We received a note from a reader early today asking that we check out the “Friendly By Nature” Facebook page because of a post they noticed there. Much to our surprise, we saw a sharing by FBN of an election post from the current Regional Councillor Tony Quirk.
The post as it appeared on the FBN page is below:
Once again “the medium is the message” rings true. Notice who liked the re-post… we will get to that later. With the FBN page normally filled with posts advocating commerce and downtown business, an objective we fully support, this re-post shows that there is clear evidence of an “old boy network” at play.
First point, their own story on the “About” tab of the ABN Facebook page contains the following:
Rightfully, they set out articles of decorum for the page to prevent political discussion… but then hypocritically re-post a political message from Mr. Quirk. Now you may be thinking, it’s an election, no big deal right? Well, actually it is a big deal.
Friendly By Nature and it’s board, formally know as “Board of Management for the Grimsby Downtown Improvement Area” was established by the Town in By-Law 05-22 and receives much of it’s funding through a special tax levy, as approved by Council. The GDIA board reports to Council and as such is governed by the Town, has their address listed as 160 Livingston Avenue (Town Hall) and three Aldermen sit on the board: http://friendlybynature.com/board-of-management
In accordance and in compliance with the Municipal Elections Act (MEA), the Town set out a policy on the “Use of Corporate Resources During a Municipal Election” at the December 11, 2017 Admin & Finance meeting and later approved by Council. The policy states:
“The Act prohibits a municipality from making a contribution to a candidate… As a contribution may take the form of money, goods or services, any use by a Member of Council of the Corporation’s resources for his or her election campaign would be viewed as a contribution by the Municipality to the member, which is a violation of the Act.”
Subsequently, this policy was agreed to and understood by the GDIA board at their May 15, 2018 meeting (minutes here):
Policy on Use of Corporate Resources During an Election from the Town of Grimsby: candidates can’t ask to rent
town facilities,photocopying,staff time,etc. Staff will not canvas or work for candidate during work hours. No
signs can go up before Sept 10. The Board of Management and staff understand and accepts Policy.
So even understanding and accepting the policy, we now have possible violations of it and the Municipal Elections Act. We are not sure who the page admins are for the FBN page, but they sure exercised poor judgement, displayed partisanship and put the Board, themselves and the Town into an awkward position.
If you don’t think that was sketchy enough… Mr. Quirk is a former chair of the GDIA board. Bet you didn’t see that coming… or did you?
While the post was up for many hours, it did attract one sole comment from a reader. Needless to say this commentator’s words were not “Friendly By Nature” to Mr. Quirk’s re-election bid or Regional Council:
The comment only survived for a short time, before a FBN page admin deleted the whole post and the comment from the FBN page.
Now we do not know if the post was removed due to the comment, whether someone realized the possible MEA violation or if Mr. Quirk advised a page admin of the post. On the latter of those we shy away from that possibility due to the fact we mentioned previously, that the re-post was “liked” by “Re-Elect Tony Quirk – Niagara Regional Councillor For Grimsby”.
If the aim of the re-post was to bolster Mr. Quirk’s campaign, it just may have done more damage than good. The re-post was clearly in poor taste by trying to capitalize on a neutral user base (those who like the Friendly By Nature page) and possibly in violation of the Municipal Election Act. Very telling about the state of local politics, isn’t it?