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Albertans annoyed with unsolicited texts from NDP, UCP
Published Wednesday, March 13, 2019 6:02PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 13, 2019 6:38PM MDT
Albertans are complaining about unsolicited texts from the NDP and UCP ahead of the provincial election.
The NDP’s text message, sent by “Ryan” or “Cory” from Alberta’s NDP caucus, asks voters whether they support Rachel Notley’s effort to fight for Alberta’s pipeline jobs.
The UCP’s text, sent by “Mary” or “Sue” from the United Conservative Party, is asking voters if they can count on them in the upcoming election, and who they are voting for in the upcoming election.
“I just don’t know how they got my number,” Tamara Asay told CTV News.
The NDP said it uses a computer program that generates any possible Alberta number. The computer sends out a voice blast to all of those numbers to see if they connected with an actual number.
“We then send text messages to those numbers using a program,” said Maureen Mariampillai, Communications Officer with Alberta NDP Caucus. “If folks want to interact with our volunteers we can start a conversation, if not, they are able to opt out.”
Matt Solberg, spokesperson for the United Conservative Party said UCP uses a variety of sources, including information “provided by Elections Alberta for the purposes of voter contact, as well as a program overseen by the CRTC called the Canadian Numbering Plan, which is essentially a database of publicly available phone number.”
“But they’re quite often getting them from other commercial sources,” Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Drew Westwater said. “As an example, I’ve received text messages from political parties and they’re not using the phone number in the voters list because I don’t have one in the voters list.”
Lorne Randa, a privacy lawyer with Brownelee LLP, told CTV News parties are not breaking the law with this practice.
“Unfortunately our privacy legislation, which would apply to private entities, does not apply to political parties right now,” Lorne Randa said.
Randa said do not call lists apply to telemarketers and must be for that purpose of solicitation, similar to how Canada’s Antispam legislation applies to commercial messages.
“Neither would apply to political parties,” Randa said.
Voters can opt out from receiving the messages.
“Electors who are not happy or upset with getting or receiving text messages and don’t want to receive them in the future can contact the party that’s contacted them by text using the contact information they’ve been given in the text message and request they be removed from the contact list,” Westwater said. “The party then has 14 days under CRTC guidelines to remove them from their contact list.”
With files from CTV Edmonton’s Sarah Plowman