FILE - In this March 13, 2019, file photo Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps are are displayed on an iPhone in New York. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says it’s time to break up the social media behemoth. He says in a New York Times opinion piece that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has allowed a relentless focus on growth that crushed competitors “to sacrifice security and civility for clicks.” (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

Elections Canada scraps social media ‘influencers’ to encourage youth vote

Ottawa Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre went so far as to call the independent agency a Liberal ‘lapdog’

Elections Canada has scrapped plans to use social-media “influencers” to persuade young Canadians to register to vote in this fall’s federal election.

Chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault said Thursday that a final vetting of 13 people chosen for the campaign — athletes, YouTubers and other television and social-media celebrities— turned up some past activities that could be seen as partisan.

“I did not feel that I had the right assurances that were necessary to protect our reputation as an unimpeachable, neutral and non-partisan agency for the election,” Perrault said in an interview.

“It would have been a risk and a distraction at a point where the focus should be on the voters, on the candidates, on the campaigns, on the platforms.”

Perrault’s decision to scrap the influencers campaign comes after sustained criticism of the idea from Conservative MPs, who alleged it was evidence of bias on the part of Elections Canada. They doubted the influencers would be truly non-partisan and charged that any increase in youth voter turnout would largely benefit the Liberals.

Ottawa Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre went so far as to call the independent agency a Liberal “lapdog.”

Perrault declined to comment on those allegations.

ALSO READ: Canada’s top 10 influencers have a following more than four times Canada’s population

“It’s important for Canadians to understand and know that Elections Canada is a completely independent agent of Parliament, that we are non-partisan, that everything we do, including the media campaign, is done with that in mind. But it’s not for me to respond to politicians and start engaging in what would become political debates with politicians.”

Still, he defended Elections Canada’s efforts to persuade young people to register — which will continue, without the influencers.

“Our role is to remove barriers (to voting) for all Canadians. Different groups face different barriers,” Perrault said.

In the case of youth, he said the problem is that only about 60 per cent of 18-to-24-year-olds are registered to vote, as few as 40 per cent for 18-to-20-year-olds. Unregistered voters do not receive voter information cards advising them where and when to vote. Those who do try to register at their polling stations on voting day find the procedure cumbersome and unwelcoming.

“We know that youth who vote early (in life) tend to be lifelong voters and those who do not vote early tend not to vote later on. So this is a long game. This is not about a particular election,” Perrault said.

As to the charge that young voters are more likely to vote Liberal than Conservative, Perrault said that can’t be Elections Canada’s concern.

“We remove barriers for seniors without asking ourselves whether seniors vote one way or another. We remove barriers for Indigenous (people) without asking ourselves whether they vote one way or the other. We remove barriers based on evidence that barriers exist,” he said.

“I think it’s quite unhealthy if we start going down that road and then we’ll have to question ourselves as to whether we should have special voting opportunities for seniors in long-term-care facilities.”

While influencers are used “as a matter of course” by various provincial elections agencies, Perrault said he was aware from the outset that the idea was “politically sensitive” among federal politicians. That’s why he intended to use the influencers only during the run-up to the election campaign and why he insisted on multiple, “thorough” vettings of the individuals involved.

Among those who were supposed to take part in a video encouraging youth to register were Olympic athletes Andre De Grasse, Penny Oleksiak and Max Parrot and YouTubers Mitch Hughes, Elle Mills and Lilly Singh. The others were comedian Katherine Levac, TV hosts Maripier Morin, Nicolas Ouellet, singer-songwriter Alex Nevsky, blogger Thanh Phung, actor and First Nations activist Ashley Callingbull and Maayan Ziv, a photographer and activist for disability issues.

The video was to be one part of a larger campaign that will be launched June 25 to reach youth, new Canadians, Indigenous people, disabled electors and others who face barriers to taking part in elections and whose turnout is typically much lower than average. That campaign will still include a video urging young people and others to register to vote, but Perrault said the message will be delivered by actors instead of celebrity influencers in their own names.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate indecent act at By The Lake Park

Complaint said man exposed himself in Wetaskiwin

Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate attempted armed robbery

Police seek information about alleged attack and identify suspect

Liquor store robbed in Wetaskiwin

Two suspects robbed Gentleman’s, assaulted staff member

2019 City of Wetaskiwin by-election will be held Sept. 11

Proof of identification needed to vote for two vacant council positions

Leduc RCMP arrest Leduc male for trafficking heroin

Warren Frederick Young, 43, also facing four counts of breaching a recognizance

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Chiefs honour Indigenous leader wrongfully hanged in B.C. 154 years ago today

Chief Joe Alphonse says they want his remains returned to his homeland in B.C.’s Cariboo region

Scrapie, a disease related to mad cow, found in two flocks of sheep in Alberta

Health Canada says there is no known link between scrapie and human health

Alberta oil and gas producer cleanup cost estimates set too low, says coalition

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. facing the largest bill at $11.9 billion to clean up 73,000 wells

Scheer on Trump: It’s ‘offensive’ to question the family background of critics

Trump is being called a racist for saying that the four congresswomen should go back where they came from

Instagram expands Canadian pilot removing ‘like’ counts to more countries

Social media giant plans to roll out the test in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, Italy and Ireland

Natural gas producers demand government action in open letter to Kenney

The letter warns that the viability of the natural gas sector is in jeopardy

Remains of missing Edmonton woman discovered outside of North Battleford: RCMP

The 25-year-old Edmonton woman was reported missing on May 12

Most Read