ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Anonymous messaging urging residents to vote out sitting council members has marred some municipal election campaigns outside Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital ahead of Tuesday's provincewide vote.
In Mount Pearl, a small city next to St. John’s, residents recently found flyers in their mailboxes urging them to “choose change” and vote for the new candidates on the ballot. The reverse side of the handbill outlines a litany of allegations about existing council members, accusing them of mismanaging the city and its budget.
There are no indications of who paid for the leaflets and although they include Mount Pearl's logo, a spokesperson said in an email Friday the city did not send out or endorse the flyers.
Just west of Mount Pearl, in Conception Bay South, similar messages from an unnamed source are emblazoned on election-style signs dotting the town's roadways. On some, "Vote for change," is written in white block letters against a black background.
"There's an interference to this type of material," Mount Pearl candidate Nicole Kieley said in an interview Monday. "This is … not in the spirit of how we want to run a campaign." She is listed on the mysterious flyer as one of the new candidates voters should choose.
Municipal elections are taking place across Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday. After a provincial election last winter and a federal election last week, it will be the third time the province has gone to the polls in a year.
Kieley said she believes most residents of Mount Pearl received a mystery leaflet. Most of the candidates named on the flyer posted about it on social media saying they weren't involved. Keiley said she contacted the incumbents to let them know she had nothing to do with it. Nobody knows who was behind it, she said.
"I don't believe the author … had anyone's best interest at heart (who) was named on that flyer, nor did they have the city's best interests at heart," she said.
Mount Pearl mayoral candidate Roy Locke is also named on the handbill as someone to vote for.
"As soon as I opened the mailbox and took it out and I (saw) my name on it, I said to myself, 'Well, my campaign is finished,'" he said in an interview Monday. "Why they dragged myself and the other candidates into it, I don't know what the thinking was behind that at all."
Locke said the flyer arrived in his Canada Post community mailbox, which he said indicates it was delivered through the postal service.
Canada Post did not respond to a request for comment. The corporation's website indicates it would cost more than $4,000 to send a similar flyer to the 10,381 dwellings in the city identified in the 2016 census.
Kirk Youden, who is not seeking re-election after 16 years on Conception Bay South's town council, said he's never seen anything like the unnamed election signs. Whoever put them up "spent a chunk of change," he said.
"I think at a bare minimum, people need to sign their names to it, so people at least have an idea of where it's coming from and why it's being done," he said about the messaging.
Some signs say, "Save our harbour" — perhaps indicating whoever is behind the signs doesn't approve of the town's decision to greenlight a major construction project to fill in part of a harbour and create 1.75 hectares of land.
The administrators of a Facebook group opposing that project said neither they nor their group put up the signs.
Youden agreed with Kieley that the signs and flyers are tantamount to third-party interference and wondered if it was time for municipal elections to have rules about third-party advertising and participation, similar to federal elections.
Kieley said she would also like to see a careful review of the rules. As for the flyers themselves, she said: "Flick them in the recycle bin. Honestly."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2021.
Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press