By Aaron Stuckel
While the mayoral campaign raged on in Regina, agencies behind the scenes were working very hard to get their own points across. Not the least of which was the Regina Chamber of Commerce, which aggressively advertised their needs.
“Our whole goal in all of this was to talk about growth and the positive momentum that this community has been achieving,” said CEO of the Chamber John Hopkins. “We want to continue to see that growth.”
But there has been dissenting voices in the way the Chamber has handled their advertising campaign. Greg Fingas, freelance political commentator, wrote in a Regina Leader-Post column that the Chamber was attempting to “assume a veneer of official sanction for plainly self-interested interference in a civic election.” According to Fingas, a website sponsored by the Chamber and two other business-oriented association called reginavotes.ca looked too much like an official City of Regina webpage, and may have confused voters as to what the important issues in the election might have been.
“They were using the theme and a similar logo to the city’s official election website, and, in my mind, kind of confusing the two,” said Fingas in an interview on election night. “It’s kind of making it unclear which was actually the city’s site and which was their advocacy site.”
The site heavily advocated for the controversial Regina Revitalization Initiative, which includes the $280 million stadium deal. It also offered a list of questions for voters to ask candidates that largely weighed towards business interests.
In his column, Fingas wrote “the chamber…offers a heavy dose of spin to try to bias unsuspecting voters against anybody other than its choice of candidates.” He also called for voters to “punish” the Chamber by voting against its interests.
“They’re trying to take on the role of basically a service club… when they’re really functioning as a lobby group with, what seemed to me at times, fairly extreme views,” he said.
But Hopkins backed the website, saying they’ve used the it in past elections.
“We’ve had the URL now for a while,” he said. “It was just natural for us to continue to use that website and we’ll continue to use it in the future.”
The Chamber’s ad campaign seemed to pay off despite the small controversy over the website. Though they never technically endorsed Michael Fougere as mayor, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Construction Association ran on a platform that fit what the Chamber was promoting—namely the Regina Revitalization Initiative. After the election, Hopkins reacted to Fougere’s win.
“It’s a continuation of the direction that the city has been taking which has led to a lot of growth and lot of opportunities here in this city for business, as well as the people in the community in terms of jobs and opportunities,” he said. “I think this is a good message for the community and a good message for the business community.”
Fougere beat eight other candidates in the run for mayor with 42.4 per cent of the vote. Marian Donnelly came in second with 31.8 per cent.