Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is resorting to spamming thousands of Canadians in four provinces with unsolicited text messages in a bid to gin up opposition to the federal carbon tax as it takes effect this week—even though most of his audience will be farther ahead financially once household rebates kick in.
In addition to texting mobile phone numbers from its own database, Scheer’s party will be “using software that randomly generates phone numbers based on area codes,” CBC reports. “So even if you’ve never shared your phone number with the Conservative Party of Canada, you might get the texts.” The messages were due to start last Thursday in the four provinces where the federal government is deploying its own carbon price in the absence of provincial action.
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The strategy represents a “full-court press,” said Conservative spokesperson Cory Hann. “It’s about using 21st century technology to help with voter outreach efforts.”
Concordia University media and communications professor Fenwick McKelvey said the plan is legal, but raises questions.
“Just because there’s a technical innovation, it doesn’t mean the parties should actually be doing that,” he told CBC. “I think there’s a real question here about whether setting up mass unsolicited text messages is a really good way of getting people engaged in politics.”
Recalling the May 2011 robocall scandal, in which more than 40,000 voters in Guelph, Ontario complained about incoming messages giving them erroneous information on where to vote, McKelvey said voters may be more attuned to the format of Scheer’s messages than their content. “Ultimately the question here is if unsolicited political messages is something that voters would want.”
The Ford government in Ontario is set to roll out its own taxpayer-funded ad blitz to mark the beginning of the federal tax, the Toronto Star reports, notwithstanding the public reception Ford’s own attempt at a climate and environment plan is receiving from voters.