October 21, 2018

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'Bigger fish to fry' than bus-stop bench ad timing: council candidate

Grant Nordman's bus bench went up on Aug. 31 within hours of his formal campaign registration, which appears to be a campaign expense violation since candidates can't incur expenses until they’ve formally registered their campaign. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Grant Nordman's bus bench went up on Aug. 31 within hours of his formal campaign registration, which appears to be a campaign expense violation since candidates can't incur expenses until they’ve formally registered their campaign. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

A candidate in the Charleswood-Tuxedo ward race is dismissing questions raised by city hall over his campaign spending as nothing more than a groundless complaint from a competitor.

Grant Nordman confirmed Tuesday that he was questioned by a city official about his election advertising on Transit benches.

Nordman said the advertising went up in the afternoon of Aug. 31, within hours of his formal campaign registration — which appears to be a clear violation of the City of Winnipeg Charter Act and council’s campaign expenses and contributions bylaw, which prohibit individuals, or anyone acting on their behalf, from incurring a campaign-related expense until they’ve formally registered their campaign.

“I’m sure there is another campaign looking because we’re threatening them,” Nordman said. “They’re looking to find a weakness in our efforts. I understand that. At the end of the day, we’ve got bigger fish to fry than what hour a sign went up.”

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A candidate in the Charleswood-Tuxedo ward race is dismissing questions raised by city hall over his campaign spending as nothing more than a groundless complaint from a competitor.

Grant Nordman confirmed Tuesday that he was questioned by a city official about his election advertising on Transit benches.

Nordman said the advertising went up in the afternoon of Aug. 31, within hours of his formal campaign registration — which appears to be a clear violation of the City of Winnipeg Charter Act and council’s campaign expenses and contributions bylaw, which prohibit individuals, or anyone acting on their behalf, from incurring a campaign-related expense until they’ve formally registered their campaign.

"I’m sure there is another campaign looking because we’re threatening them," Nordman said. "They’re looking to find a weakness in our efforts. I understand that. At the end of the day, we’ve got bigger fish to fry than what hour a sign went up."

The owner of the advertising firm told the Free Press that the transit-stop bench advertising is usually printed on Wednesdays and installed on Fridays. As Aug. 31 was a Friday, it suggests Nordman or someone from his campaign ordered the advertising before he registered.

Nordman, a former two-term councillor who represented the old St. Charles ward from 2006-2014, said he isn’t worried about the situation, adding the bench advertising was arranged by someone from his campaign team.

"I can’t speak to what my campaign team did but I just know we registered on the 31st and they went up on the afternoon of the 31st," he said, adding the invoice for the advertising is dated Sept. 1.

"I think someone is taking the fly poop out of the pepper."

A city spokesman said city hall does not divulge the identity of anyone raising a complaint about a candidate or its outcome.

The other candidates in the ward race — Kevin Klein, Kevin Nichols and Ken St. George — all denied making the complaint against Grant Nordman (above). (Eva Wasney / Canstar files)</p>

The other candidates in the ward race — Kevin Klein, Kevin Nichols and Ken St. George — all denied making the complaint against Grant Nordman (above). (Eva Wasney / Canstar files)

The Free Press contacted the other three candidates in the ward — Kevin Klein, Kevin Nichols and Ken St. George — but all denied making the complaint.

Individuals considering running for office are cautioned about the election spending rules and the requirement to be registered before incurring expenses. The caution is placed on the city’s website and included in the guidelines given to those interested in running for office.

The spending prohibitions are outlined in the City of Winnipeg Charter Act and city hall’s campaign expenses and contributions bylaw. While there are no penalties outlined in the bylaw, the provincial legislation states violations are a summary offence with a maximum $5,000 fine.

The transit-stop benches are owned by Benchmark Advertising, which sells ads on the benches and shares the revenue with city hall.

Company owner Paul Sawatzky confirmed that Nordman’s campaign placed the ads on the benches but said privacy laws prevent him from discussing when the order for the advertising was taken.

Sawatzky said he’s been questioned in the past by election officials from all three levels of government.

"We’ve been doing this for 25 years. We’ve been audited over time by different election bodies all the time. It’s the normal course of business," he said. "Sometimes there’s something there and sometimes not. Until we get contacted and asked specific details, it’s unfair of me to comment on something."

Sawatzky said it’s not his job to ensure the candidates’ advertising complies with the appropriate election laws.

"We leave it up to the candidates to follow the rules. We just install their ads as per their instructions, assuming they’ve complied with all the instructions they’ve been given by their particular governing bodies and (the rules) vary greatly between school trustees, city councillors, provincial politicians and federal politicians," he said, noting it’s not unusual for the ads to be ordered far in advance of the date they are to be installed.

"We only print bench signs once a week. They get printed generally on Wednesdays, so they’re generally delivered on Thursdays and we generally install them on Fridays but there are a lot of exceptions and variations to that, so it’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a general practice," he said.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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