Let's see the scripts
One word should leap out in today's Star story, by Tonda MacCharles, about further damning evidence in what we're calling the robocalls scandal of the last election. The word is "script." And we're not talking about the Oscars here.
As Tonda reports, with evidence of three former employees, the Responsive Marketing Group was given a script, which had been written by the Conservative Party. In this case, the script allegedly contained instructions to tell voters the Election-Day ballot-box location had changed.
Annette Desgagné, 46, said it became clear to her — after so many people complained that the “new” voting locations made no sense or were “way the hell across town” — that the live operators were, in fact, misdirecting voters.
“We’re sending people to the wrong place,” Desgagné recalled telling her supervisor.
She said she has no way of knowing whether in fact the poll station locations she gave listeners were wrong addresses or phony locations. But she said the “feedback” elicited by the script was so negative, “we started getting antsy.”
To be clear: If there was any deliberately false information in that script, that is one large, legal no-no in Canada, where we tend to take elections and access to the ballot box seriously. Right now, all we have is some massive coincidence of all these people, whether in Kitchener, Guelph, or as many as 30 other ridings, getting calls to say their voting location had changed. The Conservatives are saying that they provided only true, helpful, factual information to voters, though some mistakes might have been made.
Let's go back to the December controversy over the calls made to Irwin Cotler's riding, in which constituents reported they were told that Mr. Cotler was resigning. The Conservative Party admitted that it paid the firm to do these calls and that it tightly managed what callers were supposed to say. In the process, we also learned a bit more about how these call centres work. In fact, numerous Conservative spokespersons, media outlets and the Marketing Research Intelligence Association were given copies of the script in question.
Watch this interview with Nick Kouvalis of Campaign Research, in which he lays it out. He was talking about scripts too. An excerpt: "Campaign Research was hired by the party. Right? They produce a script. We know what the rules and regulations are, and the jurisdictions around the country. We make sure that's within the rules. And then we deliver the script."
Note: The whole defence in the Cotler-call controversy was that these robocall firms were just calling people with the words the Conservative party supplied to them. If someone went off script, well, that wasn't the fault of Campaign Research or the party.
So. What we need to see now is the script that the Conservative Party supplied to Responsive Marketing Group. The party was able to produce one for the Cotler calls controversy; I'm assuming it has the one supplied to this firm too. In fact, let's see the scripts the Conservatives wrote for all the call centres. If it's all true information, it shouldn't be a problem, right?