It sounds like a chintzy little hangover from small-town politics: a team of Tory insiders tasked to do things like goosing media polling questions and blocking open-line shows with scripted talking points.
And it wouldn’t be complete without secret handshakes and nods. Those same insiders use an almost-untrackable messaging system on their BlackBerrys, a system that has the added advantage of being so far beyond the province’s access to information laws that its users, when asked point blank about their political trickery, can simply deny, deny, deny.
How unfortunate it must be, then, after The Telegram originally ran a story about poll-rigging and listened to government officials downplay the behaviour, to have a series of those PIN-to-PIN BlackBerry messages fall into The Telegram’s hands — not only showing how common the rigging actually is but also how directly Tories are using a structured system to tip online polls in their favour and co-ordinate the stacking of open-line shows.
It’s fascinating to see an elected provincial politician writing to other party members to say, “We are falling way behind on the CBC question. The computer is only allowing us to vote once. Obviously the opposition has found a way around this and we are also working on this.”
Disturbing to see that same MHA, Paul Lane, telling workers to use multiple computers or iPhones to vote multiple times.
It’s telling them that cheating is nothing less than their jobs: “This is a very important poll and we require nothing less than 100 per cent effort.”
Then, there’s the open-line shows. Regular
listeners already know that the same voices crop up over and over.
Apparently because it’s their turn.
“Another awesome week on open line,” Lane writes in another message. “Will be in touch with some of you in the next day or so to arrange a schedule for next week. ... I realize that this has been constant and I’m sure many of you are probably sick of these PINS, however this is very necessary to counter the political spin put forward by the Libs and particularly the THIRD party. These guys are hungry. We must be hungrier.”
The instructions extend to the positions to take, and the official party line the callers are to use.
Maybe it doesn’t change more than a vote or two. But every vote counts, after all.
There is a much larger issue here.
It’s interesting that when they were virtually certain they couldn’t be caught, our honourable politicians were so comfortable and willing to deny they were doing it. And that’s the bigger issue: fiddling with polls is unethical, for sure.
But engaging in deliberate and structured voter deception? That teeters a lot closer to fraud than it does to “politicians being politicians.”
Be ready for a bunch of phone calls to open-line shows saying that all of this is no big deal. Listen closely to the callers, though; the voices might be familiar.