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What is Ontario Proud doing in our election?
Although some of Denby’s signs have been taken down by Municipal Enforcement -- presumably for violation of the City’s sign Bylaw -- those gorgeous signs at Victoria and Kent Streets are, in fact, legal.

What is Ontario Proud doing in our election?

in Community/Opinion by
What is Ontario Proud doing in our election?
Although some of Denby’s signs have been taken down by Municipal Enforcement -- presumably for violation of the City’s sign Bylaw -- those gorgeous signs at Victoria and Kent Streets are, in fact, legal.

Ontario Proud, the largest digital political advocacy group in the country — and self-described anti-Liberal advocacy group — seems to have taken an interest in the City of Kawartha Lakes’ election.

The Lindsay Advocate has confirmed with Joel Watts, deputy returning officer of the City of Kawartha Lakes that Ontario Proud is not registered as a third party advertiser in this election. The only registered third party advertiser is Bill Denby, who seems to take credit for the ad in the comments section of the second CKL-related video posted so far this election.

This Bill Denby sign was taken down by the City of Kawartha Lakes.

When one local citizen questions in the comments thread why Ontario Proud is trying to influence our election, Denby replies “the guy that paid for this is getting his monies (sic) worth!!!” Later, in the thread, after another citizen mentions that they are not a registered Third Party Advertiser, Denby replies “Yes they are, I am Registered Third Party Advertiser in Kawartha Lakes Municipal Election, allows me to run ads, put up signs, run ads on facebook, hold meeting to inform the Voters, what has been going on in City Hall, under Letham and GANG!!”

There might be one problem with that impeccable logic though.

It is true that Denby is a registered third party advertiser for this election. Although some of Denby’s signs have been taken down by Municipal Enforcement (ME) — presumably for violation of the City’s sign Bylaw — those gorgeous signs at Victoria and Kent Streets are, in fact, legal.

(The ME were unable to respond to questions posed yesterday by the Advocate.)

The problem is that, according to the 2018 Guide for Third Party Advertisers, A third party advertiser must provide the following information on all of its advertisements, signs and other materials: the legal name of the registered third party (if the third party is a corporation or trade union, the name of the corporation or trade union must appear, not the name of the representative who filed the registration); the municipality where the third party is registered; and a telephone number, mailing address or email address where the third party can be contacted.”

These videos are clearly branded “Ontario Proud” and not “Bill Denby.”

Ontario Proud is a registered third party advertiser in the Toronto municipal election. Their Toronto ads are also more overtly against specific candidates, the rules for which are clearly outlined in the guide.

The CKL ads, however, seem to fall into a grey area of the guide. The guide says that “advertising about an issue, rather than a candidate or a “yes” or “no” answer to a question on the ballot is not considered third party advertising.” Their issue in the CKL ads seem to be “our taxes are too high!.” However, any reasonable person viewing those ads would conclude that they are encouraging people to vote against certain incumbents running for re-election. The latter position would seem require third party registration under the guide.

Denby himself sums up the key message of the ad when he comments in the thread that he is allowed, under the Guide, “to inform the Voters, what has been going on in City Hall, under Letham and GANG!! Do 170 page Report on Letham and Gang and then do a TEST to see who is HONEST! Letham FAILED the Test and Breached the Rules of the MUNICIPAL ACT. Test do not Lie, People do! Your Candidate FAILED!! Gord James & Peter Weygang Passed ! Both are Honest and followed the Municipal Act Rules to the Letter and handed the 170 Page Report to the City Clerk to deal with!!”

The report that Denby is referring to is the anonymously prepared ‘report’ on Mayor Andy Letham that the Advocate has determined lacks any substance. We also postulated that this report itself was not in compliance with the new election law.

Personally, I do not find the simplistic memes of advocacy groups like Ontario Proud helpful in discussing policy. They generally inflame opinions and lead to division instead of debate. To be clear, there are similar, albeit smaller, meme factories on the political ‘left’ (North 99, Press Progress.) Neither of those two organizations have engaged in the City of Kawartha Lakes election.

I also fear for the polarizing effect that these memes have. Such polarization is happening around the world, and no one seems to be better for it. And while a meme or short video may easily suggest to a voter that they should be able to get ‘lower taxes AND better services,’ the reality is that whether you are running a municipality or are just trying to be an informed voter, making an informed decision takes a lot more work.

Ontario Proud is not a stupid organization. Founded by Jeff Ballingall, an ex-Conservative staffer who was briefly a journalist for the Sun News Network, the registered not-for-profit has quickly grown to be the most important political advocacy group in the country (as measured by several metrics including Facebook impressions.) As the Advocate has reported in the past, for an organization that champions free-speech so much, they are very litigious and have sued many detractors. I expect to be contacted by them for even thinking negatively about them. (Efforts to contact them were unsuccessful.)

What is clear is that Ontario Proud is overtly partisan. Election law in Ontario prevents federal or provincial parties from participating in municipal politics. I think that is a good thing: it keeps local elections a discussion and debate between neighbours.

Introducing the divisive and distracting noise of Ontario Proud (or any other partisan group of any stripe) allows provincial and federal politics to enter our election through the back door. It muddies the waters, breaks the spirit — if not the letter of — the third party advertising rules, and ultimately distracts us from the hard work of governing ourselves.

A graduate of the University of Toronto, Trevor Hutchinson is a songwriter, writer and bookkeeper. He serves as Contributing Editor at The Lindsay Advocate. He lives with his fiancee and their five kids in Lindsay.


  1. Your comments are full of mis information to the voters about the very detailed Report on Letham and his gang on Council! The premier thanked me for hand delivering it to him on Oct. 9 in Toronto, I talked with Minister Clarke of Municipal Affairs for about 45 minutes on the report! The report was produced as a Test to see which Mayor Candidates were HONEST and follow the Municipal Act Procedures to the Letter! It was never about the report, that is for the Premier and Minister Clarke to deal with! My job for the voters was to see who is Honest and Trustworthy! Results Andy Letham & Brian Junkin Failed, Gord James & Peter Weygang Passed The voters have those results, Dishonest Candidates or Honest Candidates, I also talked with the Premier and Minister how I thought changes to the Municipal Act to make it the Rule that every Municipality in Ontario is subject to a Forensic Audit During the 4 years conducted by Municipal Affairs! This would go a long way to keep people Honest and following the Municipal Act! it would also give Council a report they could use to correct mistakes or improve on things they can do better for tax payers! This Forensic Audit is good for all tax payer to se how there money has been spent, debt occurred by Council, and where Council is going! I think it would be a great tool for everyone involved, I am going to Push the Premier and Minister Clarke to look at it more closely! i also asked the Premier and Minister Clarke to use there powers and request a Forensic Audit to be done on Mayor Letham and Council, we need to know whee all our money has been spent and rather they have breached the Municipal Act on several zonings and Breach of Trust! Andy Letham & Brian Junkin Breached the Municipal Act by not turning in the Report! Then Andy tried to cover up the report to the Public by saying it is a smear Campaign against him and his Family! Premier Ford & Minister Clarke assured me that they will deal with what has or is going on in Kawartha Lakes Council! We will have to wait and see!

  2. Ontario Proud is not a political party. And according to my consult with the Clerk’s Office, the main thing that distinguishes third-Party advertisers from private advocacy groups like Connecting in the Kawarthas is that one pays and the other doesn’t. One is official and can accept donations to advertise, the other can’t.

    Connecting in the Kawarthas has published vicious false allegations by an incumbent councillor not only about one Ward 6 candidate but also about his family and staff. Those posts have caused considerable distress, especially to the candidate’s children, as they are nasty sexual slurs on their parents that are verifiably false. It has caused the targeted candidate’s family to experience bullying the bullies feel is sanctioned by official City representatives. It is outrageously heavy handed. Yet that is all perfectly legal because they are NOT registered as a third-Party advertiser and do not receive funding specifically to advertise as a registered third party.

    I agree with Ontario Proud. We do need a change in leadership.

    What Ontario Proud is doing is legal. They advertise for change in the KL election, but name no names. Unlike the vicious comments published by incumbent councillors and opponent candidates in Connecting in the Kawarthas.

    Denby does not represent Ontario Proud. And you are right, Trevor, that the rules require the advertiser to clearly identity itself, with address and email or phone info.

    But if we are going to insist on that, we will likely get some, like me, who will insist candidates also obey the same rules, which most have not. Check their signs.

  3. Denby does not represent Ontario Proud. Denby is a registered third-party advertiser while Ontario Proud is not.

    Ontario Proud, like Connecting in the Kawarthas, is a private group that can publish comments to influence the vote.

    Connecting in the Kawarthas has published verifiably false allegations by an incumbent candidate alleging sexual impropriety by a Ward 6 opponent, his family and his staff. It has disabled comments in support of the maligned candidate. The vicious lies about the Ward 6 candidate, his family and staff have caused his children to be targeted by bullies who feel their bullying is sanctioned by the City.

    I agree with Ontario Proud. We DO need a leadership change in Kawartha Lakes. We need a mayor and council that will treat everyone with dignity and respect despite their differences from the ruling elites, regardless of their class, ethnity, gender and ideas.

  4. You are right, Trevor, that the rules require third-party advertisers to clearly identify themselves with contact information c,early displayed on all their signs.

    But if we insist Denby follow the rules, we must also insist that candidates, including incumbents, follow the same rules. Most candidates have not done so. Check their signs. Only a few provide the contact information the rules require them to.

  5. Today’s date in Connecting in the Kawarthas, that I can no longer comment on because it’s admins have disabled my ability to comment, Patrick Scriven, one of the hosts of the 11 October debate and a member of Emily Nigro’s team, has thanked Jeff Farquhar for slurring Ron Ashmore.

    Emily Nigro’s parents initiated the 11 October debate and, with Scriven and their friends at their Cottagers’ Association, paid for the venue and hosted the debate.

    Scriven has it wrong, on purpose or by accident. Jeffery Farquhar has not confirmed the false allegations made by Jilesen and Martin, he has only said that he was “disgusted” by what he heard. It appears Farquhar hopes innuendo will be enough to defeat Ron Ashmore. It appears he hopes that by coyly misleading the public and with his glowing endorsement from Bill Denby, he can defeat Ashmore.

    Pat Warren says she heard nothing. She was no doubt too busy rolling her eyes at everyone that said anything she disagreed with. At least that is what the witnesses say.

    No one in the audience, including the source of the false allegation against Ron Ashmore, heard anything but what was said by whoever was at the mic.

    What the audience saw was Emily Nigro and Al Robb disrupting the speakers with chatter and giggling, Pat Warren rolling her eyes every time someone said something she disagreed with, and Martin getting up and prancing dramatically all over the stage. They saw Martin bend over and whisper in Jilesen’s ear.

    Farquhar says he threatened both Martin and Ashmore with physical violence – he admits he told them if they didn’t shut up, he’d make them – when Martin was complaining to Ashmore that the hosts had seated her next to him. Ashmore was telling Martin to settle down when Farquhar made his threat. In public on stage.

    None of the candidates are squeaky clean. Nigro denigrated all her opponents for being “old”. What kind of agegist representation can older residents of Ward 6 expect to get from Emily?

    Jilesen is using his family, including his daughter, to intimidate his opponents. His daughter phoned Ron Ashmore at his home and upset his Family.

    When I asked Robb what he would say to a constituent who came to him with a concern about corruption by another counselor, he misunderstood my hypothetical and cautioned me about accusing anyone on councillor no matter what evidence I might have. Do we really want to elect anyone who cannot distinguish between a hypothetical campaign question and a bona fide accusation?

    Pat Warren, who we all like for her personable attitude, has a reputation for representing only environmentalists and maybe that reputation is deserved if the way she rolled her eyes on the 11th to Ashmore’s accurate comment about the eco-billionaires is any indication. Do we really want a candidate who will only listen to one side? Who will roll her eyes at everyone she disagrees with?

    I am sick to the back teeth of being accused – falsely – of adultery, and of witnessing the Ashmore family being harassed by bullies who misuse their incumbent celebrity to tell complete falsehoods about him, his family, and me, and to go around to their neighbours and try to intimidate their vote, and to lie to the world on social media.

    Ron Ashmore is far from perfect. Like all of us, he has struggled. But his wife, his four children and his two dogs do not deserve the vicious lies told to try to defeat him.

    Not only do we need a change of leadership in Kawartha Lakes. We also need a change of social conscience. A return to civility.

  6. For the record, the vicious allegations circulated about Ron Ashmore, his family and his team are false.

    Ashmore did NOT use the “B” word to describe Martin, although plenty of others have. And he did NOT tell her to shut the F up. Those are both lies that Jessie Lee, candidate Jilesen’s daughter, has been posting on Facebook and that she appears to have been told by her father and candidate Martin.

    Martin was complaining that the hosts had seated her next to Ashmore and Ashmore asked her to settle down. That was it.

    Farquhar has not confirmed the lies about Ashmore. He says only that he was disgusted by the chatter and threatened to make the candidates shut up.

    Ron Ashmore, like Brett Kavanagh, was NOT convicted of sexual assault despite what a friend of Jilesen has been telling voters in an apparent effort to intimidate them into voting for candidate Jilesen.

    Ashmore’s wife has NOT left him, despite Mrs. Jilesen’s claim she has.

    Ron Ashmore is still a registered farmer, despite Mrs. Jilesen’s claim he is not.

    And despite Councillor Seymour-Fagan’s claim, no, I am NOT Ron Adhmore’s girlfriend. I am his campaign manager.

  7. I would first like to say that I am 100% in support of Mr. Ashmore in this years municpal campaign my reason being is that he has on more than one occasion taken the time to personally get to know my views and opinions by coming to my home and several of neighbors during his campaign. I haven’t had another candidate out of all the Ward 6 that even bothered to drop anything let alone even speak to me aside from a piece of paper from candidate Nigro. I have personally known 2 of 4 of Ron’s children for many years and assure you Joan is nothing more than Ron’s campaign manager. He is still very much married to his wife and still lives on his farm in the Dunsford area. I attended the debate in question at Coronation Hall and seen in plain view from the second row of the room all that took place on the stage. I did not hear or see Mr. Ashmore tell candidate Martin tell her to “shut the f up” or call her a “b” in fact I don’t know about some of you but if someone said that to me I most certainly wouldn’t continue for over 2 hours to sit beside someone who said such nasty things to me. I wish nothing but success to have the best candidate win that will put the people of their wards needs first. It has been a very difficult campaign to support based on the amount of insults and immature behavior I’ve seen take place.

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