Paul Lane is not the only Tory MHA rallying caucus to goose media polls.
The BlackBerry messages leaked to The Telegram show that Mount Pearl North MHA Steve Kent and Humber West MHA Vaughn Granter are at it, too.
“Please vote no!” Kent wrote, urging colleagues to phone and cast a ballot in the NTV Question of the Week.
He then gives the phone number and writes in brackets, “Remember to always ask them to give you the question first … it’s about Muskrat … I’m sure someone will send us the exact wording.”
As reported in The Weekend Telegram Feb. 16, BlackBerry PINs obtained by the paper prove Tory MHAs and their political supporters regularly try to manipulate online media polls in the government’s favour.
They also co-ordinate their efforts to parrot the party line on radio call-in shows.
In the messages The Telegram obtained — which are only a snapshot of the activity, a party source says — Lane was the main MHA rallying the Progressive Conservative troops to vote multiple times on media polls and to phone open-line shows to say good things about the government.
The date of Kent’s PIN to his colleagues about the NTV question was deleted.
It was sent to members of the PC caucus and a long list of staff and party backers.
Notably absent from the list of recipients is Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s name.
Granter got Kent’s message and joined in the chorus, sending out a PIN that said, “Thanks Steve. Come on everyone let’s get the phones going at NTV (word missing) weekend. Thanks Vaughn.”
Part of politics
Dunderdale said Wednesday that taking part in polls about current issues is part of the political process.
“Oh, please. There’s no story here,” Dunderdale said. “Do we participate in polls? You betcha. Who in Newfoundland doesn’t, whether it comes to Canadian Idol or something that affects us?”
Having input and expressing opinions about important topics is part of a politician’s job, the premier said.
“We have a view as politicians. And certainly nobody in any other political party is going to tell us that they don’t participate in political polling,” she said.
“Do we participate in forming opinion or trying to shape opinion? Do we get on open-line shows? Do we talk about what our messages are and how do we get them to the media? We do it all the time.
“You know, that’s politics.”
Asked whether responding to media polls is a good use of time by MHAs and PC party staffers, Dunderdale replied, “You know something, we don’t spend our whole day sat around pressing redial, redial, redial, redial. But 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.
“So do we participate? Just like every other citizen in Newfoundland and Labrador, you betcha. So do the Liberals. So do the NDP. So do the Green party. Anybody who has a political point of view that’s important to them, whether you’re in politics, whether you’re in entertainment, whether you’re a member of the Board of Trade, you find a way to express that. That’s why you have polls. That’s why we have open-line shows. So, you know, we’re no different than the rest of the population.”
When asked for comment for this story, Kent replied by email, “Thanks for the opportunity to comment, but I’m not really interested in doing interviews based on information from anonymous sources.”
Granter also replied via email to a request for comment, and with a familiar refrain.
“I am out of province,” he wrote, “but in reality I cannot do an interview based on information from anonymous sources.”
While the PINs indicate which MHAs and staffers sent emails encouraging others to vote or phone radio shows, there is no indication of who responded to those messages by taking action.
Except for one PIN.
In response to a message from Lane encouraging caucus to vote on an NTV question, Bellevue MHA Calvin Peach responded, “Done done done and then some.”
Peach originally talked to The Telegram when contacted about the issue, but abruptly withdrew his comments upon learning that none of his colleagues had done interviews.
With a file from The Western Star