Sunday, October 22, 2006

Montague 12 : Is Ethics Just A Place Near Thuthex?

In certain areas of the Township, someone acting on behalf of Reeve Doyle's re-election campaign has been distributing packages of flyers. The package comprises Reeve Doyle's flyer, on blue paper and a complete copy of the March 22nd open letter from the Township concerning the Riceville Road fire. The open letter is exactly as it was received by households at the time; folded in three with 'An Important Message From the Township of Montague" on the outside, along with the township crest. Inside, the letter is on Montague Township official letterhead.

This raises some serious questions:
  • No other candidate makes direct reference to the Riceville incident in their campaign materials. Now, who is keeping the issue alive? Does Reeve Doyle see this issue working to his political advantage, and is this flyer distribution an attempt to keep it going?
  • The Open Letter was already sent (at taxpayers' expense) to every household in the township and is available on the township website. Why send it out again?
  • Was the open letter copied at Reeve Doyle's expense, or were township facilities used? Why was it kept on township letterhead when it is being sent out by Doyle's campaign and not by the township?
  • Is it ethical or legal for an official Township communication on official letterhead to be used in election campaign materials?
It seems to me that this at best highly unethical. It's a grey area in terms of the law, at least so far as my brief research has been able to determine. Most major municipalities have an explicit Code of Conduct governing how municipal resources may be used in election campaigns. For example, the City of Kingston's policy document states:
The City of Kingston's logo, crest, coat of arms, slogan, etc. shall not be printed or distributed on any election materials or included on any election campaign related website, except in the case of a link to the City's website to obtain information about the municipal election.

So distribution of the Open Letter by any election campaign would be in clear violation of the policies of most major municipalities. It might be appropriate to seek further clarification from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on this issue.

(As for the title of this post, if you're not familiar with English counties, look it up!)