On­tario Proud re­news fears about col­lu­sion

Po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy group that helped take down Wynne is now aim­ing for Trudeau

StarMetro Calgary - - CANADA & WORLD - Joan Bry­denTHE

OT­TAWA—A con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy group that was in­stru­men­tal in tak­ing down the Lib­er­als in On­tario is go­ing na­tional, aim­ing to do to Justin Trudeau what it did to Kath­leen Wynne.

But the ar­rival of On­tario Proud on the fed­eral scene re­news ques­tions about when po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy crosses the line into col­lu­sion with a po­lit­i­cal party, en­abling the party to raise and spend more money than le­gally al­lowed and, in the process, un­do­ing decades of ef­fort to neu­tral­ize the in­flu­ence of big money on Cana­dian elec­tions.

On­tario Proud was founded by Jeff Ballingall, a dig­i­tally savvy for­mer Harper-era Con­ser­va­tive staffer and erst­while em­ployee of the short­lived Sun News Net­work.

It un­abashedly pro­moted Doug Ford’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives in last spring’s On­tario elec­tion, us­ing so­cial me­dia to cre­ate vi­ral videos and memes that mer­ci­lessly mocked Wynne be­fore shift­ing to at­tack the NDP once polls showed the premier’s party cra­ter­ing.

In a “vic­tory up­date” to sup­port­ers in June, Ballingall boasted that On­tario Proud’s Face­book con­tent was viewed al­most 67 mil­lion times — more in­ter­ac­tions than the Face­book pages of the three main par­ties, their lead­ers, the unions and all other po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy groups “com­bined!”

The group ran “an ag­gres­sive voter con­tact cam­paign” to iden­tify Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive sup­port­ers and mo­bi­lize them to vote, by way of one mil­lion-plus text mes­sages and 2.5 mil­lion phone calls. It hired “street teams” to hand out 15,000 brochures and mailed out 600 “un­plug Wynne” lawn signs.

“ON­TARIO PROUD IS BUILD­ING A WAR CHEST TO TAKE DOWN JUSTIN TRUDEAU.” On­tario Proud’s fundrais­ing email

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.