Forced-birth activists make absolute fools of CTV Calgary in polling debacle

If you’re wondering who sent you that push-poll on abortion and ‘parental rights’ this week, corporate records have the answer: Alberta Blue Strategies, through their subsidiary, ‘National Public Research Canada.’ Alberta Blue Strategies is a conservative voter contact firm and call center run by Richard Dur. 

Dur is also identified as the executive director of the Pro-Life Alberta Political Association of Alberta in this 2023 CBC profile. PAPA is not a political party so much as a vehicle to get juicy tax deductions for anti-abortion campaigners. They don’t really operate as a political party—they run a single candidate in provincial elections, their leader is a ghost and they encourage their members to participate in the UCP.

Dur was trained as a political operative at the Leadership Institute, a training centre for conservative activists that was funded by the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers. Dur was praised as being key to the 2011 Conservative Party of Canada majority win in this Leadership Institute profile. Dur is a regular commentator in far-right publications like the Western Standard and has consistently called for abortion healthcare to be delisted and defunded. 

National Public Research Canada is not a member of the Canadian Research Insights Council, the industry body for polling firms in Canada. John Tabone, the CEO of CRIC, is not familiar with the company and says that CRIC “has detailed disclosure requirements for research released into the public domain to allow the media and the public to evaluate its credibility…this research clearly does not comply with these standards.”

Reporting from Anti-Hate Canada found ‘metadata’ fingerprints in the media package for the polling which indicate that Alissa Golob, the executive director of RightNow, a pro forced-birth campaigning group, created the PDF media packs for the poll that CTV published on their website. RightNow has been encouraging its supporters to email Danielle Smith to encourage her to include parental notification and consent for abortion healthcare in her recently unveiled anti-trans policy package. 

Despite not knowing the name of the parent company or the person behind the organization CTV Calgary published an entirely credulous report on this poll that just repeated its findings. Here is the Wayback Machine link to that original report

The next day CTV Calgary did a top to bottom rewrite of the story. This rewrite changed the focus of the story from just repeating the poll's findings to critically looking at the polling company and the poll. Just look at the change from the first sentence from the first story to the updated version. 

“A new poll suggests a majority of Albertans support parental consent and/or notification for minors seeking abortions,” changed to “The company behind a new poll on parental rights in Alberta for minors seeking abortions is refusing to disclose information about itself, casting doubt on the veracity of the survey.” 

There is no indication or note to the readers about the prior coverage or the heavy updates to the story. The story still leans heavily on quotes from Alissa Golob, despite the revelation that she was involved in pushing the survey out in the first place, and as I’m writing this still does not make note of that conflict.

Another voter contact firm, Prime Contact, runs a subsidiary named Canadian National Public Research. They were so concerned about how close the two names were that they posted a release publicly denouncing the poll and CTV’s coverage of it.  

“It is our opinion that CTV has irresponsibly published findings from a highly dubious source, identified as ‘National Public Research Canada,’ a ‘company’ with absolutely no ties to our organization, Canadian National Public Research,” reads the statement from James Collins at Prime Contact. 

Collins notes that the poll lacks methodological rigor and transparency notes that “is not only disappointing but also deeply concerning,” that CTV would circulate such a poll.  

“It is alarming that CTV would lower its standards to propagate what appears to be a spurious narrative devoid of any empirical foundation.”

The statement also includes an email exchange between Prime Contact and the CTV reporter Melissa Gilligan.

 “Hi James,

I wrote the article at the recommendation of my boss, Dawn Walton, CCed.

Melissa,” reads the reply. 

CTV Calgary was the only major news organization aside from the Epoch Times that we could find pushing this dodgy poll. And it isn’t even the first time they’ve been made fools of on this file this week. A video report that was interviewing people about receiving the push poll featured Justin Vung, a conservative activist last in the news for being turfed from a United Conservative Party board election because of his noxious views, though the terminally-online in our audience may be more familiar with him as one of Alberta politics Twitter’s most prolific trolls. No correction there—CTV Calgary simply removed the story from their site. 

CTV Calgary have still not properly explained themselves for this shambolic debacle of journalism malpractice. I’ve reached out to Dawn Walton for an explanation and I will update the story if she gets back to me but I wouldn’t hold my breath. If you are a member of a large broadcast outlet and a poll shows up in your inbox maybe just verify who it is before uncritically repeating its results to your massive audience. 


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