Group making unsolicited elections calls is breaking rules, says chief electoral officer
A group that's been making unsolicited calls and texts to New Brunswickers over the past several days is violating the province's electoral rules, according to chief electoral officer Kim Poffenroth.
CBC received several complaints about a group referring to itself as New Brunswick Proud, and dozens of people are complaining on social media about being contacted by the group. There are a few different versions of the text messages, but most say something like:
"Hi, it's Pam from New Brunswick Proud. Election day is Monday. Together we can end the carbon tax and make life affordable for our families. Will you vote?"
That's exactly the kind of text message Marcus Kingston, who works in Harvey, N.B., received on his cell phone, but not until after the group had already called him five times, with similar messages.
"I found it kind of invasive and put kind of sour taste in my mouth," Kingston said.
Kingston said the experience made him feel uncomfortable and violated his privacy, and he wants to know how the group got his phone number.
Poffenroth would like to know the same thing. She received a text message from the group herself, and since she can't vote because of her role as the province's chief electoral officer, her name isn't on the voter's list. Besides, she said, Elections NB doesn't publicize people's phone numbers.
During the recent provincial election in Ontario, a group calling itself Ontario Proud produced advertisements and social media content critical of the Liberals and NDP, and focused on getting out the vote in the final days of the campaign.
It's not clear whether the group making calls and sending texts in New Brunswick is affiliated with that one. But a Facebook group calling itself New Brunswick Proud does feature several anti-liberal and pro-conservative posts.
None of the five political parties in the province has claimed any association with the group.
Elections NB has received one official complaint about the group, and Poffenroth said her agency is trying to contact someone from New Brunswick Proud, to find out who they are and who they might be affiliated with. But they're not having any luck.
CBC has also tried to contact the group, without success.
Poffenroth said the group "definitely" violated rules surrounding identification requirements under the political process financing act for third parties. And, she said, it appears as though they've likely violated registration rules as well.
When a third party spends more than $500 on election advertising it must register with Elections NB, she said.
Got an automated call from NB Proud today wanting to poll.—@starrcookson
"We would have to determine exactly how much had been spent on election advertising," she said.
"From the amount of text campaign and Facebook sponsored adds, it would suggest … that they may have exceeded, but I can't say for certain."
Poffenroth said Elections NB may have to get police involved.
"They are offences under our legislation but it will have to be referred to policing authorities for further investigation and possible prosecution."
Poffenroth said if people are concerned about these calls or how their phone numbers were accessed, they can reach out to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.