Tag Archives: robo calls

Understanding the Current Canadian Political Situation

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The Canadian political landscape has a number of “elements” in play right now, all designed to confuse the hell out of the average Canadian voter.

I want to try to use this piece to dissect a couple of contentious activities.  That’s your cue to grab a cup of coffee and snuggle in for a few minutes because this does not merit a quick glance.

Robo-calls, Voter Suppression, Voter Lists & Marketing

Many in the media are asking really stupid questions right now about the depth and breadth of capabilities with respect to tracking individuals, their voter preferences and so on.  Others are asking equally naive questions about the range of marketing activities that are NOT organized in Canada.

Obviously, none of them have ever worked in the loyalty marketing business.  Or direct marketing business.  Or telemarketing businesses.  Or the advertising agency world.  Or online advertising.  Or politics.

They all seem to have this ‘Gee whiz’ kind of mindset that reinforces that they are clearly locked in the ‘Madmen’ era of when advertisers and communications experts didn’t have a clue about what they were doing, but still took all the credit when they sold a car or two because of a sexy car ad or funny catch phrase with toilet paper.

Guess what.  Things have changed.  A long ago, actually.

I don’t know if it’s intentional on behalf of the media pundits and journalists to seem stupid or if they just are stupid, but they are definitely missing the point that any organization can collect pretty much anything they want on me, my buying habits, my nose-picking habits, how many times I have a bowel movement and so on.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that one of the few exceptions to unsolicited calls – political parties – probably have the most complex databases concerning the activities of every single Canadian.

Further to this basic idea that enormous masses of data are being collected about every single one of our habits is the seeming surprise about the extent to which this is organized by American and generally non-Canadian companies.

The Airmiles program is owned by an American company.  Nearly every large agency in Canada is just a tiny cog in the enormous machinery of the top-5 global agencies and very few real decisions are actually made in Canada.

Hell, even StatsCan data now lies with Lockheed-Martin, a very not-Canadian company and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of military equipment.

That said, there continues to be a sense of surprise when we hear about American parent companies being involved with marketing decisions.  Sadly, many Canadians don’t realize that this is just routine.

The Solution?

The solution to the issue with robo-calls and resulting voter suppression is simple:  allow Canadians to add their names to the same Do Not Call Lists that the CRTC maintains when you get annoying calls about credit card offers, instant vacation awards, police balls and other crap.

More importantly, we need more control over our personal and private information.  If a political party wants to contact me, they need my permission first.  Email works that way.  Why can’t phone calls?

On the note about the agency world and most decisions being made outside Canada, that topic is beyond the scope of what is already a very long rant about our Canadian corporate and political environment.

Demographics, Dummygraphics and Datagraphics

I think we’ve all heard the term ‘demographics’ before.  It basically applies to groups of people, their behaviours and the impact of those behaviours.  ‘Baby Boomers’, ‘Generation X’ and ‘Digital Natives’ are all terms that relate to demographics.

Of course, marketers have stepped things up substantially and have designed and developed hundreds of categories related to individuals and their buying, political interests, love activities, drinking habits and so on and continue to collect this information so long as you use a credit card, bank card, cell phone, Gmail account, search and pretty much do anything else.

Dummygraphics is a new term that I will use here to describe a group of people that believe what the media and politicians tell them.  My first instincts with this word is that Boomers fit nicely into this category, but they don’t.  Dummygraphics apply to people that simply don’t get the idea that someone out there is lying to them so that they can gain at your expense.

People that receive phone calls on their land lines telling them repeatedly that they’re Liberals and that they want to piss you off even if you’re a card-carrying Liberal because we’re going to keep calling are locked into two issues:  they don’t know how to ignore the phone and they can’t get their name removed from voter calling lists.

Political cynics (and I won’t say Conservatives because I don’t want to fall victim to a $5 million lawsuit) leverage this stupidity to their advantage and win elections.  It sounds harsh, but it’s that simple.

If you believe that it’s all just one great big coincidence, you fit neatly into the Dummygraphic category.

Datagraphics is almost the opposite of Dummygraphics.  I don’t want to pretend that this group of people is smarter than the first, but there are hints that they too are cynics and will at least seek out alternatives when someone tells them a lie about simple things like polling stations.  They’ll double check their voter registration card.  They’ll call Elections Canada.  They’ll check with their local MP.

People in the Datagraphic category will find themselves reading alternatives to the mainstream media.  Not everything the Globe and Mail or Toronto Star says is paved with good intentions.  That’s (nearly) impossible when the party in power also pulls the strings with advertising budgets for Defense recruiting, Action Plans, CRA awareness and so on to the tune of $300-$500 million per year.

If you don’t believe, take a gander at the May 2011 election list of newspaper endorsements where nearly ALL of the mainstream media voices endorsed the very people that the majority of Canadians are working very hard to eliminate.  Not much of a challenge given that the mainstream media in Canada is really just 4-5 mega-conglomerates, including Bell, Rogers, Quebecor, Shaw, Telus, Transcontinental and Astral Communications.

The Solution?

Obviously, I have a bias to the Datagraphic category, but want to ensure that they get the right information.  We need to defeat Canada’s media conglomerates by shutting off our cell phones, signing up with Internet companies like TekSavvy and starving them of our attention.

Only when we boycott the major perpetrators of these crimes – our media conglomerates – will we see a little more balance in Canadian politics.

The other more actionable solution is to CHECK INFORMATION WHEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR VOTING STATION.  Don’t take everything for granted and don’t believe some jack-ass who calls you in the middle of the night to tell you have to go to another county to vote.

The Merging of Business and Politics

The current array of scandals we’re enduring in Canada are, in my opinion, what happens when you merge business and politics.  More importantly, it’s a glimpse of what will happen as public policy becomes more commercial as opposed to public.

Robo-calls, tele-marketing, consumer lists, phone lists and so on all have nothing to do with public policy.  They have everything to do with coercion and the dying days of broadcasting.

You see, broadcast is nearly extinct.  It’s breathing its last breath.  TV, print and radio were once the “three legs that help up the table of marketing success”, but they no longer reach the audiences that they used to.  There’s too much fragmentation in the marketplace.  Therefore, we see a last desperate scramble to to control these last few modes of communication before they become completely pointless in the realm of politics.  And everything else, for that matter.

We’re already seeing the cracks in the strategy.  Anyone that does robo-calls has to do them to land lines.  Cell phone lines are too risky because histories are traced more effectively, messages can be recorded and easily shared and we return to the demographic discussion.  Most elderly people have land lines and most elderly people are prone to trust or believe someone when they get called by someone out of the blue telling them that they have to go to another polling station to vote.

My prediction is that the 2011 election will be the last effective use of this shameful and disgusting tactic because a growing percentage of the population – even those in the Dummygraphic category – will be using Internet connections for their land-lines and cell phone more frequently as their primary mode of communication.

Anyways, the key point here is that we – Earthlings, to be exact, but I’ll be happy if we start as Canadians – have been remiss in demanding a very simple idea:  the separation of State and Corporation.  In the Revolution Years, we demanded separation of Church and State and now we have to go the next step or we will LOSE ALL FREEDOMS in the interest of letting others making money of our personal information.

Especially political cynics and crooks.

The Solution?

Let’s be clear that I’m not anti-corporate or even anti-capitalist.

I just don’t think the merging of business and public policies are good ideas.  It’s impossible to build railroads, national digital strategies and other long-term investments when stockholders demand gains in the next quarter.

I’m not sure how it will be done, but we have to at least start sharing ideas about how to keep corporations out of our lives.

Bill C-30 and Anonymous

Rumour has it that ‘Anonymous’ is nothing but a tool of the CIA.  I doubt it’s true, but if it is, we see how Anonymous continues to fuck things up for your average Joe by dragging personal information about Vic Toews or anyone else out into the public domain.

It’s just not right.

Their actions, therefore, help reinforce the rumours and actually help to steel the resolve of ‘tough on crime’ morons by giving them all the excuses they need to remove the wonderful and powerful thing known as anonymity.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the pressure continues to mount, media morons chime in with the idea that we should have better capabilities when it comes to tracking and ultimately, robo-calling may even fall into this category as justification for better scrutiny to protect Canadians from those who would steer us wrong.

Imagine that:  Anonymous responsible for Bill C-30 so that we can get to the bottom of what’s happening with robo-calls and voter suppression.

How bizarre.

All of a sudden, the robo-call situation becomes Canada’s very own version of a digital equivalent to the Reichstag Fire.

Another issue in all of this?  I believe the whole thing is a sham because if the government or law enforcers want to collect information about me, they can and without a warrant.  Child pornographers are arrested every day as a result of following the law.

What’s critical in all of this is that we are starting to see that none of our politicians with any party want Canadians to know just how much THEY know about US.  If you knew, you’d be pissed and outraged and this very idea threatens politics in Canada substantially more than phone-call hijinks.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if investigations actually found that one or many of our politicians were in breach of Canadian privacy laws.

A Final Plea

If you’re one of the many people that worked on political campaigns through the spring of 2011 and you witnessed or were privy to some questionable tactics, please contact Elections Canada.

Our democracy desperately needs a handful of people who will make things right.

You’ve probably had non-disclosure agreements and threats of lawsuits thrown at you if you open your mouth about anything that you witnessed, but WE NEED YOU.  We need your courage.  We need your strength.  We need your knowledge.

When you come forward, Canadians will protect you because you’ll be doing the right thing.

And if you don’t?  Be prepared for a big-ass warrant to come your way and get your sphincter lubed up for some fun times in the joint because you will not be treated kindly by anyone that knocks on your door looking for information.

And the Conservatives will NOT have your back.

Stephen Harper, Fascist?

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Canadian Dimensions has an excellent review of the classic 14 traits of a fascist and the winner seems to be Stephen Harper.

While Nick Fillmore, the author of the article, is much more kind to Canada’s current Prime Minister, the comments seem to indicate that many of the categories under question crystallize the point of view that Stephen Harper’s idea of Canada just doesn’t match what the rest of us think it should be.

Do you own survey and post your own scale.  Let me know how it turns out.

Here’s mine:

  1. Nationalism: (Excited Delirium: 8).  During the elections and other events, Stephen Harper has put everything and anything he could into Canada winning and winning again.  His constant leveraging of the military and defense spending increases all point to fervent nationalism.
  2. Human Rights: (Excited Delirium: 6).  The G8/G20 fiasco was just a start. Watch what happens under Steve’s watch when the crime bill starts putting Canadians in jail by the thousands.  The main reason this isn’t higher is that Stephen Harper actually did initiate the Truth and Reconciliation process Canada’s First Nations People.
  3. Enemies as scapegoats: (Excited Delirium: 10).  As he climbed the ladder, it was on the backs of Liberals, Socialists and everyone else that he could turn into a scapegoat.  Harper is an expert at blaming others while failing to take accountability for anything except his own aggrandizement.  Look at the low-level hack with the robo-call scandal as a perfect example of failure to take responsibility.
  4. Supremacy of the Military: (Excited Delirium: 10).  Canada is becoming a ‘one-trick’ pony, with defense spending going through the roof.
  5. Rampant Sexism: (Excited Delirium: 7).  While he’s not overt about sexist views, the policies of the Conservatives reflect a ‘women should be in the kitchen’ attitude. Read the fine print on a lot of their platform.  You’ll be surprised.
  6. Controlled Mass Media: (Excited Delirium: 10).  Harper has the mainstream media locked under his thumb, through the combination of subsidies, advertising close personal connections.  Even the CBC has become a wash-out under his leadership.
  7. Obsession with National Security: (Excited Delirium: 10).  Four words:  Vic Toews Surveillance State.
  8. Religion and Ruling Elite tied together: (Excited Delirium: 10).  It’s been common knowledge that Harper and his crew get considerable backing from the religious right not only in Canada, but from the US as well.  I’m surprised that Fillmore suggests there isn’t a connection.  I suggest you read Armageddon Factor to kick-start your research.
  9. Power of Corporations protected: (Excited Delirium: 10).  The power of corporations in Canada is now an absolute.  Harper would sooner have our parents eating Alpo than retire in dignity while corporate tax cuts continue.
  10. Power of Labour supressed/eliminated: (Excited Delirium: 10).  The death of labour in Canada is a done deal.
  11. Disdain/suppression of Intellectuals: (Excited Delirium: 10).  Two words:  Stockwell Day.
  12. Obsession with crime/punishment: (Excited Delirium: 10).  Three words:  Omnibus Crime Bill.  We are either with them or we are pedophiles (or environmental ‘terrorists’).
  13. Rampant cronyism/corruption: (Excited Delirium: 8).   Eight words:  Tony Clement’s Gazebo and the Economic Action Plan.
  14. Fraudulent Elections: (Excited Delirium: 10).  While Canadian elections have not been fraudulent per se, Harper’s cynicism towards democracy is more than abundant when we look at the leveraging of vote-splitting, pocket-book politics and other schemes to shift the attention of voters from the real issues.  I originally had this as an 8, but along came the robo-call scandal to remind us that there should be no confidence in this government because they stole the election.

Total score:  129 out of 140.

May 2011 Federal Election Cheaters? I Want A Re-Call.

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This is BIG. This is possibly the biggest case of corruption and political scandal that Canada will ever see and yet I heard nothing of it on the news this morning.

What gives?

The CBC outlines the 12 ridings that benefited from the robo calls that went out during the May 2011 Federal election in Canada.

I have copied the results of a preliminary investigation by Elections Canada from the CBC web site, just in case they happen to got washed out during the upcoming (and necessary) controversy surrounding this issue.

The numbers amount to a minimum 14 ridings where voters were called, told to go to incorrect locations, or where they received conflicting information about the election and issues.  My suspicion is that the company mentioned in the CBC article is not the only company that was recruited for these kind of tactics.

The company involved – Rack Nine – has denied any knowledge of what had happened, opening up the requirement for a full Elections Canada and RCMP investigation.

Also, the evidence of US involvement with the campaign, particularly with the use of an American robo-call company called Tele-Town, based in Arlington, Virginia should also come into this investigation.  Why were they calling Canadians?  What information do they have on Canadian households?  What information did Canadians share with an American firm?  How much extra money was spent on these calling services?  What ridings did they call and how often?  What information did they disseminate to Canadian voters that may have altered election results, particularly in swing ridings.

This much is clear:  Canadians need to wake up that a new reality of politics and media manipulation is upon us and yet the Liberals, NDPers and Green Party are pretending it’s not happening.  Canadians, too, need to be better informed about what’s being taken from them by these crooks.

Here are the CBC details:

From candidate electoral reports available through the Elections Canada website:
(Note: The second line refers to the expense category under which the amount was listed.  Also, I’ve indicated the number of votes difference between the candidate listed and the candidate that came in second.)

Rona Ambrose (Edmonton Spruce Grove)
Miscellaneous expenses
Apr. 11, 2011    Racknine Inc    1,175.43
May 9, 2011    Racknine Inc    367.54
May 1, 2011    Racknine Inc    5,575.36

Ryan Hastman (Edmonton Strathcona)
Advertising – other
Apr. 27, 2011    RackNine Inc.    4,252.50
May 6, 2011    RackNine Inc.    1,683.16
Surveys – other research
May 5, 2011    RackNine Inc.    816.19

Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre)
Advertising – other
May 9, 2011    RACKNINE INC    1,550.43

Cathy McLeod (Kamloops – Thompson – Cariboo)
Advertising – radio/TV
May 24, 2011    RackNine Inc.     328.52

Lee Richardson (Calgary Centre)
Election surveys – other research
May 9, 2011    Racknine Inc.    501.87

Devinder Shory (Caglary Northeast)
Office expenses – other
May 13, 2011    RACK NINE INC    580.30

Tim Uppal (Edmonton – Sherwood Park)
Office expenses – other
May 3, 2011    Rack Nine Inc.    1,199.45

According to invoices submitted to Elections Canada posted by the NDP research office,  there were also several payments to RackNine that do not show up in the list of direct campaign expenses:

Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest)
May 4, 2011 – $117.75 (GOTV campaign)

Lavar Payne (Medicine Hat)
May 4, 2011 – $26.01 .

According to the correspondence that the Harper campaign included with this invoice, this was related to a final GOTV phone blitz in “swing” ridings  the weekend before the election. It appears that RackNine initially billed the full cost, which remains unknown, to the Conservative Party of Canada, which passed the cost onto participating campaigns — including, in this case, that of the party leader.

It’s worth noting that, in the attached emails, the Harper team member charged with handling the invoice initially seems unsure why the campaign is being asked to pay for the calls. Eventually, he decides to pay it, as they were apparently planning to charge the national campaign for a portion of “phone bank” costs, and didn’t want to get into a “dispute” over $118.

Meanwhile, Payne, whose agent filed the same invoice in support of its expense claim, albeit with a different amount listed at the bottom, apparently paid just $26.01 for a personalized phone blast in his riding of Medicine Hat, which, as with Harper’s claim, was charged to his campaign on behalf of the Conservative Fund.

Leon Benoit (Vegreville-Wainwright)
Apr. 31, 2011 –  $4,830.00 (teletown hall)
Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
April 19, 2011 – $4,231.50 (teletown hall)

RackNine billed both the Benoit and Kenney campaigns in US funds, and according to the credit card records included with the Kenney filing, the money was actually paid to Tele-Town Hall LLC 2022378051 DC, an Arlington, VA-based firm that specializes in tele-town halls, which suggests that RackNine may have been simply asking as a middleman or reseller.

Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre)
Apr. 23, 2011 – 165.13 (advance poll message)

This is actually one of two RackNine-related expenses listed in the Hawn’s filing — the other appeared as a direct payment in the expense report, as noted above. This smaller amount was actually paid by a Hawn staffer, Peter Watson, who subsequently invoiced the campaign as part of a separate expense claim.

Michelle Rempel (Calgary Centre – North)
March 16/29, 2011(?) – $2,500 (unknown)

According to the invoice, the money was paid — in two installments, a $500 retainer before the writs dropped, and the remaining amount after the campaign had begun — by a “Jason Rempel”, who was the recipient of multiple unrelated payments throughout the election.

Lee Richardson (Calgary Centre)
April 25, 2011 – $5,735.00 (teletown hall)

This invoice — which is over and above the amounts listed earlier — was paid to RackNine “c/o Glenn Solomon”, with an entry for the same amount appearing under Solomon’s name for “elections and other surveys”. It is unclear what relationship, if any, Solomon, a longtime local Tory supporter, had/has with either the Richardson campaign or RackNine.