Sgro asks The Spec to get rid of crit­i­cal opin­ion piece

The Hamilton Spectator - - Local -

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.

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