Emails Reveal Pipeline Connecting Take Back Alberta organizers to Election Fraud ‘Scrutineers’ and UCP Campaign
UCP candidate defends campaign’s links to group raising doubts about voting machines and warning of ‘busloads’ of fake voters
Participants of a controversial “scrutineering” training session are being introduced to local UCP campaigns by top organizers from the right-wing group Take Back Alberta.
This week, PressProgress reported that a group of Take Back Alberta leaders are holding late night training sessions for right-wing activists on how to get appointed as “scrutineers” to work “security” at polling stations and dispute votes in Alberta’s upcoming election.
However, rather than train scrutineers – who can only be appointed by registered candidates – attendees received presentations about security vulnerabilities in voting machines and warnings to be on the lookout for “busloads” of fake voters showing up at polling stations.
EXCLUSIVE: Take Back Alberta leaders are training “scrutineers” to infiltrate campaigns and act as “security” on voting day.
— PressProgress (@pressprogress) May 16, 2023
Though the “scrutineer” training sessions are not billed as official Take Back Alberta events and Take Back Alberta explicitly denies any formal involvement, Take Back Alberta acknowledges several organizers are “people who have been involved with Take Back Alberta.”
But the connections don’t stop there.
Registrants for “scrutineer” training sessions receive an automated email that displays the title “TBA Scrutineer Training” with a reply-to email address pointing to “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Emails sent to “email@example.com” are received by Lori Zacaruk, an avalanche safety instructor who is also listed as a point of contact for Take Back Alberta events.
In response to an inquiry addressed to Take Back Alberta seeking information on how to “volunteer for TBA,” Zacaruk replied from “firstname.lastname@example.org” and unexpectedly referred the volunteer request to Eric Bouchard’s Calgary-Lougheed UCP campaign.
CC’d was “Calgary-Lougheed@unitedconservative.ca” – the official UCP email address for the old riding of former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
Zacaruk confirmed forwarding the request to volunteer for TBA to the UCP email address.
“When people are interested in volunteering, I simply just send an email saying contact this constituency,” Zacaruk told PressProgress. “I was just passing along to a local organization that is looking for volunteers.”
“I sent them in the direction of where they could be some help.”
Zacaruk acknowledges she is a TBA organizer, but denies she’s involved in the scrutineer training sessions, despite the fact her name and phone number are listed on training session sign-up forms and she responded to an email sent to the training session’s reply-to address.
“There’s no real connection,” Zacaruk said about the link between the “scrutineer” webinars, TBA and the UCP. “Everyone is going in the same direction.”
Emails to “Calgary-Lougheed@unitedconservative.ca” generate a response from Roy Beyer, a member of Eric Bouchard’s campaign team.
Beyer is also Take Back Alberta’s Calgary captain and one of the speakers at a recent “scrutineer” training session where he promoted another group that he co-founded called “Taking Back Our Freedoms.”
TBOF was launched to oppose vaccine mandates and played a central role in the 2022 convoy occupation of Ottawa. According to the Emergencies Act Inquiry’s final report, TBOF helped with the convoy’s financial problems, set-up in a hotel that was used as headquarters by convoy leaders and three TBOF organizers were identified as passengers on a private flight with Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms lawyer Keith Wilson.
During the scrutineer webinar, Beyer expressed reservations about Alberta’s voting machines and stressed that scrutineers will play an important role to “minimize the cheating.”
Emails show Beyer responded to the TBA volunteer request by extending an invitation to the UCP’s Calgary-Lougheed headquarters to campaign for UCP candidate Eric Bouchard.
Beyer CC’d Bouchard’s office manager, Trenna Erman, who sent a sign-up form to “volunteer with the Eric Bouchard / UCP Campaign” and attached a list of “opportunities” including “door knocking,” “election signs set-up/delivery” and “scrutineer” positions.
In an interview with PressProgress Beyer confirmed sending the emails and restated that he is concerned about the possibility of fake voters, but he disputes characterizations that suggest scrutineers are being directed to help UCP campaigns.
“No, we’re recruiting volunteers through organizations that had meetings where people wanted to volunteer,” Beyer explained to PressProgress. “They can choose the riding they want to help and what candidate they want to help.”
“Quite honestly, a lot of campaigns are not being responsive to requests for volunteers,” Beyer said. “Volunteers are calling campaigns and saying they want to help. Our people just want to help, that’s all. They’re not trying to promote a hidden agenda.”
In a statement to PressProgress, UCP Calgary-Lougheed UCP candidate Eric Bouchard did not directly address questions about Beyer, but defended his campaign’s links to Take Back Alberta and the controversial “scrutineer” training sessions.
“Our goal at the Eric Bouchard UCP Campaign is to bring conservatives together to defeat the NDP,” Campaign Chair Darrell Komick told PressProgress. “Conservatives from all walks of life are invited to volunteer with our campaign without prejudice, judgment or discrimination.”
“Overseeing the election process is essential for Albertans to feel confident that the election results are accurate,” Komick added. “If Albertans are concerned about the fairness of the election process, it stands to reason that they should volunteer as scrutinizers.”
Elections Alberta notes third party groups cannot be affiliated with political parties and are prohibited from cooperating with parties or candidates by “selling memberships,” “fundraising,” “collecting or compiling information about electors,” as well as a broad range of “administrative” activities.
Bradley Lafortune, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta is not sure what to make of the relationship between the UCP, Take Back Alberta and the “scrutineers,” but says “it certainly doesn’t pass the smell test.”
“Campaigns have to track all their expenses according to electoral financing laws, and that includes labour and in-kind donations,” Lafortune told PressProgress, adding that he questions whether this kind of activity should be counted against a campaign’s local spending.
“I’d imagine Elections Alberta and Albertans in general might have some very serious concerns with the activity that TBA is engaged in.”
Take Back Alberta Executive Director David Parker appears cautious himself about ensuring the line separating TBA, the scrutineer training sessions and the UCP is crystal clear.
“Because of the Elections Act, I can’t guide you to a certain candidate,” Parker told PressProgress in a phone conversation last week.
“Take Back Alberta can’t advise you to go scrutineer, but what we’re doing is telling people to go scrutineer, that it’s important,” Parker explained. “But we can’t coordinate it because under the Elections Act, only parties can assign scrutineers.”
Parker indicated that he is aware of the scrutineer training sessions but insists it is “not being done by Take Back Alberta.”
Take Back Alberta organizer Benita Pedersen, an anti-vaccine activist who previously staged protests at hospitals and vaccine clinics for children, also insists the scrutineer training sessions are completely “separate” from TBA – though she admits there’s plenty of overlap.
“The webinar for scrutineers is not a Take Back Alberta initiative, it’s grassroots Albertans that put it together,” Pedersen told PressProgress.
“Now, as far as I know, those grassroots Albertans are also involved in Take Back Alberta projects, but the webinar for scrutineers is not a Take Back Alberta initiative, it’s separate.”
During the group’s May 12 webinar, attendees were presented with a list of 34 battleground ridings where they were encouraged to go scrutineer. While Pedersen suggested the training is open to everyone regardless of partisan stripes, she made clear who she’s scrutineering for.
“Personally I support the United Conservative Party and I’m quite optimistic that the majority of people here are on board with that,” Pedersen said.
While Parker says Take Back Alberta organizers like Pedersen and Beyer are simply “concerned about the integrity of the vote,” Lafortune says the group appears to be “fomenting a ‘stolen election’ narrative that is really the stuff of Trumpian politics.”
“It’s dangerous and it runs the risk of unduly eroding trust in our democratic institutions and processes.”
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