03/29/2012 04:39 EDT | Updated 05/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta Election 2012: Voters Complain About Robocalls


EDMONTON - Elections Alberta says it has received so many complaints about robocalls that it is investigating whether political parties may be behind them and if they're following the rules.

Director Drew Westwater said Thursday it's the first time Elections Alberta has received complaints about automated survey calls during a provincial election.

The national robocall scandal has been fuelling public frustration as hundreds of voters claim calls directed them to non-existent or wrong polling stations during the last federal election.

Wildrose party Leader Danielle Smith, while on the campaign trail in central Alberta, said robocalls are one of the biggest complaints she's hearing from voters.

"The public's patience for these kinds of tactics is at an end," she said.

Her party used automated calls to conduct pre-election internal polling, she said, but is now using such calls simply to get the word out on party events and town-hall meetings.

Westwater said about 150 complaints have been made to his office since just before the Alberta election was called Monday for April 23.

Most of the complaints are about anonymous robocalls conducting research into voter preferences. People are upset because the calls don't identify who they're from, said Westwater.

And people with call display who phone the numbers back don't get an answer, he said.

"We're just doing our own internal investigation to see if we can determine who's making these calls. And, if so, we can see what options are available to us, if any at all.

"It's a grey area."

He said legislation doesn't specifically cover robocalls or what some have dubbed "demon dialers."

Rules state political candidates and campaign staff must identify themselves and provide their contact information only if their phone calls are related to advertising.

"If they're just surveys, we have no jurisdiction over them."

Survey or research calls fall to federal regulators.

Patricia Valladao with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said automated surveys must identify the source of the call.

She said the commission has not received any complaints from Alberta.

Also on HuffPost