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)

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.

federal election 2019

Just Posted

The administrative headquarters for the Central Okanagan Public Schools. (File photo)
COVID-19 exposures confirmed at 2 Central Okanagan Schools

The infected individuals are self-isolating at home

Farming Karma is set to release a line of fruit vodka sodas soon. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
Kelowna fruit growers expanding line of beverages

Farming Karma is expanding from fruit sodas to fruit vodka sodas

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Okanagan Mission Secondary volleyball coach Paul Thiessen cheering his team on during the high school AAA playoffs. (Contributed)
OKM volleyball coach a provincial award winner

Paul Thiessen receives BC School Sports Merit Award for 2021-22

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read