Robo-calls from Airdrie slate have resident up in arms
Last week, more than 1,400 Airdrie residents picked up the phone in the evening of Oct. 2 to hear an electronic recording asking them to join a Tele Town Hall – a telephone conference call intended to discuss an Airdrie-focused political platform.
The reason for the call was to discuss issues pertaining to the Oct. 21 municipal election with candidates of the Airdrie Team United slate.
“I received a call at 8 p.m. on Oct. 2 from a number out of Washington State from Jane Anderson,” David Boyle told the Airdrie City View. “(The call was) inviting me to a telephone gathering for the United Airdrie Slate. This bothers me personally because I disagree with slates (so) I just hung up.”
What concerns Boyle, isn’t just that a robo-call was made, but how Team Airdrie United came to obtain his number.
“If they are randomizing the whole phone book, there is probably no problem,” he said.
“That is unlikely. If they are using provincial voter lists, that implies an organized tie to a provincial political party. I would have been on the list from voting for (Premier) Redford as a leader. That would be the only time that I have appeared on a party list. Then the question becomes; ‘who is calling the shots and who owes who?’ If they are using a list from Elections Alberta, then there is a legal issue... as it is illegal to do this.”
Anderson denies using the numbers from the Alberta Election list stating, “Absolutely not,” when asked if the numbers were affiliated with her son and Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson or came from the provincial archives.
“I also didn’t use my daycare contact list,” she said. “I wasn’t the one who organized the calls, and I have no idea (where the numbers came from), I don’t know where Telus got them from.”
Airdrie City View contacted Telus, who said that they had to make land line numbers available for the public, unless they subscribed to an unlisted number.
Chris Gerritsen, spokesperson for Telus, explained that all phone companies are required by the CRTC to release listed land lines, and the numbers requested would be used in phone book publications.
Gerritsen further explained that it is a common misunderstanding that Telus publishes the phone book, The Yellow Pages - a private company - publishes local phone books.
The call Boyle received originated from Washington state, but Anderson says that Team United hired an Edmonton company – RackNine Inc. – and they contracted out to the US.
RackNine Inc. did not return calls as of press time.
According the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) – the government organization that controls TV, radio and telecommunications standards in Canada – robo-calls are permitted in Canada, but must abide by rules put in place to minimize disturbance on the resident.
According to the CRTC: robo-calls are prohibited for the purpose of soliciting money or money’s worth unless the caller has received prior written express consent from the called party to be contacted in this manner. Calls can only be made from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays (Monday to Friday) and 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends (Saturday and Sunday), and proper disclosure from the caller is required.
In May of 2012, the provincial Wild Rose Party was fined $90,000 for making robo-calls that failed to properly identify the party or person responsible for them, as required by CRTC telemarketing rules. These calls were also made by RackNine.
The federal Conservatives, the federal NDP, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, Liberal MP Marc Garneau and Conservative MP Blake Richards were also fined by the CRTC last spring.
“As to why we did this,” Anderson explained. “It was to reach people that’s why they make them. We got the statistics back and 1,400 people tuned in.”
The issues that were discussed, according to Anderson, were curbside recycling, snow removal, and whether or not the four candidates are voting together, which Anderson said “(they) aren’t”
When asked if it was effective and would she – in a future election – use the method again, Anderson believed the experience was mainly positive.
“We’re not planning on doing another one,” she explained.
“I think it was a good thing, we’re trying to find out about the issues.”