamentary committee this spring.