OTTAWA — Many Ontarians received an automated text message over the weekend, asking if they agree that the carbon tax must be scrapped.
Who’s behind the campaign and what they plan to do with the responses is a mystery, and could remain so.
The message purports to be from “Sue” from a heretofore unknown group called Ontario Strong.
A group by that name does have a website but it appears to be a work-in-progress that imparts little information, other than a brief mission statement that exhorts people to “stand up for Ontario and be proud of the place we call home.”
The text message appears to be an attempt to identify voters who are opposed to the carbon tax imposed by the federal Liberals, presumably so they can be targeted during the election campaign this fall.
No laws regulate this kind of political advocacy; only after June 30 will anyone spending more than $500 have to register with Elections Canada as a third party, adhering to spending limits and disclosing who they are and, eventually, where their money came from.
In the meantime, some Ontarians who received the mass text message are venting annoyance on social media.
Among those who received the message is Liberal MP Pam Damoff, who represents the riding of Oakville North-Burlington.
“How did you get my number, Sue? And who the heck is Ontario Strong? Is that code for #CPC (Conservative Party of Canada)?” Damoff tweeted Sunday.
Conservative party spokesman Cory Hann said neither he nor others at party headquarters had ever heard of Ontario Strong before. And he said the party has ”no affiliation at all with them.”
Jeff Ballingall, who founded Canada Proud to promote conservatism and take down Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said he’d never heard of the new group either. Ballingall was also behind Ontario Proud, a third-party group that pioneered the mass text messaging tactic during last year’s provincial election.
But unlike Ontario Strong, he noted that Canada Proud and Ontario Proud have always been upfront about who’s involved and their objectives.
“We’re always transparent in who we are. Whether it’s Engage Canada or others, I think people should be more upfront about who’s behind these groups and what their intentions are,” Ballingall said.
Engage Canada has been running ads skewering Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer as a weak “yes man” to Ontario Premier Doug Ford. The group’s directors include former Liberal and New Democrat strategists, supported by labour unions, professional associations and individuals. Engage ran its anti-Scheer ads during the final games of the recent NBA playoffs between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors.