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Misinformation a ‘big problem’ in Calgary’s civic election

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Misinformation a ‘big problem’ in Calgary’s civic election
WATCH ABOVE: What is being called one of Calgary’s most unpredictable municipal elections will be determined on Monday. And now, allegations that misinformation has been a big problem are being made by political observers. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has more on how some candidates are making it difficult for voters to cast an informed vote – Oct 15, 2017

The 2017 civic election campaign will be remembered not only by conflicting polls but by the amount of misinformation used, according to at least one political observer.

Lori Williams with Mount Royal University’s political science department is frustrated with the amount of inaccurate information that was involved in the campaign this year.

“It’s really important that the media and individual voters are calling into question some of the misinformation that’s out there,” Williams said.

“You want to be voting on accurate information. That is our responsibility. As voters we need to be able to cast an informed vote. Some of the candidates or the campaigners are making that more difficult for us,” Williams said.

Williams points to various bot campaigns and flyers being left on windshields at candidate forums, among ways misinformation has been spread.

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WATCH: As Calgarians go to the polls Monday, Oct. 16, an unexpectedly tight race has formed for the mayor’s chair. Two-term incumbent Naheed Nenshi is facing heated competition. Reid Fiest reports.

Click to play video: 'Calgary mayoral race very close'
Calgary mayoral race very close

She says the two main targets have been Councillor Druh Farrell and incumbent mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“Democracy requires information. We have to be able to cast an informed vote. And some of that information was inaccurate and some of it was inadequate,” Williams said.

Some of the inaccurate claims in the campaign according to Williams have been about property tax increases in Calgary, adding that the increases weren’t about the rate of tax that was approved by council, but because of property value increasing significantly.

“I would have liked to see more challenges being brought against some of the claims that were being made. For example, the claim that property taxes have gone up by 51 per cent,” Williams said.

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Duane Bratt with Mount Royal University’s political science department said misleading tax statistics could play a role in the outcome of this election.

“You’re using the set of numbers that most benefits you and you’re not telling the entire truth,” Bratt said.

Bratt said using misleading information goes on in all campaigns but he does point to a troubling development from the U.S.

“Then there’s the question about whether facts or the truth even matters anymore. There was constant fact checking of Donald Trump throughout the 2016 election and at a certain point people didn’t care what the truth was. They were just convinced they were going to vote for him,” Bratt said.

Bill Smith’s campaign team said he was not available for comment on Sunday but Nenshi said that he was surprised with the tone the campaign took.

“There are bots online and fake accounts. It’s been very disappointing because at the municipal order of government we talk about ideas. I really wish we would have been able to do that in this election,” Nenshi said while campaigning in Marda Loop on Sunday.

Bottom line, when casting your vote on Monday, political observers are reminding voters of an old rule: “Beware of promises that are being made that can’t be kept.”

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Williams said voters trying to get accurate information will be required to do a bit of digging but it is out there for those who take the time to question a candidate’s claims.

“I think being informed and refusing to be influenced by that sort of activity will deter people from using those kind of tactics in the future. So we can vote not just for a particular candidate but for the kind of campaign that we want in the future,” Williams said.

“With a bit of effort we can get the information and we can cast an informed vote and that is absolutely critical to the proper functioning of democracy,” Williams said.

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