Incumbent Mayor Lisa Helps chats with Tracy James (right) and other supporters at her Fort Street campaign headquarters Aug. 7. (Kristyn Anthony/News staff)

Incumbent Mayor Lisa Helps chats with Tracy James (right) and other supporters at her Fort Street campaign headquarters Aug. 7. (Kristyn Anthony/News staff)

Social media attack ads a ‘distraction from democracy’ says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps

‘Elections are won on the doorstep. Elections are not won on Facebook,’ says incumbent mayor

Keyboard warriors are out in full effect targeting Mayor Lisa Helps in a series of attack ads on Facebook that the incumbent is calling a “distraction from democracy.”

“It’s too bad for everybody running in this election that these kinds of ads are showing up,” Helps said when reached by phone Tuesday, en route to her campaign headquarters to host a Q and A live on Facebook.

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With the appearance of the attack ads this week calling the mayor a “money launderer” among other choice words – so far, no one has claimed responsibility for them – Helps sees the whole approach as a “weird negative filter that is put over something as amazing as democracy.”

It’s the anonymity that is dangerous and disappointing, she added.

In March, Helps made headlines when she announced she had deleted her personal Facebook account because she felt the social media platform had become a “toxic echo chamber.”

Her personal Instagram account is still active and in her hands, she said, but Twitter has been taken over by her campaign team.

“Social media is very useful,” Helps said, “for sharing info, and for connecting people who would not be connecting otherwise – but is the cost too great?”

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In a Facebook post, View Royal Mayor David Screech called other Facebook groups dedicated to negatively portraying and attacking Helps “sleazy” and “completely and utterly unacceptable.”

He called out the anonymity of the posts saying, “if you have a position then have the courage to put your name to it.”

Because the Facebook group affiliated with the ads was registered as a “political organization,” Helps is interested to see what approach Elections B.C. takes. New election rules state groups who classify themselves under that banner must register as third-party organizations.

Meanwhile, attendance has been steady at the mayor’s weekly drop-in sessions, which she invites the public to attend and stressed she is always available via text or email, when she’s walking or biking, or even at the grocery store. “I’m constantly in public. That’s how I want to interact with people.”

Helps said her team is not tracking the ads or looking to reveal the source from which they came. Instead, they’re focused on the campaign, namely, door knocking.

“We know that elections are won on the doorstep. Elections are not won on Facebook.”

@kristyn_anthony

kristyn.anthony@blackpress.ca


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