Ontario, Facebook, Canada discussed on The Big Story
I'm Jordan Heath Rawlings and this is the big story Greg Macarthur investigative reporter at the Globe and Mail along with his colleague Robyn doolittle he traced the roots of Canada proud out back to Ontario. I Greg High. Why don't you start getting into where on -tario proud came from an who is jeff battling all its founder so antero proud started as a essentially just a facebook page and was in in its infancy what Jeff bellinger describes as something that was just fun for him to do so Jeff Jeff Baylon goal is like sort of a cut from the cloth breath lifelong conservative political operative and he has all of the trademarks of like you know your classic sort of dyed in the wool audio log from from a certain party volunteered for local candidate when he was a kid got involved with the PC youth group. you know knows all of the people who've walked in these circles as they got older and got more involved in real government and he's a true believer in terms of like you know the basic core principals as it comes to like economic freedoms and smaller government most conservatives ascribe to and he he continued on that path after working for a conservative defense minister after working for a a right leaning city councillor and he briefly worked at some news he ended up at navigator which most people in immediate have definitely heard of. It's probably the premier crisis. Communications firm navigators is has been a home to many conservative strategist strategist that have come out of government and are looking to apply their skills elsewhere in the private sector like many other before many others before balance ended up navigator and hated it he he said he was really bored and he's not to say he didn't learn some things but it wasn't necessarily for him and so while he was at navigator and he said he'd he'd he'd been kicking this idea around for a long time. and it's and it's been a bugaboo for a lot of conservatives is the idea that there was no real third third party advertiser in Canada or in Ontario that could take on the working families coalition. Tell me what what exactly was on -Tario proud when he made it. What was it like so so. It's it's started it started as this facebook page essentially this this is simplifying things somewhat but it it was basically just like a meam factory like he would produce photos superimposed with with taxed and and or videos that went really really hard at Premier Kathleen Wynne then then Premier Kathleen Wynne and it was unlike like a lot of a mainstream television ads you see that are attacks against certain politicians. It was like kind of no holds barred the language was was pretty crass and the recycle and somewhat juvenile to like like name calling type things example if I can think of a few like calling Kathleen Wynne a scumbag Doug referring to her as a clown on multiple defend April fools on on April first dates referring to posting a picture of her and calling the fool now now. That's not to say that that's that's all it was because he he would attack specific policies and in particular where he got a lot of traction attraction was around hydro. Everyone will can recall a couple years ago that in certain more rural parts of the province hydro bills were shooting through roof with explicable and Balan Gall and we're on -tario proud pointed the finger straight at the liberal government for this problem up and it was during that time that the website became very very popular and his content his videos as memes began to be shared very widely. The conclusion was a big following for the The facebook page. So what do you do with that. He did a couple of things one he he's very savvy digital marketer and he recognized that whenever you share something on facebook or engaged with content and away other than just passively sort of reading that produces all sorts of data that can be used to understand your audience better that allows him to tailor messages it allows him to collect Komo addresses for people that might be possible supporters both of Ontario proud and or the or certain political ideas so he he has built up. I don't WanNa make it sound like like I've seen this because I haven't it's proprietary he would it would be on his computer but he's built up a probably a really excellent snapshot of a certain segment of the population and that is like minded with zero bride and and what what they liked digitally what they don't like digitally who they're connected to he's done a couple of things though with that audience one one is that he has recognizing this goes back to him kicking around the idea of there not being a really effective third-party advertiser in the province he has filled fill that void and he has turned to a lot of corporations and individuals who would typically support Conservative Party and has sought their support financially and and they have supported him. He has raised a lot of money. We only have a really small snapshot shot in Public Filings of what has been donated to Antero proud because they are required as a third party advertiser. They're required by law provincially to you report all of the money that was given to them within six months of the writ being issued for the last provincial election and and whatever money they raised after the writ was issued during during the actual campaign itself and during that time Ontario Proud received donations totaling four hundred eighty nine thousand in dollars. Now there were many individuals that gave the but in terms of the vast bulk of that money came from a construction companies and developers who have a keen interest in getting certain government policies pushed through provincially but what our investigation or research showed is that that there are there were many other donations were given to Ontario proud outside of that reporting period that the public the media and and regulators have no insight into whatsoever because this is. It's perfectly legal. Ontario proud is not obliged to tell anyone who's wanting outside of that that pre period and the campaign period. Maybe now give us a little context about what third party advertisers are in Canada and the history of them in Ontario so it is an interesting designation this whole idea of being a third party advertiser and it. It's it's in keeping the the reason why they are designated that way is that it's in keeping with sort of this core principle. We have as a democracy that we don't want a level playing field when it comes to elections and that means not just because someone is well resourced sourced has the financial means organizational means to really sway public opinion that that should not they should not have a leg up and that goes for both political parties and it goes just for individuals who wanted to propagate a message so as a result we've created this designation in law called a third party political advertiser and It's a it's a group with specific. Partisan messages usually designed to attack a certain party. That's running and there there are specific examples that the regulators Peter's give out about activity that's covered by by this regulation and if they're engaging in that sort of partisan activity they're required to to register Sir with Elections Ontario or case of a federal election the required to register with elections Canada and if the if they raise a certain amount of money and they spend a certain amount of money they're they're required digging an audit done by an independent firm They have to disclose how they were funded. What spent who received the funds. Although there's not not totally uncommon in Canada it's much more prevalent in the United States right where you see a lot of and because of certain legal court decisions citizens the united the most famous one it's a complete. It's a bit of a free for all and you've seen the rise of these things called Super PACs yeah they call it dark money. some people call. Tony would like it depends on what side of the what side of the spectrum one sits so you know other people. I didn't realize that was a loaded term well. I think I think it a book called Dirk money right by by Jane Mayer her. I think like if you were to ask them one.