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Ward 5 candidate promotes alternative Valley East Facebook page

Mike Parent is working to promote local businesses on a Facebook page called Valley East, not to be confused with the Valley East page Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan co-runs as a business
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Mike Parent.

In his first media release since declaring his candidacy for Ward 5, Mike Parent announced this week that he is teaming up with a community Facebook page to support local businesses. 

While door knocking later this year in advance of the Oct. 24 election, he said he’ll co-promote a Facebook page called Valley East, where local businesses are being advertised free of charge.

“There’s definitely some recognition of who I am given my political ambitions in the fall, so it was a three-way win,” he said, listing his political campaign, businesses and the community Facebook page as beneficiaries. 

Plus, he said, businesses need all the support they can get right now.

The Valley East page Parent is striving to promote is separate from the Valley East page his political opponent, Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, is behind.

Unlike Kirwan’s page, which he operates as a business alongside his wife, Valerie, the page Parent is supporting is a not-for-profit effort.

Paul Mahood founded the page approximately five years ago after he said he discovered himself banned from Kirwan’s page for asking about when city roads would be repaired. 

“I created a page so people like me could voice their opinions,” he said, adding that his page is intended to be an inclusive environment where people are only blocked if they’re being “absolutely rude or disrespectful,” and typically only after they’ve been warned. 

Sherry Lynn, who declined to share her last name, moderates the page and said she was eager to have Parent help promote the page on the campaign trail.

Nothing related to the page has been monetized, she said, and all they ask of the businesses they promote is that they “give back to the community in one way, shape or form.”

This often comes in the form of gifts cards and other give-aways, which the page hosts draws for.

“It’s just about community,” Sherry Lynn said.

Although Parent admits that his support for a Valley East page on Facebook separate from Kirwan’s might be seen as a shot across the bow of his political rival, that’s not his intent.

“I saw this could be far more positive, and it’s been a long two years for everyone and the Omicron is the last big kick … and the city needs more positivity,” he said.

The not-for-profit Valley East page offers a forum for people more inclusive than one moderated by an “autocratic” city councillor who blocks people he disagrees with, Parent said, adding that he is among those to have been blocked at one point, though he couldn’t pinpoint why.

Kirwan has come under fire for his social media presence on numerous occasions in recent years. In 2019, he was reprimanded by city integrity commissioner Robert Swayze for his “aggressive” behaviour on social media and for remaining “unable to politely accept contrary points of view.” He was also criticized for blocking people from the Valley East page, his connection to a fake account called Jessie Timmons and for politicizing a local tragedy.

The latest incident inspired Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti to begin looking into a social media policy for the city’s elected officials, on which city administration is preparing a report.

Although critical of Kirwan’s social media activity, Parent clarified that he at no point wants to disparage anyone on the campaign trail and that his focus this coming election season will be on what he plans to do as a member of city council and not who he isn’t.

The not-for-profit Valley East page has approximately 7,600 members and Kirwan’s Valley East page has approximately 18,700 members.

The nomination period for this year’s municipal election opens on May 1, after which those candidates registered with the city can begin their campaigns in earnest and begin spending money. 

Kirwan declined comment for this story, but did clarify he will “always encourage the promotion of local businesses by anyone.”

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.