A growing movement on Facebook — focused on government waste, fair taxes and bringing down Premier Kathleen Wynne — is changing the way political wars are fought, and maybe won.
Ontario Proud, created by traditional Conservative voter Jeff Ballingall, has 364,000 followers — more than all three of the major provincial parties combined and more than the federal Liberals.
Ballingall, however, says he will vote strategically in the Ontario election and cast a ballot for the NDP,since he believes his local candidate has a better chance of taking out the Liberal incumbent.
“Since November 1st, we’ve done over 52 million video views,” he said. “Every week we reach between four and 10 million a week, and right now we’re pulling two million video views a week.”
This turns the tables on the Grits. Usually it’s the Liberals who have friendly, third-party supporters, like Working Families Ontario, a coalition of deep-pocketed unions credited for helping take out the Conservatives in the last four provincial elections with scathing attack ads.
But this is the first time a third-party group in Ontario is so PC-friendly — it’s not just leveling the playing field; it’s blowing it up.
New election rules have capped spending at $600,000 during the election campaign, and putting the message out on Facebook is a much cheaper way to spread the word than traditional television, radio and print ads. Ontario Proud also offers lawn signs and is going to try to help get out the vote.
“We have 100,000 email subscribers; we know all their postal codes,” Ballingall said. “So during the election, during the get-out-the-vote aspect of it, we’re going to be able to tell them where to go to the polls and we’re getting lawn signs and bumper stickers.”
Ballingall readily acknowledges he is amassing data on people, using it to do surveys and find out what the key issues are. Ontario Proud has massive support in Toronto and with women 65 and over, he added.
He also founded a BC Proud Facebook page and is trying to start one in Quebec and possibly spread across the country. He believes this style of election campaigning is the future.
“It’s not the days of old politics where you need rich men in back rooms making lots of money,” he said. “It’s new politics — young people getting involved making a difference.”