News / Calgary

Ward 1 candidate believes councillor's campaign web link is unfair

Ward Sutherland said a glitch that made his community report link to a campaign website has been fixed

Chris Blatch, a candidate for Ward 1, stands outside the Bowness Library, where his friends discovered a document created by Ward Sutherland that links to Sutherland’s campaign website.

Jennifer Friesen/for metro / for Metro

Chris Blatch, a candidate for Ward 1, stands outside the Bowness Library, where his friends discovered a document created by Ward Sutherland that links to Sutherland’s campaign website.

An internet glitch had a Ward 1 opponent calling the ethics commissioner over what he believes is an unfair use of city resources.

Christopher Blatch, who is running against Ward Sutherland, has concerns the incumbent councillor is using his privileges on the campaign trail. His issue lies with Sutherland's Ward 1 annual report, which contains a direct link to his campaign website.

"It's an abuse," said Blatch. "It's an abuse of taxpayer dollars."

Blatch said neighbours knocked on his door to ask him if the publication they'd found at their local library was above board. He didn't think much of it at first, but then his campaign team noticed the link to Sutherland's campaign.

Campaigning councillors are supposed to fully separate their ward budgets and expenses from their campaign operations. They aren't supposed to post election material to their city-run websites and have to fully separate their duties as elected representatives from their campaigns to be re-elected according to the city's Ethical Conduct Policy for Councillors.

On Sutherland's city-run website, he published an annual report for 2017, the first ever annual report he's made as a councillor, which he said is a summation of his monthly newsletters this year. It's posted on his newsletter page with a link to his personal website: wardsutherland.com, which is now his campaign web page.

But Sutherland told Metro his web page that directs users to his campaign on the city's site was a glitch that he's getting fixed.

"Thanks for bringing it to my attention," said Sutherland. "This is the first time anyone has ever told us it's linked anywhere else. It was supposed to simply link back to the newsletter subscription like it used to do, it's being remedied right away."

Ethics adviser Alice Woolley said she was unable to comment on the situation, as it would impede on her ability to give councillors and those running independent, confidential advice.

Blatch said he did file a report through the city's whistleblower office, and an investigation is in their hands.

Sutherland said he consulted Woolley before putting a link to his monthly reports on his website and was cleared to do so.

On his campaign website, passages from his annual report and his bio are similar, but the texts aren't a direct mirror.

"I don't see what the issue is showing what my record is," said Sutherland. "It's disappointing, maybe the individual can campaign on his attributes, not bashing."

Sutherland said in 2013 he didn't talk about other candidates at all and gave his volunteers a strict code of conduct for how they would act at the door. His campaign is about attributes and results.

"It's abuse of public resources, it's indicative for a lot of people of the arrogance and sense of entitlement that we're seeing at all levels of government," said Blatch. "This just shows how willing he is to blur the lines between what's ethical and unethical."

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