At least one slate using texting in campaign

Reporter: Giorgio Berbatiotis

Automated texting in campaigning has been introduced to Student Association elections. The Student’s Unite slate, which is by far the largest, with four incumbents and candidates running in 10 positions, recently sent out its first text messages. Their slate has the largest collective budget, which is reimbursed by the SA, and they are so far the only candidates confirmed to be using the service. SA election policy does not regulate automated texting, and there have been no edicts issued regarding the matter. There are no reports of unsolicited or misleading messages being sent out by any candidate.

The texting service used by the Students Unite slate at DC/UOIT is being run through Nationbuilder, an online service often used by organizations that work with left-leaning and labour groups for organizing campaigns. One such example is Campaign Gears, a service provider certified in using Nationbuilder, which includes on its client list the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Labour. Alastair Woods is the current chairperson of CFS-Ontario and used to work with new SA executive director and election committee chair Dina Skvirsky at York University. He recently appeared in a promotional video for Campaign Gears.

Earlier this year at the University of Toronto Students Union elections, there were accusations of misuse of automated texting by the pro-Canadian Federation of Students slate, UofT Voice. The Voice slate was also heavily criticized after students discovered that at least one pro-CFS student union executive from another campus was coming in to campaign on behalf of Voice, a practice CFS has often been accused of orchestrating.

Ryan LePage, who is running for president under the Students United slate, did not wish to give specifics regarding how the process was organized. “Other people have started using it so I’m not going to give anything away as it stands,” said LePage. He said he did not wish to comment further on campaign tactics until after the election. He did not, however, specify which other candidate or slate was using the service when asked for clarification.