A competitive race for Burlington’s next mayor is now rife with accusations from one candidate about so-called ‘dirty tricks’ being played against her on the campaign trail.
Ward 2 Coun. Marianne Meed Ward says an unidentified party has obtained the services of an outside research firm to conduct what has been described as “a false and defamatory” phone survey about alleged past statements and her candidacy.
Ward 2 Coun. Marianne Meed Ward (middle) with supporters.
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“Deep pockets and dirty politics by a Toronto firm, Campaign Research, are attempting to influence the outcome of the Burlington mayor’s race and must stop,” Meed Ward said in her statement.
“In the last few days, Burlington residents have reported to our campaign that they received an extremely disturbing telephone “election survey” containing divisive and false statements attributed to me about domestic violence, the hijab, unemployment and more.”
Meed Ward also says that she was the only candidate in that survey that had questions asked about her; none of the other three candidates, incumbent Rick Goldring, former MP Mike Wallace and Greg Woodruff, were mentioned.
“There followed several outrageous allegations about what they claimed are statements by Marianne” including about abused women, the hijab, unemployment, capitalism, and development,” and residents were asked to rate statements she allegedly made on a scale of 1 to 10.
Campaign Research is led by Richard Ciano, a former Ontario PC party president, and Nick Kouvalis (pictured above), a veteran Conservative party campaign organizer and a former chief of staff to former Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Kouvalis is currently managing the reelection efforts of current Toronto mayor John Tory.
As reported by CBC, Ciano cited previous articles written about, or by, Meed Ward, such as:
A 2004 Toronto Sun opinion article in which Meed Ward described the hijab as “the new symbol of female empowerment.” “Even though I choose not to wear one, I celebrate the goals of hijab: See me not my makeup; don’t hate me because I’m a woman; I refuse to conform to impossible Western standards of external beauty; beauty is inside,” she wrote.”
A 1998 issue of Christian magazine Faith Today, in which Meed Ward talks about divorce from an evangelical perspective. “I don’t believe divorce is always wrong,” she wrote. “Most of us can accept divorce arising from infidelity, abandonment or physical abuse. Even so, my first choice is always to encourage the couple to try very hard to work through these difficult situations.”
In email statements to inhalton.com and references to their websites, the other mayoral candidates quickly denied any involvement.
“I wish to assure the voters in Burlington that neither I nor any member of my team is involved in this quite negative campaign tactic. The coming election is an important opportunity for the people of Burlington to choose the leader they want for our city. Negative campaign tactics, such as what is known as “push-polling” should not be used by any candidate nor their supporters,” Wallace said said in this statement.
“No one in my campaign has any part in any polling. I’d prefer the campaign focus on policies for Burlington and not the decades old writings of Marianne Meed Ward,” said Woodruff, adding that he believes someone is attempting to introduce the councillor to people in a negative context, dredging up personal attacks and “irrelevant muck” that have no bearing whatsoever on one’s ability to serve as mayor.
“I did phone Marianne Meed Ward yesterday (Tuesday) to advise her directly that I had absolutely nothing to do with this polling,” said Goldring, adding that having worked together for the last eight years, Meed Ward did say she did not believe that Goldring would be involved.
“This type of activity is not my approach. There is enough of this at other levels of government and completely inappropriate and unnecessary at any level of politics, especially municipal,” the mayor concluded in his email.
No one is currently registered as a Third Party Advertiser under the new rules governing municipal election campaigns, but Meed Ward indicated she will be filing a complaint with the Market Research and Intelligence Agency on Campaign Research’s activities.
“We will not disclose, discuss, confirm, or deny the existence of any matter relating to who its clients are, or may be, or any work Campaign Research Inc. may perform on behalf of its clients unless specifically required to do so by law, or unless specifically directed to do so by our clients,” Ciano said in an email to CBC.
It’s quite telling that the only woman running to be Burlington’s next mayor is getting attacked. However, one cannot say Burlington municipal elections are lacking in drama and intrigue as the campaign gets ready to kick into high gear after Labour Day long weekend.
Voters go to the polls across Ontario on October 22.
Photos courtesy of Facebook