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Facebook ads stir controversy ahead of Burnaby South vote Monday

Last Updated Feb 25, 2019 at 9:57 am PST

The Liberal Party of Canada has launched a complaint with Elections Canada over NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's campaign ads on Facebook.

The Liberals issued a complaint against NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh over Facebook ads

The complaint says the ads violate Elections Canada rules, but the NDP denies wrongdoing

Monday, Feb. 25 is Election Day for the Burnaby South by-election

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — With just a day until the much anticipated by-election in Burnaby South, the federal NDP may be in some hot water following a complaint over Facebook ads.

The complaint was officially lodged by the Federal Liberals on Friday, and are based around Facebook ads being run by Jagmeet Singh’s campaign. According to the complaint, the ads don’t have the required authorization tags from the NDP’s official agent.

“There is no authorization tag appearing in the body of the advertisements. Given their size, there would appear to be sufficient space to include this information directly on the advertisements themselves,” reads the complaint.

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It alleges that not including the tag is “in contravention of section 320 of the Canada Elections Act.”

As of Sunday, several ads noted in the complaint have been changed, adding the line: “Paid for and authorized by the official agent of the candidate.” Others do not include this statement.

Sponsored Facebook ads on the Jagmeet Singh for Burnaby South Federal NDP page running Sunday, Feb. 24.

The NDP is denying any wrongdoing, saying they are following Elections Canada’s rules and got approval for the ads months ago.

“We are in full compliance with all Elections Canada rules,” James Smith, Jagmeet Singh’s campaign spokesperson said in an email. “Previous to being made aware of this letter, we spoke with a representative from Elections Canada and ensured that all applicable sponsored posts contain an authorization statement so that there is no question regarding the nature of our advertising.”

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Stewart Prest, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University, says after the Liberals faced a number of issues in the riding, the compliant may be an attempt to sway voters.

“After the Liberals had to remove their candidate, voters had a negative impression of the Liberals, they may be looking to try to create a similar negative impression of the other campaigns,” he says. “I think they’re just looking for anything to move those who are still undecided that may not have strong attachments to any of the campaigns.

“Given the result of 2015 was really close, we can expect this election to be quite close as well.”

RELATED: ‘Unacceptable’: Trudeau won’t reinstate Wang as Burnaby South by-election candidate

Election day is Monday, Feb. 25. You can find more information about how and where to vote here.

Full statement from Jagmeet Singh’s campaign spokesperson, James Smith:

We are in full compliance with all Elections Canada rules. Previous to being made aware of this letter, we spoke with a representative from Elections Canada and ensured that all applicable sponsored posts contain an authorization statement so that there is no question regarding the nature of our advertising. The rules around authorization statements are intended to reassure Canadians that they know where political messages are coming from. Every post was shared by the official Facebook account for our campaign named ‘Jagmeet Singh for Burnaby South Federal NDP.’

It’s telling the Liberals are more focused on parsing technicalities instead of the issues raised in these posts: affordable housing, the cost of living, student debt and growing disappointment in the Trudeau government for siding with massive corporations over every day Canadians. Jagmeet Singh is focused on what truly matters to the people of Burnaby South and he’s determined to take on Ottawa to get solutions they urgently need.

The Liberals also shared statements from their candidate, Richard T. Lee and his campaign manager:

“I hope every party will fully meet the standards of the Canada Elections Act, and my focus will continue to be on Burnaby priorities like affordable housing, better transit, protecting a clean environment, and creating good middle class jobs for families in our community,” said Lee.

“It’s essential that every party follows the clear rules that keep our democratic process transparent and accountable, and this is even more important in the final few days of an important by-election. We hope that all of the parties’ advertising will meet the important standards set out by Elections Canada,” said campaign manager Sangeeta Lalli.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include statements from the Liberal Party of Canada