Accusing of breaking election rules, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc is on the defensive for organizing a community event earlier this month he contends was not for campaign purposes.
At issue is a Grandparents’ Day event at Chartwell Westmount on William Retirement Residence earlier this month, which Ward 11 candidate Christopher Duncanson-Hales said appeared more like a campaign event for Leduc than the public community event it was billed as being. The line, he added, was blurred “to a point where it was non-existent.”
Leduc denies it was a campaign event and said his political opponent’s accusation comes down to politicking.
“They’re bringing a dark cloud to a beautiful event where we’re trying to bring a community together in celebrating a beautiful day,” Leduc said, adding the seniors who took part in the event have been locked up for much of the pandemic and require events such as this to bring them out.
“Isn’t this what we want to do, is create a healthy neighbourhood in every way, shape and form?”
Criticism of his involvement in Grandparents’ Day, also shared on social media by an anonymous community member, is nothing but a “smear campaign” by political opponents, Leduc added.
“I’m out trying to build a healthier community, and this small little group is against that?”
Duncanson-Hales told Sudbury.com his intent was never to launch an ad hominem attack on Leduc, but to highlight a problem in a political campaign.
“It’s about integrity, and … the rules for elections are there for a reason,” he said. “They’re there in order to level the playing field to make sure people are voting and choosing on their ideas and not on who can get the most corporate sponsors or things like that.”
It’s easy to see how some people might interpret it as a campaign event for Leduc, Duncanson-Hales said, logging the following observations in his complaint to the city:
- Mr. Leduc’s car with election magnets was prominently displayed at the entrance to the event.
- Mr. Leduc’s canvassing team, with “Team Leduc” jackets, were visibly volunteering for the event.
- Mr. Leduc’s name was featured on a donation box for the Sudbury Foodbank.
- Mr. Leduc handed out flyers for the event while canvassing the neighbourhood.
In a video shared with Sudbury.com, the event’s emcee introduces the group of volunteers taking care of the event as members of “Team Leduc,” and thanked them for their efforts.
“All your food, all your prizes compliments Bill Leduc putting this together year in and year out,” the emcee said. “We thank you so much for putting this together, Bill.”
In conversation with Sudbury.com, Leduc noted the emcee did not clarify he was a city councillor, nor was there any mention of the Oct. 24 election. He also said he did not promote his political campaign during the event.
“When you go to an event and you see a t-shirt that says ‘security’ or you see volunteers, what’s the difference if it says ‘volunteer’ or ‘Team Leduc?’” Leduc asked. “It’s difficult to get volunteers, because every time there’s someone who volunteers there’s a group out there bashing them.”
Leduc said he was uncertain as to whether his name was on a donation box.
As for the video clips provided to Sudbury.com, he said they were selectively chosen and that he clarified to those in attendance the event was sponsored by the Ward 11 Community Action Network (CAN) alongside corporate sponsors.
Duncanson-Hales also noted Leduc posted a photo of himself on social media talking to a local firefighter whose municipal badge is visible and that city equipment, including an ambulance, was on display during the event. Footage from the event is used extensively in a campaign video Bill Leduc recently posted on social media.
A city bylaw notes:
- Elected Officials who are also Candidates should draw strong boundaries between the two roles and any potential conflicts between the roles should be resolved in favour of the public interest.
- Legislation prohibits the City from contributing Corporate Resources to a Candidate, Registered Third Party, or Political Party in any form during a Campaign Period
- Candidates may not post photographs of themselves with Employees wearing a uniform, badge, crest or any other item that identifies them as an employee of the City of Greater Sudbury.
- Candidates and Registered Third Parties are permitted to attend City events, or events held at City facilities, in their capacity either as elected representatives or as private citizens during the Campaign Period but may not conduct any Campaign Activity while in attendance.
Official word on whether Leduc broke any rules will remain to be determined for some time.
City integrity commissioner Robert Swayze told Sudbury.com he received a formal complaint on this matter and dismissed it due to his having no jurisdiction over it under the Municipal Elections Act.
Although Duncanson-Hales also filed a complaint with the city, it doesn’t appear as though it will be considered until after the election.
A city spokesperson told Sudbury.com complaints need to be filed with the city’s Compliance Audit Committee, which can only be filed with the committee after March 23, 2023, which is after the deadline for candidates to file campaign finance information.
Although the city is not authorized to investigate or provide advice to complainants or candidates regarding complaints, they do inform candidates of the nature of complaints made against them during the campaign period.
“We do not share the actual complaint with them, in order to protect the privacy of the complainant,” the city spokesperson clarified. “We take this step as a courtesy to allow a candidate the opportunity to remedy a potential violation of election rules or the use of municipal resources policy.”
Leduc first organized a Grandparents’ Day event in 2018, did so again in 2019 and then found the effort shut down for a couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leduc told Sudbury.com he has participated in various community events such as these over the years to “pull this ward together in a positive manner” and that he will continue to do so.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.