Today, in the Globe and Mail, there is this “letter to the editor”:
In January, 2010, my UVic inbox had an e-mail invite from a democracy centre to attend a campaign school. Intrigued, I signed up for the three-day event.
Topics covered included voter identification. Discussion ensued about suppression techniques. Instructors explained voter suppression tactics were borrowed from those used by the U.S. Republican Party. Many kinds of suppression calls were canvassed. Another instructor gave detailed explanations of how robo-calls worked, techniques for recording messages, plus costs involved. He distributed his business card upon request.
Instructors made it clear that robo-calling and voter suppression were an acceptable and normal part of winning political campaigns. With election ethics like this, a more compelling case for changing to a system of proportional representation where each and every vote counts is hard to imagine.
John Fryer, adjunct professor, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria
I have sent an e-mail to Fryer to see if he might expand on this but I’m pretty sure he is referring to a “Campaign School” put on by the Manning Centre for Democracy in January, 2010 in Victoria.
I was at this Campaign School and others through 2009-2010 where I was paid to lead a workshop on how journalists interact with politicians. There were no discussions about voter suppression or robocalls at my workshop and I did not attend any other sessions. (In fact: I used my “down time” in Victoria that weekend to attend and report on the anti-prorogration demonstrations in that city that weekend).
Attendance at these campaign schools was open to anyone who wanted to pay the attendance fee. At the campaign schools I taught at, I met those who were working on campaigns for Green Party candidates, BC New Democrats, BC Liberal, Alberta Progressive Conservatives, Wildrose Alliance members, and federal New Democrats. Indeed: Fryer was working as the campaign manager to elect Green Party leader Elizabeth May in her Vancouver Island riding. (Something he doesn’t mention in his letter to the Globe.) I cannot recall ever meeting someone at these campaign schools who identified themselves as working for a federal Liberal candidate.
Had I been a candidate or campaign worker — particularly one working against a federal Conservative candidate — these campaign schools would certainly seem to have been worth the few hundred bucks to attend for the simple reason that they were organized by individuals — Richard Ciano, Fraser Macdonald and Nick Kouvalis — who had played key roles in campaigns to elect federal and provincial Conservatives. In other words: For a fee, you could get some insight into the Conservative campaign playbook. Valuable stuff, if you ask me. And, in fact, I was informed at the time that the Conservative Party of Canada took a dim view of these campaign schools for precisely that reason and discouraged its candidates and campaign workers from attending.
Now, as I mentioned, I did not attend the session Fryer refers to in his letter to the editor so I do not know who the instructor he is referring to.
But all attendees were given a copy of the Manning Centre Campaign Manager Manual, 2nd Edition, by Mssrs. Ciano, Macdonald and Kouvalis. (Ciano and MacDonald were on staff at the time for the Manning Centre and have since left. Ciano, for example, is now president of the Ontario PC Party. Kouvalis, then and now, has a political market research firm called Campaign Research).
The manual, to my eyes anyway, is an excellent compendium of tips and strategies for any campaign anywhere in Canada, regardless of the party. It is not a partisan manual but a manual that can be put to use by conservative, liberal, progressive, or independent candidates at municipal, provincial, or federal campaigns.
I have, you won’t be surprised to hear, recently re-read the manual to see if there is anything on “vote suppression techniques” and could find nothing specific in that regard.
There is some advice on using call centres contained in a chapter on “Voter Contact”. You can read that chapter for yourself here.