Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay robocall recipient told how to vote

A Thunder Bay woman is speaking out about a call she received though an automated system during the federal election campaign.

Automated call came from Colorado; complaints forwarded to Elections Canada

A Thunder Bay woman is speaking out about a call she received though an automated system during the federal election campaign.

She said she wasn't told her polling station had been changed, but was pressured on how to vote.

Laura Rakowski said the recording told her to stop higher taxes and not to vote NDP. She said was furious because she wanted to hear about campaign platforms not how to vote.

"You know, politicians should be putting up information and their workers, wherever they might be, should be putting out information as to what they're going to do," Rakowski said.

Rakowski traced the call, and found it originated in Colorado. She said she had no clue why her number was chosen, or why she may have been singled out for the anti-NDP message.

Rakowski took her complaint to Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Bruce Hyer, who forwarded it — along with two other complaints — to Elections Canada.

Thunder Bay Superior North NDP MP Bruce Hyer

Hyer said he believes his riding was targeted with both automated and live calls.

At least one of the automated calls came to his own home in the final days of the campaign, he said.

"I was in a hurry … so at the time it didn't strike me as being nefarious," Hyer said of the call telling him to go to a different polling station than he would normally use.

 "I just sort of scratched my head and didn't think about it much, and now in retrospect I wonder if it was one of those [deliberately false automated] calls," Hyer said. "I'm a little uncertain as to exactly what it was."

Hyer said 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 straightforward way is quite reprehensible," Hyer said.

'Fire Hyer' campaign

A "Fire Hyer" automated phone campaign, which the MP describes as "not very sophisticated but very hard-hitting," was spreading some false and partisan information about his record as an MP, he said. Later, through traced phone calls during the election, his campaign found out these calls came from the U.S. states of Montana and Colorado.

Hyer believes it is not legal for this kind of campaign to originate from outside of Canada, and he and his staff have written to the chief electoral officer to pass on their concerns.

"I was very disturbed," Hyer said.

Laura Rakowski concurred.

"To think that  Americans are interfering with our elections in Canada by using intimidating scare tactics with robocalls is quite frightening," she said.

Hyer said he has yet to hear back from Elections Canada about his letter.