According to John James' account, following the election he lost to his municipal rival, he and his rival shared notes about their respective voter contact firms - James used Prime Contact Group and his rival used ElectRight - and found they'd both been sold the exact same polling information and, James contends, both were serviced by the same rep.
"What surprised me at the time was that his numbers were almost exactly the same as the poll numbers I had received from Prime Contact in August 2010. I went back to review my files that night and realized they weren't just close, they were exactly the same, down to the tenth of a percentage point for all candidates.
The next day, I asked him if he had received a similar house by house report from his ITR as I had received and if he would mind sharing it with me. The response numbers were exactly the same, every single response was exactly the same. These two ITR polls that had supposedly been conducted two weeks apart got responses from the same exact phone numbers and the same exact responses for all the candidates and undecided voters.
I realized right away that we had both been sold the same poll results. My only consolation was that my friend had paid significantly more for his than I had for mine. Over the next few weeks we also compared our live call results and realized they matched exactly, except for the signs that had been requested for each of us. I also found out that my old friend Derek [his Prime Contact Group contact] had also been the client rep for Electright and had communicated with the other campaign as he had done for me."
I cannot vouch for the accuracy of his account as he has no contact info on his blog which was just set up last Thursday. And he does admit all this is legal.
But if true, it raises some interesting questions. Do ElectRight and Prime Contact work together and share outreach staff and information? Do they both use the same in-house resources or those of some other third party? Is there a parent clone company for both somewhere?
The Windsor Square interviewed Josh Justice, President of Prime Contact, in January 2012:
"A licensed provider of Canadian Data Services, Prime Contact offers such services as virtual town halls, live voter ID calling, automated surveys, market research, data services and polling.
The company, with an office in Hamilton and headquarters in Tampa, Florida, started up 10 years ago consulting focusing on municipal elections. It has since grown to become Canada’s largest firm of its type “specifically on the municipal side,” according to Justice.
Among the company’s successful clients include Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi."From a York Region interview in 2010 regarding a telephone townhall in Vaughan in October 2010:
"PrimeContact president Josh Justice said the company has done hundreds of these sessions across North America, mainly in the United States."
I wonder if these US and Florida references about Prime Contact Group can be correct, given there's a little "Made in Canada" flag up there on their website?
"PCG Research owns and operates a series integrated in-house research call centres in Ontario, Canada in which 100% of our domestic research is conducted.
"Our successful international market research brings elements together to deliver research programs which enable our clients to address critical issues both locally and globally. PCG Research International is network flexible and we are not compelled to work with local subsidiaries or franchisees.
We select local partners based on quality, track record, and compatibility. For qualitative work we will always send a team member to brief the local partner and engage in the local fieldwork process from beginning to end. Wherever possible, we try to meet local stakeholders and gain firsthand experience of local markets. "Ok then.
There have been a few glitches, as when they mistakenly mis-identified the NDP candidate as a Green Party candidate in a PCG National Research robocall poll in the London West election in July 2013 and no one could find out who had contracted the poll.
I don't know much about ElectRight and its beleaguered director Brett McFarquhar aside from the fact that Jim Ross, formerly of Front Porch Strategies, apparently got a job there and a whole boatload of Con candidates used them in the 2011 federal election..
And Steve's then Parliamentary Secretary Dean Del Mastro used parliamentary resources to have them do a poll in support of a former staffer who was a provincial Con candidate in Del Mastro's riding ...
which must be what the Cons mean in their Fair Elections Act when they say they want to see politicians push the vote instead of Elections Canada.
So ... questions about two robocall/voter contact companies' alleged collusion from an ex-candidate.
I do have some reservations about Ontario Candidate Watchdog's conclusions though :
"With potentially dozens of resellers all using Prime Contact's call centres and databases, including Electright, is it possible that this is the solution to the robocall mystery? Is the Derek that called me back in 2010 the real Pierre Poutine behind the voter suppression that confused tens of thousands of voters across Canada? Was it just a mistake, did Prime Contact call Liberal supporters by mistake with a suppression message, or did they just give the data to Electright?"Mixed up the Lib and Con lists by mistake? No. Because what possible benefit would a list of wrong polling place addresses and phone numbers to make offensive phone calls be to anyone but the Cons for the purpose of misleading their opponents' supporters - the ones who actually got those calls.
So no - no mistake.
Edited for typos, clarity.