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Osborne BIZ boss's election tweet raises ethics questions

Using BIZ platform a 'mistake,' but ex-BIZ chairwoman, outgoing councillor disagree

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSStephanie Meilleur, left, who is running for city council in Fort Rouge/East Fort Garry, campaigns in Osborne Village Sunday. She said using the Osborne BIZ twitter account for an election tweet was 'a very simple mistake.'</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSStephanie Meilleur, left, who is running for city council in Fort Rouge/East Fort Garry, campaigns in Osborne Village Sunday. She said using the Osborne BIZ twitter account for an election tweet was 'a very simple mistake.'

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2018 (328 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A candidate for city council who used her Osborne Village BIZ Twitter account to promote a campaign event says it was an accident.

"It was a very simple mistake," said Stephanie Meilleur, who's on leave from her position as the executive director of the Osborne Village BIZ to run in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry. Meilleur used the BIZ account to tweet about a town hall meeting on public safety she was hosting on Oct. 18.

"I have multiple accounts and when I realized it, I took it down immediately," Meilleur said Sunday.

That doesn't ring true to Osborne Village resident and former BIZ chairwoman, Teresa Sanderson, who was also a former interim executive director of the BIZ.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2018 (328 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A candidate for city council who used her Osborne Village BIZ Twitter account to promote a campaign event says it was an accident.

"It was a very simple mistake," said Stephanie Meilleur, who's on leave from her position as the executive director of the Osborne Village BIZ to run in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry. Meilleur used the BIZ account to tweet about a town hall meeting on public safety she was hosting on Oct. 18.

"I have multiple accounts and when I realized it, I took it down immediately," Meilleur said Sunday.

That doesn't ring true to Osborne Village resident and former BIZ chairwoman, Teresa Sanderson, who was also a former interim executive director of the BIZ.

"The Tweet remained up as of Saturday," said Sanderson, who challenged the BIZ tweet as soon as it was posted last week. She said that Meilleur left it up for several days after it was brought to her attention and never issued a correction or an apology for using a BIZ account to campaign for herself. "She did it on purpose," said Sanderson.

The Village BIZ hasn't tweeted about any events hosted by the other six candidates in the ward, Sanderson said. With the BIZ having more than 3,200 followers on Twitter and Meilleur having just 110, Sanderson said she can see why Meilleur would have used the BIZ Twitter account to get the word out about her campaign event but doesn't think it's right.

"It's like using company property for your own purposes," said Sanderson, who handles asset protection for a national retail chain. The City of Winnipeg works with 16 Business Improvement Zones representing more than 5,000 businesses. Their goal is to enhance economic development for businesses in a variety of neighbourhoods, create distinct shopping destinations, promote business attraction, provide street-level beautification, and improve marketing opportunities for BIZ members.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who held the ward for 20 years before announcing she would not seek re-election, said she's not sure if the BIZ tweet sent out by Meilleur actually breaks any election rules. Gerbasi did, however, question the ethics of using the BIZ as a platform to promote a specific candidate.

"I don’t believe the BIZ should be doing this," she said in an email. Gerbasi has endorsed one of Meilleur's opponents, Winnipeg School Division chairwoman, Sherri Rollins.

University of Manitoba political studies Prof. Royce Koop said candidates can be expected to take advantage of their connections but ought to avoid the impression that they're getting an unfair advantage.

Teresa Sanderson, former chairwoman of the Osborne BIZ, isn't convinced council candidate Stephanie Meilleur's tweet was a mistake.
JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Teresa Sanderson, former chairwoman of the Osborne BIZ, isn't convinced council candidate Stephanie Meilleur's tweet was a mistake. JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

"I think it’s a general point that candidates draw on the resources and the connections they have developed before the campaign, and we shouldn’t really blame them for doing so," Koop said. "But they will certainly want to avoid the impression that they’re getting an unfair advantage — that they're being helped by organizations that have a certain standing in the community..." he said.

"And that’s more the concern here, the idea that (Meilleur) is getting an unfair advantage, and the possibility that people will respond negatively to that."

The negative reaction to her BIZ Tweet is one example of "cyber bullying" that Meilleur said she's endured since announcing her candidacy. She's been hounded on social media about where she lives and where her child goes to school, for instance.

Meilleur said her family lives in Warren, Man. and she's worked for the Osborne Village BIZ for seven years and been committed to improving it.

"I plant the flowers, pick up the needles and pick up the garbage," Meilleur said.

"When I decided to run, I rented an apartment in the ward because I need to be living in the ward - you should live and work and breathe in the area you're running in," she said. "If I'm elected, we will be purchasing a home in Winnipeg," she said.

Meilleur said she's deleted most of the "highly inappropriate" social media comments that she receives, and couldn't think of any specific examples or identify the senders. She alleges they're connected to the Manitoba NDP.

"It’s very well known the NDP are involved in this election," Meilleur claimed.

That's news to the president of the Manitoba NDP.

"In 2013, the Manitoba NDP updated its constitution to eliminate municipal endorsements by the provincial party," David Woodbury said in an email Sunday. This is the second round of municipal elections in which no municipal or school board candidates have been endorsed by the Manitoba NDP."

Sanderson said she complained on Twitter about Meilleur because she was outraged by her misusing her BIZ connection campaign on her own behalf.

"I have no connection to the NDP," Sanderson said. On the contrary, the woman who used to live in Calgary says she once voted for Conservative MP Stephen Harper.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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History

Updated on Monday, October 22, 2018 at 12:23 PM CDT: Teresa Sanderson, who on Sunday criticized Winnipeg city council candidate Stephanie Meilleur for using the Osborne Village Business Improvement Zone Twitter account to promote her own campaign event, is a former BIZ chairwoman and former interim executive director of the BIZ.

Ward Councillor for Fort Rouge - East Fort Garry

Sherri ROLLINS

36.92%5,349 votes

Jeff PALMER

33.01%4,783 votes

Other

30.06%4,356 votes

Stephanie MEILLEUR: 12.31% - 1783 votes
Peter KOROMA: 6.01% - 871 votes
Michael THOMPSON: 5.47% - 793 votes
Bryanna SPINA: 4.83% - 700 votes
Harry WOLBERT: 1.44% - 209 votes

Last Updated: 9:25 PM 24/10/2018)
Eligible Voters: 36423 | Total Ballots Cast: 15008 | Turnout: 41.20%| Tabulators: 50/50

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry

With longtime Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry councillor Jenny Gerbasi deciding not to run again, the field is wide open with seven candidates.

First-time city council candidate and longtime school trustee Sherri Rollins is running to replace Gerbasi. So is promotions company owner Stephanie Meilleur, who’s served as Osborne BIZ executive director.

Peter Koroma is an anti-poverty activist and public servant who wants to address the issue of homelessness and speed up expanded bus rapid transit to all four points of Winnipeg.

Harry Wolbert is an anti-poverty and disability-services advocate who chairs the Winnipeg Transit Riders Association.

Michael Thompson works for Kiwi Installations and is regular volunteer with the Ironman Outdoor Curling Bonspiel.

Bryanna Spina owns Prairie Roots Yoga and is an Early Grey Community Centre volunteer.

Jeff Palmer is a professional city planner who lives and volunteers in the ward.

The Free Press invited all council and mayoral candidates to fill out a questionnaire about themselves, their platforms and what they hope to achieve in office. Read their responses below.

Candidates

Harry Wolbert

I grew up in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry. As a child, I went to school at Lord Roberts. My father had a convenience store in the Osborne Village until his retirement. For the last 29 years, I have supported people living with disabilities to live in the community. I am also a Winnipeg Sun columnist. I have been writing a monthly "commentary" since January 2010.

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Michael Thompson

I was born in Winnipeg at St. Boniface Hospital after which I was adopted and raised in Amaranth, Manitoba by a wonderful Ukrainian-Canadian couple. I was fortunate to have had many strong role models growing up, particularly my grandmothers, both of whom were very strong and determined. I initially moved to Winnipeg to begin my high school education at St. Boniface Diocesan High School and have lived and worked here ever since. I began living in Osborne Village as of 1991 and have almost always lived within walking distance of downtown Winnipeg. We currently live in Osborne Village. I was fortunate to meet my partner, Jill, and to welcome a wonderful baby boy together in 2012. Being a father has been a dream come true. My son Luke now attends kindergarten at Ecole Riverview.

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Bryanna Spina

I was born and raised in Winnipeg, my parents ran a home-based business, and I learned the value of hard work at a young age. I've worked in many fields - hospitality, retail and business-to-business sales. My passion for helping people led me to personal wellness and yoga instruction, and I started my own small business in 2012. I am also a dedicated volunteer and have spent many years on the Board of our of our neighbourhood community centre.

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Sherri Rollins

Sherri Rollins is an experienced public servant with a background in conflict resolution, human resources, business, and organizational development. She has held various policy roles in the provincial and federal government and in the private sector. As a proud Huron-Wendat woman, Sherri has also worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and is currently employed with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

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Jeff Palmer

I grew up in River Heights and attended Grant Park High School. After high school I attended the University of Manitoba for a BA, and then the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax for an Environmental Planning degree. I returned home to complete a Master of City Planning degree in 2003. Over the past 18 years I've worked as a city planner for the Forks Renewal Corporation, CentreVenture Development Corporation, and the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation. I am currently a partner in Catapult Community Planning, a small planning firm I operate with a fellow University of Manitoba alumni. I am married to Carolyn Frost and we have two children, Heidi and Bridget, who attend Ecole Riverview School. We have lived in Riverview since 2006.

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Stephanie Meilleur

Having served as the Osborne Village Biz Executive Director for 7 years, I have poured my heart into the Winnipeg community. Spearheading and creating the Osborne Village Foot Patrol, producing Canada Day, Winnipeg’s largest and longest running street festival, and being a leader in advocacy for business owners and residents for the Fort Rouge and East Fort Garry community. Standing up for small business is only one of my priorities and does not shadow any of my other platforms.

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Peter Koroma

Peter Koroma is a community advocate with decades of experience in public service and helping people deal with government. He is actively involved with immigration sponsorship and settlement services in Winnipeg, and has a history of supporting cross-cultural exchanges in Winnipeg.

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The Free Press Election Extra lets you know about everything that matters in 2018’s civic election. Receive it in your inbox three times a week until Election Day.

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