A member of Ross Wiseman’s staff has been receiving the BlackBerry messages pressing Tory MHAs, staff and supporters to stack online media polls.
But Caroline Frost, Wiseman’s constituency assistant, is not supposed to get PINs with subjects like “Important CBC poll,” and messages that say, “We need everyone to vote on this, it’s very important.”
Wiseman, Speaker of the House of Assembly, and his staff have a mandate to be impartial and not to engage in party activities.
Interviewed about it Monday, Wiseman said it was an oversight.
“She should have been deleted from (the mailing list) when mine was deleted,” he said.
The Weekend Telegram’s front-page story Feb. 16 focused on a series of PINs that proved the Dunderdale government tries to pad unscientific media polls and radio phone in-shows. The messages were from Tory MHAs to their caucus colleagues, political staff and supporters.
Wiseman said he was taken off the message list when he was named Speaker in October 2011 and Frost should have been as well.
Asked if she had participated in the poll padding, he replied, “Not to my knowledge, no.”
Wiseman said he asked the caucus office to take Frost’s name off the mass mailing list after The Telegram requested an interview on the subject.
“Whatever comes out for their office, her name shouldn’t be part of it.”
Asked about Tory attempts to manipulate polls, Wiseman said parties will do what they believe they must to further their views and engage supporters.
“I leave that to them,” he said. “When it spills over to the floor of the House of Assembly, it becomes my business.”
He wasn’t always as hands-off, Wiseman admitted, alluding to his many years in provincial politics prior to being named Speaker.
“I’ve sat in government caucuses, I’ve sat in opposition caucuses and I’ve competed in four election campaigns, so obviously to do all of that, you participate very aggressively in the political process and actively get involved in partisan political activities.”
Wiseman said he voted in phone polls in his pre-speaker days, but not repeatedly.
Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of reaction to The Weekend Telegram story, particularly on social media sites and thetelegram.com.
It hasn’t been favourable for the Tories, especially Mount Pearl South MHA Paul Lane, the source of most PINs leaked to the newspaper.
“@MHAPaulLane Looks like you got caught up in your own silly games!” tweeted Con O’Brien, who often engages Lane in online exchanges. “Is all of this true, telegram has suggested FRAUD!”
Priorities in question
Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons said in an interview Monday the poll stacking makes him wonder where the PC priorities are.
“In times like these, where we have huge deficits and it looks like job cuts and a number of other issues in this province, it seems like the government’s attention could be better focused than worrying about media polls and goosing those polls and making sure they look good,” he said.
Parsons said he has voted in online polls, and that surveys of interest are often noted around the office, but he said he’s not aware of an organized effort to influence the outcomes.
“I don’t think we have the time, energy or the resources, not that I’ve seen anyway,” he said. “I’m certainly not at it.”