Sgro asks The Spec to get rid of critical opinion piece
The Spectator will not remove an opinion piece from its website by LRT advocate Ryan McGreal after an allegation from Vito Sgro’s mayoral campaign that the newspaper violated third-party advertising rules.
Sgro’s campaign asked The Spectator to “take down” the opinion piece, which criticized the anti-L RT candidate’ s platform as a“stack of falsehoods and misleading overs implications .”
The campaign suggested the newspaper effectively made a “gift in kind” to “McGreal’s partisan advertising campaign.” A spokesperson later said the civic affairs blog, Raise the Hammer, could be viewed as a form of paid advertising against Sgro. (A version of the op-ed ran on the blog.)
The Spectator was not paid to publish the opinion piece and will not remove it from online publication. “The Spectator sought and received legal advice which supports our position — the commentary in question in no way violates the thirdparty advertising rules,” said managing editor Howard Elliott.
New 2018 municipal election rules forbid corporations and unions from spending money to campaign for or against candidates unless they are registered as third-party advertisers. Individuals can also register to spend money advertising for or against a candidate, independent of that candidate’s campaign.
McGreal runs a civic affairs blog and helped found the grassroots Hamilton Light Rail Initiative, which is supportive of the $1-billion LRT plan currently stalled by election debate in Hamilton.
McGreal said he was troubled by the allegation against the newspaper, which he views as an attempt to muzzle free speech. He is not registered as a thirdparty advertiser and said he didn’t pay to publish the opinion piece.
He also emphasized all citizens have the right to comment on important civic matters and criticize current or aspiring elected officials. “If you’re not allowed to do that, we don’t live in a liberal democracy any more.”
Sgro earned a different sort of attention Friday with a plane that soared above the city dragging a banner with a message that read: No LRT: Vito Sgro 4 Mayor.