04/18/2012 04:02 EDT | Updated 06/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Annette Desgagne: Former Employee For Group That Worked For Tories Files Sworn Affidavit On Polling Location Calls

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OTTAWA - A former employee of a call centre that did work for the Conservative party in the last election says she was instructed to tell people Elections Canada had changed their polling locations.

In a sworn affidavit, Annette Desgagne says she and other workers at Responsive Marketing Group's call centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., became suspicious when people questioned them about the new polling locations.

"I recall one woman in Winnipeg telling me that the address I just gave her was over an hour away," Desgagne says in the court document.

"I tried to problem-solve this over the phone with her for a few minutes, but she was sure the new address was wrong. There was a phone number at the bottom of the screen in front of me that I was to give people if they had further questions.

"That lady said she had called that number but that it was not a correct number."

Desgagne says her co-workers had similar experiences. She says her supervisors told her to "just stick to the scripts" when she told them of her concerns.

"Our concerns were ignored and we had to keep reading and repeating the same scripts about changes of address for polling stations made by elections Canada," says Desgagne's affidavit.

Desgagne's affidavit, filed as part of a court action launched by the Council of Canadians, repeats most of the claims first reported by the Toronto Star in February.

She says she went to work for RMG three weeks before election day.

She says she started out making calls in which she identified herself as calling on behalf of the Conservative party. She recorded people's voting preferences and asked Conservative supporters if they would put up yard signs.

Desgagne says the script changed about three days before the May 2 vote, dropping all mention of the Conservatives. The new scripts said Elections Canada had changed some polling stations, and directed voters to the new locations.

RMG says it was not part of any effort to keep people from voting by sending them to the wrong polling locations.

The Conservatives hired RMG to identify supporters ahead of the May 2 federal election, and the company has said all callers were instructed to clearly identify the fact they were calling on behalf of the party.

"At no time during the 'Get-Out-The-Vote' period did our calls target non-identified Conservative Party supporters," the company said in February.

"Again, our calls targeted identified Conservative party supporters. With the goal of helping the Conservative party win the election, it would make no sense to provide Conservative party supporters with incorrect voting locations."

RMG has also said calls were placed to identified Conservative supporters to notify them of changes to their voting locations, noting Elections Canada moved 127 polling locations during the run-up to the election.

"The purpose of this calling was to re-confirm their support, ensure they had correct voting location information, and encourage them to vote on Election Day," RMG previously said.

"This is a core element of our business, and something RMG has performed on over 20 election campaigns for various political parties at every level in Canada."

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