Swinging at the chance to bloody their opposition, Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives are trying to make a connection in Albertans minds between automated robocalls made on behalf of the Wildrose Party and controversial robocalls made by Conservative Party organizers in Ontario.
It’s a stretch.
Last week the Wildrose Party was fined $90,000 by the Canadian Radio Telecommunications Commission for breaking regulatory rules around automated robocalls made during last year’s provincial election. According to the CRTC, the Wildrose Party failed properly identifying themselves when the robocalls were made (they were push-polls).
Unlike the controversial robocalls from Ontario, there is no indication that the Wildrose robocalls were intended to suppress or misdirect voters from their polling stations.
This difference does not seem to matter to Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, who has led his party’s charge, calling on Elections Alberta to investigate the Wildrose robocalls. So far, Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party has admitted to making the calls, paid the fine in its entirety, and has released the script of the robocall in question.
As the National Post’s Jen Gerson wrote, “[o]ne can hardly fault Alberta’s besieged Progressive Conservatives for trying to squeeze the ruling for all it’s worth.” After three years of being harassed from scandal to scandal by the Wildrose, the Tories see an opportunity to strike-back against their relentlessly aggressive opponents. And this is becoming a trend.
This new offensive strategy appears to have started with Premier Redford’s unfortunately hyper-partisan speech to a group of school children at a government press conference last month.
Online, ministerial press secretaries have become partisan mini-celebrities by spending their days locked in heated political arguments with Wildrose Caucus staffers on Twitter. Long-gone are the days when ministerial spokespeople at least pretended to be non-partisan.
Last week, Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar accused the Wildrose of bigotry for failing to promptly remove racist comments from their Facebook Page (a Wildrose staffer was quick to point out racist comments that had not been removed from Premier Alison Redford‘s Facebook Page). Minister Bhullar’s accusation sends a message to moderate voters, who might be unhappy with the PC Party’s deep funding cuts to post-secondary education and cuts to support for persons with developmental disabilities, that their only alternative is still scary.
The robocall accusations against the Wildrose remain thin, even the Tories use robocalls – because it is an effective campaign tool. But this is payback and we should not expect the Tories to be nice about it.