Kelly McCullough says she is angry with herself for believing the information provided to her in an automated call that led her to the wrong polling station during the last 2011 federal election.
“I was very empathetic to people who were at the polling station because clearly they had received several people who had come. They had to let me and other people in my position know that we had foolishly believed what we shouldn’t have,” McCullough says in a new documentary about voter suppression mischief in Canada by filmmaker Peter Smoczynski.
The film, “Election Day in Canada: The Rise of Voter Suppression,” is available in a draft screener form online until midnight, October 18.
In 2011 voters across Canada received automated phone calls, also known as robocalls, that notified them their polling station has been relocated when they in fact had not. Other calls seem designed to harass voters with fake calls from opposition parties late at night or on holidays.
The new documentary film shows how these and other ‘voter suppression’ tactics, such as placing the name of candidates on ballots who were not in the running, were used to the benefit of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Smoczynski plans a full release of the film in 2016 but made an early version of the documentary available to the Canadian public before they hit the polls on election day, October 19.
In the film Smocyznski interviews McCullough and several other residents of Guelph, Ontario where robocalls misled voters in 2011.
“I was definitely frustrated, I was angry with myself for believing the message that I received,” McCullough says. “I was annoyed with my partner for not seeing through the transparency of the robocall he received and then passing along information to me.”
NDP leader Tom Muclair says in the film: “Think about what this is about. This is about phoning people in their homes, impersonating someone from Elections Canada and saying, ‘oh they’ve changed your voting section’ and sending them to the other side of town.”
In late 2014, former Conservative staffer Michael Sona, was sentenced to nine months for his roll in the robocall scandal and interfering with citizen’s ability to vote fairly under the Canada Elections Act. Sona was only 22 at the time of the scandal.
Justice Gary Hearn, an Ontario judge who passed the sentence, said senior Conservative colleagues failed Sona.
In the documentary, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, former CEO of Elections Canada, calls the scandal criminal.
“This is a criminal activity that is beyond competiveness, that is beyond what Canadians expect during an electoral campaign,” he says.
“That is why Canadians in general are so offended by this.”