Social media use on election day prompts complaint

NANAIMO – Elections B.C. is investigating a resident's complaint that a city councillor used social media on election day.

A city councillor who is under review by Elections B.C. for social-media use on election day says she had no intention of breaking the rules.

Elections B.C. is looking into a complaint against Coun. Diane Brennan and her use of social media on general election day – activity that’s banned under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act.

According to a complaint made by Nanaimo resident Dominic Jones, Brennan posted to Twitter and Facebook on Nov. 15, despite new rules against election advertising. Under the act, which came into effect at the end of May, political hopefuls cannot post to YouTube, social media or Facebook group sites on general election day and could face fines or imprisonment if convicted of failing to comply.

In his letter to Elections B.C., Jones says he believes Brennan would have failed to secure sufficient votes to be elected if not for the election advertising, which he claims was “deliberate, campaign-oriented, calculated to reach electors at the most opportune times at voting places and conducted with demonstrable contempt for the rules.”

“My real concern here was … we are talking about 100 votes and looking at social media activity that had a potential reach of over 4,300 people, and it’s on election day. To me this was highly material and needed to be brought to the attention of Elections B.C.,” said Jones, who considers it an unfair advantage over other candidates who refrained from social media activity.

Brennan, however, says she didn’t know she couldn’t use social media and removed the posts once informed.

The tweets involved in the complaint include a message about a breakfast program she was working at with the hashtag nanelxn14, as well as an image of a vote poster. Elections B.C. had called her while she was deleting the messages, looking for compliance with the rules, and she told them they were being removed, she said.

“The last thing I heard from them was that they were just looking for compliance and that I had done that,” said Brennan, who had “absolutely no intent to deliberately break the rules.”

“I just look forward to the Elections B.C. making a determination so that we can put this to bed and get on with the business of the city.”

It’s unknown when Elections B.C. will complete the review, but a spokeswoman for the authority says it will give its determination to both Brennan and Jones when done.