The Tri-Cities' two federal ridings were targets of third-party advertisers in last fall's election campaign.
According to documents recently released by Elections Canada, advocacy groups spent thousands of dollars to get their messages out in Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam and Port Moody-Coquitlam — seats won by the Liberals' Ron McKinnon and incumbent NDP MP Fin Donnelly respectively.
Among the 100-plus organizations that filed disclosures — groups such as 101 Reasons To Vote Against Harper, Alliance 4 Democracy and the BC Teachers' Federation — at least five were actively working in the Tri-Cities. They include:
• Leadnow Society, a Vancouver group with a $427,578 budget funded by individuals and trade unions whose motto is to "achieve progress through democracy;"
• Strong and Free, a pro-Stephen Harper campaign based out of Ottawa that had a $226,063 budget from individual and business donations;
• and Canadian Veterans ABC Campaign 2015, a New Maryland, N.B., group with a $78,405 budget from individual and business contributions.
According to the paperwork, Leadnow spent $137,545 on its national campaign to target Conservative candidates (among those who donated were Sen. Art Eggleton and author Margaret Atwood). Leadnow organizers told The Tri-City News last spring they were working to convince constituents to sign a pledge to vote for the candidate best able to prevent a Tory win.
In Port Moody-Coquitlam, the left-leaning organization spent $2,389 on labour, flyers, buttons, online advertising and a phone calling service, the documents show. Conservative contender Tim Laidler placed third on Oct. 19 behind Donnelly and the Liberals' Jessie Adcock.
By comparison, Strong and Free ran Facebook ads in Coquitlam-PoCo at a total cost of $3,798 through the online media company Rally For Canada Inc. The Conservative candidate in that riding was former BC Liberal MLA Doug Horne, who lost to Liberal McKinnon.
And the Canadian Veterans ABC Campaign 2015 coughed up $648 in Coquitlam-PoCo and $1,275 in Port Moody-Coquitlam, where Laidler — an Afghanistan war vet — ran; in his riding, the Vets placed more than 70 Facebook ads to lobby voters against another Harper government (ABC stands for Anyone But Conservative).
Meanwhile, the Vancouver-based SUMOFUS Canada Society also took out radio ads against Laidler in the lead-up to the election.
Another third-party advertiser was the BC Professional Fire Fighters Association, headed by Tri-City resident Gord Ditchburn, which spent $22,449 province-wide, including nearly $2,800 on advertising in The Tri-City News; it backed NDP candidates Donnelly and Sara Norman.