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politics

Robocall Poll on Casinos A Preview of Our Next Wedge Issue?

A telephone poll indicates that Casino Toronto might be our next political hot button.

Photo of a casino in Niagara Falls, New York. By {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/phil_marion/2842251766/"}Phil Marion{/a}, from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Last month, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced that it intends to build a resort casino somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area, and now Mayor Rob Ford appears to be taking up the cause. He’s been touting the job-creation potential of the proposal (though the economic benefits of casinos are notoriously hard to measure), and has even said he’d be open to a referendum.

Last night, reports began circulating on Twitter that residents in different parts of the city were receiving robocalls inviting them to take part in a phone poll designed to gauge their feelings about the prospect of a resort casino in Toronto. The poll also sought their opinions of their local councillors, as well as the mayor.

We have a recording of the robocall, provided to us by local activist Dave Meslin, embedded above. The call is conducted by a recorded male voice, who, at the end, identifies a company called “iFusion” as being responsible for putting the whole thing together. That name doesn’t register on Google, but the phone number that the robocalls originated from does, as city hall observer Jonathan Goldsbie was the first to point out. The number is associated with a virtual call centre company called Campaign Support, whose administrative contact uses the same email address as Amber-Joy Kouvalis, wife of Nick Kouvalis, Rob Ford’s former campaign manager and chief of staff. Kouvalis is head of Campaign Research, a political research consultancy.

Whoever commissioned this poll—be it the mayor or another person with an interest in local politics—seems to have been wondering if the way Torontonians feel about gambling can be used to influence 2014′s municipal election. We know the mayor is already in campaign mode, as are a few of his foes on council. Someone’s looking for a leg up.

Here are the poll’s questions, transcribed:

First, it asks for the respondent’s age and sex. Then it gets into meatier matters.

Question three,” says the recorded voice. “There are news reports on the possibility of a casino resort being built right here in the city of Toronto. To what degree are you positive or negative on a casino resort being located in Toronto?”

The poll continues:

Question four. If it was decided that a casino was going to be built in Toronto, which of the following locations for a casino resort would be your first choice?” Options are Ontario Place, Exhibition Place, the Port Lands area, the Woodbine race track, and “the old Downsview base.” Rob Ford has said that he favours Woodbine as a potential casino location.

Question five. Do you have a favourable or unfavourble opinion of City Councillor Ana Bailao?” (This question appears to have been custom-tailored to the respondent’s ward.)

Question six. Do you have a favourable or unfavourable opinion of the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford?”

Question seven. If a resort destination, with casino, was built in Toronto, and resulted in thousands of jobs being created, how would you feel about this casino now?” (This echoes Rob Ford’s public statements about the casino’s job-creation potential, meaning he could be using this as a way of refining his message.)

The poll concludes:

“Thank you very much for participating in our poll. For more information please call 1-877-821-6024.”

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