Third-party advertisers spend money to influence Toronto voters


They can go door-to-door to get voter support, send election materials to mailboxes, and solicit political donations to make it all happen.

Supposedly “third party advertisers“Act a bit like the candidates for city council now scouring neighborhoods for votes ahead of Monday’s election, but there’s a key difference – advertisers aren’t actually running for office.

Rather, the person, company or union is concerned with electing or not electing specific candidates. They are often driven by ideological beliefs and may not have direct contact with the candidate(s) they want to help or hurt.

Gary CrawfordCouncilor for Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest, has seen material arrive at voters’ doors in recent days from two separate third-party advertisers – Progress Toronto and John Hartley – both opposing his re-election bid.

Advertisers act much like Political Action Committees, or PACs, common in American politics and often blamed for ‘dark money’ party politics. Here, however, they must follow strict city rules, including a $25,000 spending limitand identify themselves clearly on all documents and other communications.

Four third-party advertisers are active this election, hoping to imbue the next council with ideas ranging from staunchly progressive to staunchly social conservative. Another who signed up told the Star he had done nothing.

We spoke to the assets:

  • Progress Toronto is a “non-profit organization that advocates and organizes a more democratic, socially just and progressive city”.

The left-leaning organization wants the next city council to improve many city services, including park amenities, bus service, cycling infrastructure and measures to tackle climate change. Increasing property taxes and introducing new fees must be on the table for a more livable and equitable Toronto, Progress Toronto said.

The group has endorsed nine candidates for City Council as “champions”, he wants to be elected and three “evil” incumbent councilors whom he wants the voters to “un-elect”.

Progress Toronto has volunteers who go door to door for endorsed candidates, uses its huge list of supporter contacts from past petitions and campaigns to help identify potential voters and help them get to the polls.

Its flyers touting approved candidates and criticizing the incumbent’s perceived shortcomings, land on as many as 20,000 doorsteps in each targeted neighborhood.

“We think our impact is getting a block of votes, which is important in a low-turnout election,” says Progress Toronto chief executive Michal Hay.

“Even if we get 500 votes in a neighborhood in a tight race, it can make a difference to someone.”

  • More Neighbors Toronto is an “all-volunteer multi-partisan co-op that advocates for more housing of all kinds to end the housing crisis in Toronto and Ontario.” It aims to “counterbalance the strength of anti-housing policies, movements and ideologies”.

He wants the new council to allow the construction of all types of housing, including affordable housing, and stop listening to the “NIMBYs” who block development to preserve the character of neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes.

More Neighbors Toronto has approved 12 board nominees whose responses to a questionnaire were judged to be “pro-housing” and sufficiently overlap with the group’s own detailed information. municipal platform.

The group’s Bilal Akhtar says mentions on the More Neighbors Toronto website and social media channels do not involve direct expense, and therefore likely did not require registration as a third-party advertiser.

Some T-shirts given to volunteers and posters placed on community bulletin boards involve a small outlay, so the group signed up to make sure they followed the rules.

“We engaged with the candidates, we asked our volunteers to donate directly to the candidates as individuals themselves and to volunteer for them,” says Akhtar.

“What it really means on Election Day – is it enough to overcome the tenure advantage? We don’t know an answer to that question yet, but hopefully in the long run we can really shape the conversation.

Evan Sambasivam, trying to overthrow the counselor. Mike Colle in Ward 8 Eglinton, told More Neighbors Toronto “has been a tremendous support for my campaign, a huge public boost using their influence to help organize volunteers and legitimize an otherwise grassroots campaign.”

  • John Hartley is an individual who has long opposed “over-densification” of housing in Ward 20 of Scarborough South West, denouncing large-scale housing developments which he believes are detrimental to the community.

He signed up so he could mail a campaign document criticizing the incumbent Crawford and pointing out a History of the Globe and Mail questioning the appearance of a controversial political “fixer” during the events of Crawford’s campaign.

Crawford published a statement saying Spiros Papathanasakis has no official role in his campaign and called the Globe story “libel by association”.

Hartley says he’s “anti-densification” for many reasons, but also targets what he calls dishonest statements from people involved in and supporting development apps. He supports the candidacy of the council of Parthi Kandavela Toronto District School Board counselor challenging Crawford.

Kandavel says he is aware of Hartley’s literature. He says he opposes high-rise condo projects in some neighborhoods but along major roads, “I’m not against development. It involves consulting with the community to address concerns, and the city and developers to participate in building public infrastructure to support development.

  • Country Life Coalition is a well-known socially conservative lobby group that says it “advocates the legal protection of every human life”. He opposes abortion, gay rights and vaccines developed with human embryos.

Jack Fonseca of the band says Country Life Coalition assessed municipal candidates across Ontario, endorsing some and warning against supporting others, based on the results of a questionnaire, if they responded, or public positions if they did not .

“We have several thousand supporters across Toronto in every school district and neighborhood of the city,” he says. “We share our views with them – pro-life, pro-family and pro-parental rights – and a voter guide where they can search for candidates.

“We encourage people to vote for the candidates we support, take a sign on the lawn, donate to their campaigns and talk to friends, family and church groups to try to bring five other people to vote for them.”

Campaign Life Coalition is backing a Toronto mayoral candidate and three council candidates, including an incumbent seeking re-election.

However, when contacted for comment, the Holder’s campaign shared recent emails with the Star to Campaign Life Coalition saying it misrepresents its views as “pro-life” and asking the group to remove its endorsement from the website.

David Rider is Star’s City Hall Bureau Chief and a reporter covering City Hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider


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