From time to time, I get emails from shifty marketing and search optimization scumbags. Their letters are marked as coming from somewhere important sounding like domain services. They tell me that I owe a balance of a few hundred dollars and that if I don’t pay up, I will lose access to either my entire website or important components of it. Way down at the bottom there’s a tiny note that this is not a real invoice and no money is actually due, but they don’t expect anyone to read that far and it’s only there so they can say that they didn’t do anything out of line if someone decides to call them on it. What they’re hoping is that I’ll see that it’s a bill, pay it and then wind up on the hook for expensive and useless services and that I’ll keep paying for them without questioning why. Fortunately I’m pretty with it most of the time and have a good handle on who I pay for what and how much I have to pay them to keep the site running. But not everyone is that way especially the bigger the company is, which is why these scams work.
Now imagine you got a letter like the one I just described, but instead of coming from some random internet dipshit, it came from the Ontario government. Technically it came from the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, but as far as most normal people are concerned, that’s the same thing. The PCs, after all, are currently the government of Ontario. It’s hard to believe that something like this would ever happen because of how unethical, possibly illegal and astoundingly dumb it would be for anyone to actually try it, but here we are.
Part of the letter is labelled “invoice” and looks like a bill to be sent to the Ontario PCs in Toronto. The only line item says “Election Readiness Fund” and lists a total of $300, then lower down the page states there’s a “balance due.” The word donation does appear, but only at the bottom of the page.
The letter includes two pages. The first is a standard letter explaining the need for the PCs to fundraise ahead of next year’s election, but the second is the part that looks like an invoice. Part of the letter says “Please pay the enclosed invoice to send Doug Ford the message that we’ve got his back.”
Even the envelope is designed to make you think it’s a bill, as it features highlighted text that reads “Important: invoice enclosed.” You can see a picture of that at the above link.
All of the other parties and at least one private citizen have filed complaints with some combination of Elections Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police fraud unit and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, as they should. The OPP says that it is looking into whether a full criminal investigation is needed, while Elections Ontario has told the NDP and the CBC that the contents of the letter aren’t in its purview. That means, basically, that they can’t investigate it, crazy as that sounds.
Heads should roll for this, obviously. Not only now, but also come election time. The fundraising arm of the party knew exactly what it was doing when it designed these. The intent is to trick people, especially the elderly and the vulnerable. And if they can snag a few Joe Averages who aren’t paying enough attention because they have other things on their minds, even better. There is no other reason why these letters would look like they do, and the fact that no one spoke up and said that any of it was wrong speaks volumes about the sort of people who inhabit the Progressive Conservative Party. This was not an honest mistake.