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Get Snapd: Third Party involvement in Municipal Elections

The sunny, smiley newspaper Snapd intervened anonymously in the 2014 municipal election in Newmarket when it paid Canada Post to deliver flyers to thousands of homes in Wards 6 and 7.   

The imprint on the flyers claimed they were from NmktTownHallWatch - a spoof which mimicked the well known and equally anonymous NwktTownHallWatch.

We still do not know who wrote the text of the flyers but the two candidates targeted by Snap'd were both steamrollered, losing badly.

Did the flyers affect the result? It is, of course, impossible to know how much of those crushing defeats was attributable to the intervention of an anonymous third party.

But it begs two questions:

Was it legal?

And is it going to happen again?

Given the image Snapd projects (which is all Mom and apple pie) its intervention last time was clearly duplicitous, hypocritical and unethical. But it was not illegal.

As I tap this out, there is no evidence to show the campaign spending returns submitted by all the candidates in Wards 6 and 7 were anything other than accurate. If anyone has proof they are false they should present their evidence to the Town.

In any event, we can now be certain that what happened in 2014 will not re-occur in 2018 because the Municipal Elections Act 1996 has been amended to preclude it.

Last year, during the third reading debate on Bill 181 the then Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ted McMeekin, told MPPs:

"To increase transparency in municipal elections, we are proposing a framework to regulate third-party advertising... This would include setting contribution and spending limits. Third parties would also have to specifically identify themselves on signs and advertisements. Candidates would not be able to direct a third-party advertiser on where they should focus their efforts or what their advertisements should say."

The Minister explained the definition of third-party advertising would be changed so that it covers only advertisements supporting or opposing candidates during an election.

"It would not affect advertising on issues. So if you want to fight for a clean environment, you can do that. The proposed definition of third-party advertising will allow charities and groups that do public outreach on issues as a matter of normal business to continue their issues-based advocacy work throughout the election period."

Former Vaughan councillor and now Federal MP, Deb Schulte, told MPPs in the Bill Committee that, in her view, third-party advertising should be registered to an elector.

"Make it mandatory to identify all the flyers, emails and videos with an identifier so they can be traced back to the source..."

One way or another, I think we can be pretty sure no candidate running for Newmarket Council in 2018 is gonna get Snapd.

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