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Council race: Is the city breaching election rules with ad campaign, candidate wonders

Last week, the city ran two-page ads in both city newspapers concerning the large projects on the books
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Ward 11 city council candidate John Lindsay has a few thoughts about this ad run by the City of Greater Sudbury. (File)

Last week, the City of Greater Sudbury purchased two-page ads in both local English-language newspapers concerning the large projects on the books that have become one of the defining characteristics of this municipal election campaign.

But one candidate is wondering if the city breached Election Act advertising rules regarding third-party advertising by running the ad during an election campaign.

Ward 11 candidate John Lindsay — who has made no bones about the fact he opposes the project and has appealed the rezoning of the property to allow a parking lot to be built — said the rules regarding election advertising are pretty clear and he feels the ad (pictured above) that ran in Northern Life and The Sudbury Star break those rules.

"According to the election guidelines from the (Elections) Act, it would seem ... the ad in question could be considered as influencing the voting decision of electors with respect to positions taken by candidates," Lindsay said in a news release.

Further, Lindsay said he feels it would be inappropriate for any candidate to use the information contained in the ad as part of their election materials. He also said KED proponent and developer Dario Zulich's new round of information meetings on the Kingsway Entertainment District project (which you may have seen circulating on Facebook) are also inappropriate.

Third-party election advertising is any election material that supports, promotes or opposes a particular candidate, or ballot question (i.e. referendum question). A third party could be a person or entity that is not a candidate, and the ad must be separate from a candidate's campaign.

Lindsay said the city clerk should clarify how the ad in question isn't a breach of the election rules, since the information in the ad could be used to support the campaigns of candidates who support the KED and the other large projects.

Of course, the same material could be used to criticize the projects as well. If the advertising is related to an issue (such as public service announcement), it does not constitute third-party advertising.

"Most, I think, would agree that the ad being published with only short weeks before voting to take place could be considered an influencing factor, as the matter of the KED and Arts Junction are 'top of mind' issues for many voters, and candidates have largely voiced their opinions as well and media coverage has been extensive," Linsday said.

"Citizens deserve to know who in the city (corporation) authorized these ads and if the city as a corporation was officially registered as a 'third party', and the cost (of the ad), as there are spending guidelines for third party advertisers."

He also argues that Zulich's public information meetings could be construed as third-party advertising to support the campaign of candidates who back the KED.

"Also it should be determined if Dario Zulich is registered as a third party advertiser as not just ad expenses are to be revealed but also room rentals and any related expenses etc to hold public "information" meetings," Lindsay said.

On the subject of advertising and campaign support, Lindsay said he has not and will not accept any campaign contributions, and, if elected, will donate his councillor salary to the Sudbury Community Foundation.

The full text of Lindsay's news release can be found below:

Further considerations with respect to the city Large Projects "ads.” Do they comply with new 2018 Election Act "third party" requirements?

Were the "Large Projects" ads 'third-party involvement" is a serious question. According to the election guidelines from the act it would seem that as a corporation the city should have registered, as the ad in question could be considered as influencing the voting decision of electors with respect to positions taken by candidates. See below quotes from the guidelines. Further, to have a candidate use this third-party ad in their election material can be seen as inappropriate as well as Dario's "information meetings." 

The clerk should be called upon to clarity:

"Third party advertising refers to advertisements or other materials that support, promote or oppose a candidate, or support, promote or oppose a 'yes' or 'no' answer to a question on the ballot. Third party in this context is a person or entity who is not a candidate.

"Third-party advertising is separate from any candidate’s campaign, and must be done independently from a candidate. Any advertisements or materials that are made and distributed by a candidate, or under a candidate’s direction, are part of the candidate’s campaign.

"Third-party advertising is a way for those outside of the candidate’s campaign to express support of or opposition to candidates (or a “yes” or “no” answer to a question on the ballot) and to try to persuade voters to vote a certain way.

"A third-party advertisement is an advertisement in any broadcast, print, electronic or other medium that promotes, supports or opposes a candidate, or a 'yes' or 'no' answer to a question on the ballot. Advertisement includes traditional ads as well as materials such as brochures or signs."

The city (corporation) might argue that they are advertising about an "issue." To quote from the guide: "For example, signs saying 'Support local businesses' or 'Keep the waterfront green' would not be third-party advertising, even if a candidate has made those issues part of their campaign."

Regardless, most I think would agree that the ad being published with only short weeks before voting to take place could be considered an influencing factor as the matter of the KED and Arts Junction are "top of mind" issues. Many voters and candidates have largely voiced their opinions, as well and media coverage has been extensive.

Citizens deserve to know who in the city (corporation) authorized these ads and if the city as a corporation was officially registered as a "third party" and the cost as there are spending guidelines for third party advertisers. 

Also it should be determined if Dario Zulich is registered as a third-party advertiser, as not just ad expenses are to be revealed, but also room rentals and any related expenses etc. to hold public "information" meetings. Also it would be interesting to discover how much in the way of contribution assistance is being given directly to candidates supporting the KED and other legacy projects.

Disclaimer: I have not and will not accept or receive any campaign contributions and have stated that I will donate my yearly councillor pay, if elected, to the Sudbury Community Foundation to be distributed to local charities.

John Lindsay, councilor candidate - www.johnlindsay.ca - 705-507-6037




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