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Elections Canada already paid social media ‘influencers’ before scrapping campaign

An election official hands back a marked ballot for the federal election in Toronto on May 2, 2011.
An election official hands back a marked ballot for the federal election in Toronto on May 2, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Elections Canada had already paid the social media “influencers” it planned to use to encourage voter registrations ahead of the fall election prior to cancelling the campaign.

A spokesperson for the agency confirmed to Global News that it already gave out at least some of the $650,000 set aside to get the 13 influencers — musicians, athletes and YouTube stars among them — to feature in a promotional campaign aimed at increasing voter registration.

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READ MORE: Elections Canada will not use social media ‘influencers’ in federal campaign

“Yes, the influencers were paid,” the agency said in response to a question from Global News asking, “were any of the influencers already paid?”

“Most of that money has been spent already; we are working to recover some of it.”

WATCH BELOW: Peter Kent calls out social media influencers for meddling in election

Peter Kent calls out social media influencers for meddling in election
Peter Kent calls out social media influencers for meddling in election

That comes on the heels of a report by the Canadian Press Thursday afternoon that the independent agency is scrapping the plan to use the influencers over concerns that some had been involved in activities that could be deemed partisan.

As part of a bid to increase turnout among groups with historically low turnout, the independent elections agency had come up with a plan to launch a pre-election voter information campaign to provide eligible voters with the information needed to register to vote.

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That campaign will still take place but will not include a social media influencer video.

The 13 influencers that were set to feature in the video included Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse, Olympic swimmer Penny Oleksiak, First Nations activist and model Ashley Callingbull, and Youtubers Lilly Singh and Mitch Hughes, among others.

The Canadian Press reported that a similar video will still go forward but will use voice actors instead of the influencers.

Youth in Canada are among several demographics that tend to vote in lower numbers than groups like seniors.

In 2011, only 38.8 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 voted, according to data maintained by Elections Canada.

That surged to 57.1 per cent in the 2015 campaign that catapulted the federal Liberals from third-party status to a majority government.

In comparison, 73.7 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 55 and 64 voted in the last election versus 71.5 per cent in 2011.

The voter turnout rate for those aged 65 to 74 is even higher: 78.8 per cent voted in 2015 compared to 75.1 in 2011.

Voter turnout for Indigenous Canadians living on reserves also increased in the last election to 61.5 per cent from 47.4 per cent in 2011.

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Both spikes in turnout have been attributed to boosting the Liberals into majority territory in 2015.