Spam, spam and egg on face? Bill Smith passes the buck on unsolicited emails
Bill Smith says a mistake made by a third party contractor resulted in emails being sent to Albertans who had not signed up for his distribution list but the mayoral candidate stopped short of apologizing for entering the inboxes of non-supporters.
The email, with its misspelled ‘Gratitude on Thanks Giving Day’ subject line, was sent early Sunday morning from the ‘Bill Smith for Mayor’ account.
Tamara Schroeder, a Calgary-based writer who says she is not a Bill Smith supporter, was one of the recipients of the email. She says she was both annoyed and disappointed by the unsolicited message encouraging her to vote in the advance polls.
“I haven’t signed up for any communications from him at all,” said Schroeder. “I’m not sure how they got my email address. I certainly didn’t consent for my email to be used in any way by his team.”
“Even if it was offered to him, the ethical thing would have been to say no.”
Schroeder says she suspects her email address landed in the hands of the Bill Smith team after she registered as a member of the PC Party of Alberta ahead of the merger vote with the Wildrose Party.
“I guess I’m a UCP member now, just because of that, and I was automatically added to the party and obviously their mailing list,” said Schroeder. “I have seen a common thread, at least on social media, of people who have received these emails and sort of where they originated.”
Representatives of the provincial United Conservative Party (UCP) say their email distribution list remains under wraps.
“I can confirm the UCP has a very strict policy on the distribution of our membership list,” said Janice Harrington of the UCP in a statement to CTV Calgary. “It is not, and has never been, shared with any third party.”
“Leadership candidates were provided the lists according to the leadership election rules and each candidate was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.”
On Sunday afternoon, Smith acknowledged the emails during an interview with CTV Calgary. "It's a third party contractor and they mixed up another list with ours and sent it out," explained Smith. "The intention was to wish people a Happy Thanksgiving. We do take responsibility at the campaign for what occurred."
When asked if he would like to apologize to those who received the emails as a result of the mix-up, Smith placed the onus on the unnamed third party contractor. "We will certainly be discussing their processes for sure. This mistake won't happen again."
Bruce Foster, a professor of political science at Mount Royal University, calls the sending of unsolicited emails ‘unethical’ but says the distribution does not appear to violate municipal regulations and is not an attempt to solicit funds.
“It’s kind of the electronic intrusion, or the electronic version, of finding campaign literature in your home mailbox,” said Foster. “It is an annoyance for some folks.”
Foster adds Smith’s team is not the first campaign to acquire a batch of emails. The MRU professor provided the Conservative Party of Canada’s use of robocalls in a previous election as one example.
“This kind of thing happens all the time,” said Foster. “People’s objection to such emails is usually based on how much or how little they support a particular candidate.”
The exact number of people who received unsolicited emails from the Bill Smith campaign has not been confirmed.
With files from CTV's Kamil Karamali