Premier's office involved in poll padding

Steve Bartlett
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale

Staff in the premier’s office as well as cabinet minister Clyde Jackman have urged others to manipulate online media polls, according to new BlackBerry messages leaked to The Telegram.

One thread is dated Aug. 12, 2011, and starts at 8 a.m. with premier’s office staffer Milly Brown telling colleagues Glenda Power, Denise Payne and Derrick Rideout that VOCM’s Question of the Day was “Do you think Clyde Jackman should be removed from his position?”

At the time, Power was Kathy Dunderdale’s director of communications and Brown was press secretary. The four now work with executive council. All, except Power, remain with the premier’s office.

Thirty-four minutes after the first message, Payne sent another to a long list of cabinet ministers, backbenchers, political staff and supporters. The subject was “VOCM question of the day.”

At 10:53 a.m., a numbered BlackBerry user sent a missive out to the list — “Vote results so far is 73 per cent yes and 25 per cent no … make your vote.”

A numbered person named Anita replied to that at 11:19 with, “I’ve been voting multiple times — everyone needs to do this so we can catch up.”

A minute later, someone named Pat Bruce responded with, “On

it too.”

At 2:10 p.m., Mount Pearl North MHA Steve Kent chimes in with, “Still losing 55 to 44 … Please vote!”


“Please do,” echoes Jackman a minute later.

The last post to the thread comes from a numbered user at 2:18. “This question will remain open for voting through the weekend, as well!” it reads. “There won’t be a new question until Monday.”

Since late December, The Telegram has published a series of articles on provincial politicians and their attempts to boost their party’s profile by goosing online media polls.

The consensus is that all parties are doing it to a certain extent, but the stories have focused on the governing Tories based on a series of leaked BlackBerry messages.

No similar correspondence from the Liberals or NDP has surfaced, although sources say it exists.

The first series of leaked messages revealed the extent PC backbenchers, such as caucus chair Paul Lane, were involved in poll padding.

The new messages show the involvement of the premier’s office.

Dunderdale declined a request to be interviewed about it.

In an email, acting director of communications Jennifer Tulk said, “The premier has addressed this issue previously. She has nothing further to add.”

During a Feb. 20 media scrum in Corner Brook, Dunderdale made no apologies for her party’s participation in polls.

“Oh, please, there’s no story here,” she said. “Do we participate in polls? You betcha. Who in Newfoundland doesn’t, whether it comes to ‘Canadian Idol’ or something that affects us?”

Pressed on whether or not it was a good use of political resources, the premier told reporters, “You know something, we don’t spend our whole day sat around pressing redial, redial, redial, redial. But you know we’re politicians, we have a perspective. We have to relay what that perspective is and talk about that perspective to the people of the province.”

The latest messages are also different because they show a cabinet minister’s involvement.

At the time they were sent — weeks before a provincial election campaign — Jackman was a fisheries minister under fire.

The Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador wanted him removed from his position for offering to have an independent audit carried out on the since-shuttered Marystown fish plant, which was in his district.

“The minister should not be doing something right now for a plant that’s in his district just before an election that he would not do for the whole industry,” George Joyce, the Seafood Processor’s executive director, charged.

Jackman, now education minister, declined an interview for this article.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said she gets more and more disappointed in government every time she hears about the effort put into these “inconsequental polls.”

“This kind of thing for me is beneath the government, and it’s beneath any party in the House. I just think that it’s not dignified … and that really bothers me,” she said.

With that, Conservative supporters might be quick to point out that the NDP has admitted to participating in daily media surveys.

However, Michael said her party’s approach is simply to inform supporters when there is a poll of interest.

“All we do is let them know,” she said. “If the government were only doing that, too, I’d be happy with it. But it’s this deliberate use of staff — staff paid with public funds — and then even an involvement of a minister himself, it’s not dignified. To me, it’s really beneath the dignity of us sitting in the House of Assembly. It’s not the kind of behaviour we should be involved in.”

Twitter: @TelegramSteve

Organizations: NDP

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Corner Brook, Marystown

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Recent comments

  • Kevin
    March 25, 2013 - 19:05

    Look up the meaning to conservative in the OXFORD dictionary and you will get the full explanation to the Blunderdale government. They want things to stay as they are and whant things to remain in their controal. In other words as an old scientist once told me a danger to demoracy.

  • Mark
    March 25, 2013 - 15:19

    I bet the staffers who vote in these poles will not be among those laid off tomorrow...they are far to important to the province.

  • Duffy
    March 25, 2013 - 11:59

    Now folks behave. This is permitted in a Monarchy. When we go back to a democracy maybe it will be different. She feels that she answers to no-one.

  • Snead the PC
    March 25, 2013 - 08:23

    Ok folks...contest time...see if you can pick out posts from political hacks, MHA'a and staffers in this article?? The contest winner gets to have lunch with Paul Lane...who do they think they are fooling??....most of the comments which are obvious are the ones which criticize the reporter and not the message while others simply say they all do it......sounds like the Blunderdale line..."theres no story here guys" approach.....pathetic attempt to sway public opinion by ridiculing the reporter. This government is out of contol.

  • Snead the PC
    March 25, 2013 - 08:15

    Ok folks...contest time...see if you can pick out posts from political hacks, MHA'a and staffers in this article?? The contest winner gets to have lunch with Paul Lane...who do they think they are fooling??....most of the comments which are obvious are the ones which criticize the reporter and not the message while others simply say they all do it......sounds like the Blunderdale line..."theres no story here guys" approach.....pathetic attempt to sway public opinion by ridiculing the reporter. This government is out of contol.

  • Does the sun shine
    March 25, 2013 - 00:39

    What is amazing is that the telegram would be so naive. This condition is as old as media polls themselves. The real pros at this game are the unions and the NDP and The Telegram would show less bias if they made a universal declaration or said nothing at all on the subject.

  • Todd
    March 24, 2013 - 20:00

    Hay hay, Ho ho, Dunderdale and her clowns got to GO!

  • EDfromRED
    March 24, 2013 - 19:45

    Why do the PC's profess that the official poll's, that constantly have them taking a nosedive, are of no concern, but they'll push buttons and click key's in a panic over a meaningless online survey? This bunch of sook's and schemers are our leaders!? I think we are all part of some ridiculous reality show: Worlds Most Clueless way they can be that removed from reality, can they?

  • jimmer
    March 24, 2013 - 18:55

    They always have been, and always will be, bickering babies that get nothing done for the better of the people, if man is involved you can bet it's tainted one way or the other. Ive given up on the human race. Have a good one.

  • Jay
    March 24, 2013 - 18:48

    Steve is only engaged in the long held tradition of the Telegram of getting a story and pulverizing it to death. Yes, they're padding the polls. They're all doing it, they'll all continue to do it. When election time comes around, all of them will be fabricating polls and making up results. Why are you trying to pretend to expect they have some moral scruples, they're politicians for God's sake. Do you really expect any better.

  • david
    March 24, 2013 - 18:32

    It's all BS folks. If they spent even a scintilla of time and energy governing, instead of constantly scheming and plotting to keep their jobs (which they have put at risk of losing largely because of their not DOING them....!!), then we'd have something truly important to show for this gloriously fortunate windfall. But they didn't, and so we don't. God guard thee, Newfoundland

  • Arctic Guy
    March 24, 2013 - 17:40

    As a expatriated Newfoundlander I am sad to see that the government of NL has completely failed since the Blunderdale administration has taken power. What was once a prosperous and invigorated economy is now a fraction of what it could be. This government is a complete laughing stock, full of morons like Dunderdale, and Kent. Lets not forget that round, bulbous red headed bigot, Keith Russell - whose antics in the house are nothing more than a complete embarrassment to NFLDers and to himself (but he is too dumb to realize that). It is my understanding that there is now a hiring freeze in the public service?? Great leadership guys! Glad I only come back to visit!

  • coco
    March 24, 2013 - 17:16

    It's neither ethical nor democratic for a government to try and obstruct ordinary citizens from participating in the political process by skewing the daily opinion polls. At the very least you'd think they'd use their own PC Party funds and do it on their own time. It's very sad for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to have this done to them.

  • snead the PC
    March 24, 2013 - 17:11

    It is obvious that Ms Dunderdale lacks control and its getting a lot like the old Tobin government where Ministers and staffers did exactly what they like with far as public opinion goes it doesnt matter how the caucus and others vote on the VOCM questions, these clowns wont be around after the next election.,,bet on it.!!

  • Bill
    March 24, 2013 - 17:03

    If the NDP, Liberals (Insert party here) were in power they'd be doing the same thing and the opposition of the day would be squalking about it then, just like all the NDP, Liberals, etc., are doing now. It's politics, whether it's Americain Idol, Kraft Canada, or the government of the day.

  • popcorn anyone
    March 24, 2013 - 16:44

    Get the popcorn as we watch this government self destruct. There is no consultation at any level with this government. They make decisions for people without even consulting them.

  • John
    March 24, 2013 - 14:55

    Kind of reminds me of the Sprung era and how Peckford refused to do interviiews on the subject and we all know what happened to him. Dunderdale will call a newsconference and resign as premier before the next prov election citing "personal, fanily, medical, professional old bs" Media will be called in to listen but told by Tory PR that the premier is not taking any questions.A few days after this, the Tory cabinet will announxce that they have selected Jerome Kennedy to be premier. Kennedy, great talker but not doer, will convince enough people to vote Tory and the Tories will be reelected SADLY to another majoirty and everyone will have to wait until 2918 to kick them out.

  • Leonard Clarke
    March 24, 2013 - 14:24

    I am stunned. I honestly didn't think they gave a passing thought to Public Opinion. They have put thousands of people on the public payroll without benefit of public job competition, squandered hundreds of millions of dollars without regard to anyone or anything; are proceeding full thrust with Muskrat Falls even though there is no possible need for such a development for residential electrical users; the river of sludge oozes on.

  • Corporate Pyscho
    March 24, 2013 - 14:13

    Maybe the question results should be telling Mr. Jackman something. Is this deceitul? You betcha.

  • don
    March 24, 2013 - 13:57

    What amazes me is that Paul Lane is intelligent enough to send an email. Wow I'm impressed Paul.

  • Darren
    March 24, 2013 - 13:55

    Very sad statement to see Clyde Jackman stoop so low. I thought he was a good teacher but lately I think he has become a sad and desparate person.

  • Fred Penner
    March 24, 2013 - 13:50

    So, all three parties view their participation in polls as simply "politicing" and therefore the polls are not representative of any "public" opinion. As far as the polls go, the conclusion is obvious....they simply represent how adept each party is at pushing "redial". Further, all of the discussion and energy that is spent talking and thinking about them is meaningless.

  • Maynard
    March 24, 2013 - 13:41

    The cuts to public service should start in the Premier's Office. Public manipulation is not public service.

  • Corner B'y Tom
    March 24, 2013 - 12:44

    Well we all know the Prem could not be part of this morning "pollgate" as she is sprinting around Quidi Vidi Lake at that time of the day right?

  • Rosemary Gatherall
    March 24, 2013 - 12:03

    I really don't care what they do "off the clock"--but , to engage in any activity other than legitimate government business when they are on the tax payers payroll is not acceptable . Private business would not tolerate this and neither should we, NLers!

  • Questions answered
    March 24, 2013 - 11:55

    I'd expect no less from the tories that are sitting back, being unnaccountable and milking NL for what the taxpayers are worth and cheating us out of our money and culture at any cost.

    • Dan W
      March 24, 2013 - 16:06

      This speaks to a willingness on the part of your government to see that you are misled. This does's your government trying to cheat you out of your own opinion...not some game of shinny where a mac and cheese company gets a photo op with the mayor and elementary school choir. If they're so willing to actively lie about VOCM polls, imagine what they're willing to do to cover up other things...

  • Steve Reid
    March 24, 2013 - 11:48

    I have no political affilation to any one here. I am responding to this news story freely and on my lunch break. I did however view this story on my company provided computer. Is this a waste of "resources" for my employer? It is a poll. The poll is created from user/viewers/listener's......all entitled to an opinion. I would be more upset if the Premier decided to remove Mr. Jackman from his position BASED on the results of a poll. People will decide at election time if a politician has performed to their expected level by re-electing or not electing. Polls presented by the media are meant to give very general perceptions of public impression. I, for one, prefer to base my decisions not on polls but facts. Should an idividual lose their right to an opinion because of their employment? The polls were not padded anymore for the Yea side than they were for the Nay side. I see no wrongdoing here. but........thats my opinion.

    • Robb
      March 24, 2013 - 16:50

      Well Steve....finally an intelligent comment. If people think that it is all the PCs voting on these polls, they must either be liberal or ndp. So really, not to take any side here like you comment, I think these polls should be taken for what they are really based upon, and are far from scientific. I, like yourself will base my vote upon who is the right person for the job in my district, and no amount of name calling and bickering is going to sway me.

    • Eli
      March 24, 2013 - 18:02

      That's your opinion, and you see no wrongdoing? You must be part of the PC government involved in this scam. Or you're igorant.

  • tom
    March 24, 2013 - 11:45

    Dunderdale is the leader of this pack of clowns. And how many interviews has she declined in this term? Would be more if she hadn't skipped the house sessions for the first 6 months!

  • wavy
    March 24, 2013 - 11:38

    I think it's pretty clear there is a trend here and a certain culture has been allowed to develop on Confederation Hill. However, I'm more disturbed by the childish, petty mentality and colossal waste of resources involved in this time-consuming activity than the vote padding of any given poll the majority of Newfoundlanders don't pay any attention to in the first place. It amounts to a high school popularity contest and it's outrageous any of our elected officials or their staff are involved it in. Is this what we're paying them for? It is as frivilous a waste of taxpayer money as the spending scandal and should be treated as such. If the vote padding took place during working hours, it's a form of fraud and people should be fired over it regardless of their position or political affiliation. We've seen enough evidence now to warrant an investigation based on violation of job responsibilities during working hours and wasting provincial funds. Cell phone records should be subpoenaed and heads should roll. It's fraud.

  • John Paul from the Burin Peninsula
    March 24, 2013 - 11:36

    Let's be clear, I'm no fan of Mr. Clyde Jackman or the Premier. HOWEVER, if anyone thinks that the PCs are the only party participating in this then they are biased or blind to the truth. In addition, we shouldn't forget that organized groups of people such as those affected by Fishery related issues also plan poll attacks. This is a case of the Pot calling the Kettle black! Some people might be surprised by these revelations but they shouldn't be.

    • Percy
      March 25, 2013 - 08:09

      I agree with John Paul. Do people really believe that the PC party are the only people doing this? If they do then they have blinkers on, and have a one track mind. I guess some people will believe anything you tell them. It is scary when people can't think for themselves. It is called mind manipulation, or brainwashing if you will. This is extremely sad to say the least. All you have to do is say a few words about something that happened, and the media are there with the cameras and microphones rolling, trying to get the big juicy story. After all, let's face it, don't we all love a nice juicy story? We are all human. A lot of people buy the supermarket tabloids......including myself... If you tell the truth then you don't have to remember anything.....Mark Twain

  • Alreadyknewthis
    March 24, 2013 - 11:28

    We already know about this game and it is disgusting is that our overpaid politicans are more concerned about creating an image of themselves than serving the people who elected them. It won't make a difference come election time because the next election will be a hugh repudiation. No problem to hear on a daily basis that we need a change.

  • Steve
    March 24, 2013 - 11:26

    WHO CARES? It is ok for Newfoundlanders to get votes for $$ from Kraft doing this or practicing the same tactic to get an undeserving Newfoundlander through on Canadian Idol. And really it is only the political parties that vote or even acknowledge these questions

  • gary
    March 24, 2013 - 11:22

    My God Steve, Can't you come up with something better to write about??? Getting a bit slow in da new room ???? This is not anything to put on-line or in a paper.... Sure this was even done for Canadian Idol, are ya going to write about that and put it in the national paper? BREAKING NEWS !!!!

  • concerned
    March 24, 2013 - 11:11

    There are simple rules which exist in business, that if implemented would eliminate this type of blatent waste. Rule 1 implement web sense in Government Agencies. Employees can only access the internet during lunch. Sites such as music, news etc would be excluded at other times. Rule 2: Government issued blackberries should be used for official business. To think that such senior members of the premiers office are using their time in this fashion is unfathomable. God help us.

  • citizen
    March 24, 2013 - 10:44

    we actually PAY them to do this foolishness?? cathy is learning well from stevie.

  • Harry Coates
    March 24, 2013 - 10:40

    Goes to show how shallow is "Governing by poll." I would encourge all politicians just to provide good governance, the decisions of which will stand the test of time.

  • John Young
    March 24, 2013 - 10:32

    Great to see good use of our tax dollars. All government and staffers sat down on their bottoms clicking a mouse to vote in a VOCM poll.

  • CJ
    March 24, 2013 - 10:31

    That's right... you don't want to hear what people really think unless it's what you tell them to think... Maybe instead of trying to swing the polls so you all feel good about yourselves you should take a minute and actually listen to what people have to say. I know it's hard to accept negative criticism when you have low self-esteem but there is counselling for that sort of thing....

  • kathyisajoke
    March 24, 2013 - 10:28


  • Randy
    March 24, 2013 - 10:02

    Why doesn't Dunderdale and Jackman cut the number of staffers in their offices ,if this is what they are assigned too do all day. .This government has become nothing more then Harperite clones,. Jackman should never have won the last election,just like Peter Penashue should not have won. It's getting discusting. I await your reply Paul Lane