Before the provincial election on June 7, I received two text messages, one from an NDP campaigner and the other from a PC campaigner.
At first, it set off alarm bells; not only did it feel like an invasion of privacy, but they both seemed like a scam – did those parties really send those messages? Neither text asked me up front for any donations, but I ignored them nonetheless. I’m sure, had I engaged, asking for donations would be the next step.
Yet, thinking about the nature of elections and voting these days, I guess nothing is off limits when it comes to trying to reach new voters.
If you think about how many Ontarians own smartphones, it’s an easy way to push out to the masses that the election is happening. Think of it as a forced reminder to people to go and vote. With the voter turnout sitting at just 58%, a single text could get people thinking about the election. While I don’t believe this SMS campaign was the sole reason, voter turnout was at its highest since 1999.
Political parties are exempt from Canada’s anti-spam laws, so receiving messages that are “soliciting a contribution” are technically legal. Political parties are trying to weave their way through the flow of information that reaches voters. Text messages are more likely to be read than an email.
While I’m not convinced it’s the best method to reach voters, I understand why parties are trying out new methods to garner votes. I just caution parties to be transparent about it and allow receivers to opt in rather than text “stop” to opt out.
Stop texting me
Last week I received a text from “Sophie from the Ontario PC Party.” Her text asked me if I was “with Premier Doug Ford and his plan to restore respect for Ontario taxpayers.” Excuse me, what?
First, as a journalist I make a point of not joining or being affiliated with any political parties, so how did “Sophie” get my phone number?
Second, at the time of the text on June 25, Doug Ford was the premier-elect, not the premier. His swearing in took place on June 28.
Third, isn’t campaigning over? I received a text from the NDP during the election – I didn’t like them having my number, but at least I understood their motivation. It was an election.
But using my personal phone number (which I did not provide) to ask me to rally behind a party that has won a majority government seems bizarre to me.
The impression the text gives is that the PCs and Doug Ford are uncertain in their position as Ontario’s new governing body. They’re still campaigning even though they’ve won. Maybe if the text had said do you agree with the future government’s “plan to restore respect for Ontario taxpayer” I would have been a little less annoyed.
I understand that texting reaches a lot of people in a relatively short time period, but I want my government to be a government.
If the government really wants my input on Ontario issues and plans, then explain what is going on, don’t text out of the blue.
Stop campaigning; you won, now run the province.