Guelph Tory's robocalls legitimate, campaign aide says
If Elections Canada's robocalls sleuth suspects the Conservative campaign in Guelph, Ont., did business with an Edmonton call centre, that's because it did.
So says a key member of Tory candidate Marty Burke's campaign.
But Burke's deputy campaign manager, Andrew Prescott, says he can explain why RackNine Inc. does not show up on the candidate's campaign spending return filed to Elections Canada, even though the company made robocalls on multiple occasions to Conservative supporters in Guelph.
Prescott says it's because he has a small business that has an account with RackNine, and the call centre billed him for the Burke campaign's calls.
"The Marty Burke campaign approached me about doing robocalls on their behalf, which I have done for other campaigns for a number of years," he told The Canadian Press.
"And I was reimbursed directly for my expenses."
Documents filed to Elections Canada show Prescott had a contract with the Burke campaign that would pay him $1,100 for "general labour." Other campaign volunteers had similar contracts for different amounts.
The campaign cut an $1,100 cheque to Prescott on May 9. The memo line of that cheque says "salary."
Prescott said he was reimbursed for the RackNine expenses — which he described as being fairly low — as part of his $1,100 honorarium.
"They were not contracting directly with RackNine," he said, referring to the Burke campaign. "I was the vendor of the RackNine services, as I have been to other campaigns for a number of years."
RackNine linked to misleading 'robocalls'
Elections Canada is investigating reports that voters in Guelph received calls from a phone number with a 450 area code directing them to the wrong polling station. Phone records show the number behind the Guelph calls was the same one registered to "Pierre Poutine" of "Separatist Street" in Joliette, Que.
Elections Canada's chief investigator says in a sworn court document that the clearly fake name was likely used to cover the tracks of whoever was behind misleading and harassing calls to Guelph voters.
The phone records show the number registered to Pierre Poutine twice called Edmonton-based call centre RackNine Inc., on April 30 and May 1.
The records also show phones associated with Guelph candidate Burke and the Guelph Conservative riding association made a total of 31 calls to RackNine between March 26 and early May.
The Burke campaign did not report any business with RackNine in its Elections Canada return. But the investigator surmised it is likely Burke's campaign had business dealings with RackNine.
"I think it is reasonable to believe that some sort of consumer relationship existed between the Marty Burke Conservative campaign in Guelph for the 41st general election and RackNine Inc., or between certain Burke campaign workers and RackNine Inc.," Allan Mathews concluded.
"(And) that this relationship was related to the general election campaign in Guelph; and that the relationship related to the misleading calls made to Guelph area electors which they perceived as coming from the phone number 450-760-7746."
The claims, which have not been proven in court, are laid out in an Information to Obtain a Production Order filed in an Edmonton court in November.
Prescott acknowledged the Burke team called RackNine during the campaign. He said all of those calls were for legitimate, lawful purposes.
He provided the dates of the calls:
- On March 30, Burke's team put out a robocall to kick off the campaign.
- Another robocall went out April 2.
- An April 8 robocall announced former cabinet minister Stockwell Day would be in the riding.
- An April 21 robocall invited supporters to a luncheon with former Ontario Tory premier Bill Davis.
- On April 27, Davis called RackNine to record a 'Get out the vote' message.
- On April 28, the Davis robocall went out.
The Burke campaign twice called RackNine on election day.
Prescott says he contacted RackNine after the campaign got wind of reports that voters were being directed to the wrong polling stations, so that robocalls could go out to Burke supporters telling them about the fake calls.
Prescott said he has no idea who was behind the misleading calls.