Alberta voter says he received robocall impersonating Stephen Mandel and backing Jason Kenney

Stephen Mandel, second from the left, speaks about allegations of robocalls in the Alberta election on Sunday, April 14, 2019. Julia Wong/Global News

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new information from a woman who said she was mistaken and actually received a robocall from Stephen Harper and not Stephen Mandel.

The Alberta Party is expressing frustration and concern after an Edmonton-area man said he received a robocall purporting to be the party’s leader and endorsing Jason Kenney.

This comes as Albertans prepare to head to the polls Tuesday in an election that has polarized the province.

Leader Stephen Mandel said he is in shock after hearing that Bob Wispinski, who lives in the Ardrossan area, allegedly received the robocall Saturday night.

“I guess it’s the thing that broke the camel’s back. I’ve just had enough of it,” Mandel said.

Wispinski said he received the call on his land line around 5:50 p.m.

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“It started saying, ‘Hi this is Stephen Mandel of the Alberta Party and we’re having an election on Tuesday,’ and ‘If you believe in Alberta, Jason Kenney has all the answers. He’s going to get the pipeline built. He’s going to do everything he says he is going to do,’” he said.

“It goes on for about a minute and a half and then it ends, ‘I’m Stephen Mandel and I support Jason Kenney of the UCP party.’”

Wispinski said he is “positive” the voice sounded like Mandel and used the leader’s identity.

“I knew it was him, that that was the name that was said,” Wispinski said.

“Whoever did it, did a good job.”

Wispinski said the robocall came from a local number and when he called that number back, the man who answered the phone said he did not know what Wispinski was talking about.

“I couldn’t believe it. Like, I thought this was wrong,” Wispinski said.

He quickly called his friend Marvin Olsen, who is the Alberta Party candidate in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, to alert the party.

“I’m not impressed. I don’t know how to word it without cussing… but it just ticks me off that that’s what got resorted to,” Wispinski said.

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Mandel said the party does not know if any other people may have received the robocall, but they are asking those who did to let the party know.

“We need to find out what is going on behind-the-scenes with these things. We just want this stuff to stop. There’s two days left in the campaign, maybe for two days, people can be civil,” he said.

“We want to be very clear, very clear, we don’t know the source of this. We don’t know who it came from. We just think it’s an all-time low.”

Harper robocall

There is a legitimate robocall campaign in Alberta right now that has former prime minister Stephen Harper calling people to endorse Jason Kenney.

Wispinski insists the call he got was from someone claiming to be Stephen Mandel, but other voters have been confused.

An Edmonton woman who lives in Mill Woods initially told Global News she also received a robocall Saturday afternoon.

The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she was driving with her family when the call came in.

“When I answered, it was an automated message saying it was Stephen Mandel calling… calling to make sure your vote goes out to the UCP party on April 16,” she said.

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The woman reached out to Global News again after she was able to retrieve the voicemail and said upon listening to it again, realized the call was from Stephen Harper.

There have been other people online who say they received a Stephen Mandel robocall but none have responded to inquiries from Global News for further information.

UCP response

A statement from the United Conservative Party sent to Global News reads, in part:

“The UCP has no knowledge of the alleged call in question. All our calls clearly identify as coming from the UCP as per Election Alberta and/or CRTC requirements.

“We would of course expect this alleged call and associated phone number(s) to be reported to the proper authorities, and that all laws and regulations will be fully enforce[d].

“It is disappointing that some in this election are more interested in fear and smear tactics, as opposed to talking about their record and vision for the future,” reads the statement.

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Mandel said the party plans to alert the election commissioner and RCMP about the robocall. As of noon on Sunday, an Alberta RCMP spokesperson said police had not been made aware. The office of the election commissioner did not immediately respond to a request for comment but it historically does not comment on investigations it may or may not be conducting.