Rob Ford’s endorsement of Wendell Brereton sparks Twitter flare-up

Click here for the article as it appears on EYE WEEKLY’s official website. Originally published August 4, 2010.

The internet has been an important part of the mayoral campaign. As EYE WEEKLY has been monitoring Twitter throughout the summer, it has become obvious that it attracts more than its share of hacks. Inevitably, campaigners and supporters (with or without Twibbons to identify them) engage in catching the other camps off-guard or with repeated jabs. Here are two cases of candidates going on the defensive from the last week.

Case 1: Rob Ford’s disappearing endorsement
This morning in a tweet @RobFordTeam declared: “Proud to receive the endorsement of Wendell Brereton, who is now running in Ward 6 with my full support #voteTO.” (There is also video of an endorsement in front of City Hall.) Many active #voteTO members, including Jonathan Goldsbie, pounced, pointing out some of Brereton’s questionable comments — particularly in regard to the LGBT community and specifically Pride Toronto. Here is a cache of Brereton’s website courtesy @traviskim that includes the lines “My kind of Toronto doesn’t have businesses or festivals that invite sex tourism” and “My kind of Toronto doesn’t parade immorality and call it pride.” These comments — along with @RobFordTeam’s endorsment tweet — were eventually deleted and then re-added. In the meantime, Ford explains everything to The Globe and Mail in this interview.

Case 2: Smitherman seeks to set the record straight
George Smitherman has been a target of frequent tweets calling into question his record as a member of provincial cabinet. Tweeters have made reference to the controversial consultancy boondoggle at eHealth, which Smitherman presided over as Ontario’s Minister of Health. Consequently, Team Smitherman has launched a new website,, to tell the candidate’s side of things.

The site has a very Web 2.0 approach to damage control called “Report a Lie.” This feature gives the average citizen the opportunity to sic Smitherman’s truth patrol on a BlackBerry-addled Rocco Rossi tweeter. This idea is certainly not novel (see Rob Ford’s “Waste Watch” email tips), but it’s better than the rest of the website, which is basically a log of press releases telling George’s side of the story on the aforementioned eHealth scandal, along with accounts of Kyle Rae’s retirement bash and even Smitherman’s recent trip to China.

Online effectiveness?

Beyond the tactical blow-for-blow, you have to wonder if watching and evaluating candidates during these Tweet-for-tat exchanges is helpful to the city’s less tech-savvy voters. Do internet flare-ups make a difference in the same way as “Not Your Average Joe” condoms and Chicken Men? Are votes really driven by clicks and clucks?

On the other hand, nothing drums up civic pride like a contest, whether for mayor or otherwise. Torontoist is currently running a contest for a new tourism slogan. (My vote is for “Toronto: Home of Scott Pilgrim.”) Toronto Votes is running a campaign to engage youth (14 to 24 year olds) in the municipal elections. Their first batch of awareness-raising posters is in and you can check them out and vote on Facebook. This trippy Stephen Harper portrait is definitely a stand-out.


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