It certainly wasn’t the news we’d set out to report.
As voters head toward next month’s civic election, Peace Arch News had planned to write an article about how Internet technology is affecting the way some politicians campaign.
Instead, we ended up reporting last week that two of three politicians interviewed – including a White Rock councillor and a former one – were less than forthright with their answers.
The story began with a search for local candidates who have posted comments online at www.peacearchnews.com using pseudonyms.
The first choice seemed obvious, as we presumed Coun. Helen Fathers was linked to the handle, “presenting2008,” whose comments attacking supporters of Mayor Catherine Ferguson at the beginning of the year shifted (around the time Fathers announced she was leaving Citizens for Positive Renewal) to attack CPR Couns. Lynne Sinclair and Al Campbell.
Instead, Fathers at first denied knowledge of “presenting2008” and that she had ever posted online using an alias. Fathers maintained that if she were to comment, it would be under her real name.
Former councillor Cliff Annable also denied participating in the practice. Contacted because three posts from “charleymike” seemed to match his style – including one calling Annable himself “a man of great integrity” and directing readers to his website – Annable said he, too, believes politicians should post under their own names.
A quick examination of the posts revealed log-in email and IP addresses used by each politician.
While Annable fessed up relatively quickly – though he maintained he did not make the pro-Annable comment nor one other – Fathers continued to deflect, suggesting it might have been somebody else who had access to her computer. Finally, Fathers conceded to posting anonymously, but maintained she didn’t know which comments she made, and which ones were made by her husband and, possibly, her visiting brother.
In contrast, a third candidate whom we contacted, Larry Robinson, readily acknowledged commenting anonymously online, but said he had adopted strict guidelines. The moment the deadline for nominations hit, he said, he would cease all posting – anonymously or otherwise.
With regard to the expressed opinions by the other two, Fathers said she is for anyone posting anonymously, and Annable said he is against it.
The only opinions that really count, however, is voters’. And politicians will hear from them on Nov. 19.