OTTAWA — Elections Canada spent $430,000 on an abandoned get-out-the-vote campaign that involved social media “influencers,” according to documents tabled in the House of Commons.
The pre-election voter information effort tapped 13 social media influencers, including Olympic gold medallist Penny Oleksiak and talk show host Lilly Singh, to raise awareness on what Canadians need to do to ensure they’re registered to vote.
The $650,000 campaign was announced in early June and nixed a few weeks later. Elections Canada explained at the time that final vetting of the social media influencers “revealed some past activities that could be perceived as partisan in nature.”
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“After the initiative was cancelled, Elections Canada was able to recover over $200,000 of the project’s initial costs, due to the fact that Elections Canada’s Agency of Record waived its fees, and through other cast measures, bringing the net cost to approximately $430,000,” reads the documents tabled Monday.
“Selection criteria for influencers included: their eligibility to vote (Canadian citizens 18 years or older); their non-partisan status; their social media reach; and their availability.”
The 13 influencers were supposed to appear in a 60-second video to launch Election Canada’s campaign.
No concerns were raised in February 2018 when Elections Canada presented its proposed voter outreach initiatives to the Advisory Committee of Political Parties, according to the documents tabled by the government in response to an order paper question from Conservative MP Michael Chong in December 2019.
Global News previously reported that the influencers were paid $325,000, despite the cancellation of the campaign. Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna said not all the influencers were paid equal amounts of money.
“The influencers were paid for the work they did on the video,” he told HuffPost Canada. “They were each paid different amounts, which, in order to maintain the confidentiality of the contracts, I cannot disclose specifically.”
McKenna said the dropped influencer video was “one small component of our much larger voter information campaign.”
Voter turnout took a slight dip in the last federal election with 17.9 million people casting a ballot out of 27.1 million eligible Canadian voters.