Poor training blamed for Thunder Bay election calls
Former Thunder Bay call centre manager says false information may have been given by mistake
Thunder Bay is at the centre of the storm over misleading phone calls in the last federal election. A call centre in the city is one of the places where calls originated, allegedly misdirecting voters to the wrong polling station.
A former supervisor with The Reponsive Marketing Group (RMG) said inadequate training could be blamed for the misinformation. The call centre was hired by the Conservative Party during the last federal election.
Jeff Harrietha, who has worked in several call centres in Thunder Bay over the past 10 years, said some employees would get hired, and then sent directly to the phones. As a result, some employees didn't understand the information on their screens.
"In any call centre on the best of days, there's mistakes made," Harrietha said. "But, if you inadequately train people, the mistakes are obviously magnified."
High turnover rate
He said the company never told him or his employees to give voters incorrect information. Harrietha noted many of the projects he worked on included fundraising and polling for the Conservative Party.
"But as far as the pollers were concerned, it was like a three month job," Harrietha said. "So [new employees] would come in with a resume and they’d be on the phone within 15 minutes."
Harrietha said the lack of training meant employees didn't know how to interpret information, or didn't cross check data on their screens.
"And they're given these … files full of numbers, I mean a lot of times they weren't even the right person on the right number on their screen."
He added RMG had a higher employee turnover than most other call centres, increasing the odds of a poorly trained person picking up the phone.
MP received automated calls
Thunder Bay Superior North is among the 39 ridings that received reports of false or misleading calls during the federal election.
The NDP's Bruce Hyer won the riding. He said some of the automated calls came to his own home. And he heard from other people in the riding about calls they'd received directing them to the wrong polling station.
"For people to be illegally manipulating the election voting patterns and distract people from voting in a straight forward way is quite reprehensible," Hyer said.
The Liberals and NDP are blaming the Conservatives for the so-called robocalls scandal. The Conservatives are denying the allegations. Hyer said a full investigation is required to find out who is responsible for the robocalls.
"Whether I win or lose an election, I think we should all do it on straight forward, true information," Hyer said.