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Firm hired by Tories to call voters denies allegations it misled some

Voters arrive at a Toronto polling station to cast their ballot in the federal election on May 02, 2011.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

The company hired by the federal Conservatives to reach out to voters before the last election says allegations it misled opposition party supporters are "categorically false."

Andrew Langhorne, Responsive Marketing Group's chief operating officer, filed an affidavit in federal court this week responding to the allegations.

"RMG does not now, nor has it ever, participated in telephone campaigns intended to purposefully mislead voters," Mr. Langhorne wrote.

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Voters from seven ridings filed applications in court earlier this year alleging that they and others received fraudulent calls telling them their polling station had been moved and asking for the results to be overturned.

In April, former RMG employee Annette Desgagne filed an affidavit saying she was concerned she was giving out incorrect information to voters she had been instructed to call in the days before the 2011 election.

"About three days before election day, the script changed in a manner that was noticeable to me," she wrote. "This time, the scripts we were to read to the listeners concerned changes to the locations of their polling stations. The new scripts we were to read did not identify that we were calling on behalf of the Conservative Party nor did we mention the local Conservative candidate."

She said some of the people she called questioned her about the polling location she provided them, including a woman in Winnipeg who said the address was more than an hour away from her home. She also said she overheard another RMG employee claim he was phoning from Elections Canada.

"The allegation made by [Ms.] Desgagne is categorically false," Mr. Langhorne wrote in his affidavit filed on Wednesday.

He said calls that went out to voters in the three days before the election were specifically directed at Conservative Party supporters.

"There were no discussions, communications or instructions whatsoever from the [Conservative Party of Canada] to me or, to my knowledge, to any member of RMG's client support team responsible for the 2011 election about calling any non-supporters at all, let alone doing so in an effort to mislead them about the locations at which they were to vote," he wrote.

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He said callers were explicitly instructed to identify themselves as calling on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party and the local Conservative candidate. "Nowhere does the script instruct a caller to claim that they were calling on behalf of Elections Canada," Mr. Langhorne wrote.

He said the company's chief compliance officer had reviewed Ms. Desgagne's calls to voters in the disputed ridings and found she properly identified herself "on the majority of the relevant calls" and did not provide incorrect polling station addresses.

Steven Shrybman, a lawyer acting on behalf of the voters who are disputing election results in the seven ridings, said he wants Mr. Langhorne's assertions to be tested in court.

"There are contradictions and untested assertions," in Mr. Langhorne's affidavit, he said. "We'll want to hear the tapes."

Lawyers for the Conservative MPs in the disputed ridings have filed motions asking that applicants be ordered to file security upfront for their court costs, according to the Council of Canadians, which is covering some of the applicants' costs.

The council says the cost will total $250,000. The motion will be heard on Sept. 18.

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Mr. Langhorne could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday night.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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