Chief Electoral Officer responds to Tantramar Facebook fight

Chief Electoral Officer Kim Poffenroth

An intense, internal conflict within the Facebook group Tantramar Community Concerns boiled over during the municipal election campaign and landed on the desk of New Brunswick’s Chief Electoral Officer.

Kim Poffenroth says she has no power to investigate allegations of possible election manipulation in connection with the Facebook group.

“I…wish to ensure you are aware that as the Municipal Electoral Officer, a statutory officer of the Legislative Assembly, I only have those authorities and powers granted to me under the Municipal Elections Act, Poffenroth wrote in a letter on November 28th.

She was responding to former group moderators Jean-Pascal Lavoie and John Dale who submitted their complaint after being removed from their positions by the Facebook group’s owner, Micheal Landry who lives in northern New Brunswick.

Lavoie, Dale and other moderators had blocked Tantramar mayoralty candidate Bonnie Swift from participating in the group because they felt she had violated group rules.

The dispute reached a climax after Tantramar Community Concerns published a link to a Warktimes article that reported on Swift’s controversial tweets.

Swift herself was blocked from commenting on the article in the Facebook group and Landry eventually responded by dismissing Lavoie, Dale and several other moderators and replacing them with ones who would lift the ban on Swift’s participation.

Tantramar Community Concerns is now administered by Will Kriski, Swift’s husband.

In their complaint, Lavoie and Dale said they were concerned that Landry had claimed in online conversations with them that he had received funds in the 2021 municipal election from a mayoralty candidate in Campbellton and they worried that Landry was being influenced in the Tantramar campaign by a financial contribution, although they acknowledged they had no direct proof.

They also say they have no evidence that Swift herself was involved in any way, but were asking Elections NB to look into the matter.

Poffenroth wrote that she found nothing in the complaint or in online text conversations submitted as evidence to indicate the law had been broken.

“Although the behaviour complained of may be considered distasteful, it does not appear to give rise to a violation of the Municipal Elections Act,” she wrote.

String of local groups

Aside from Tantramar Community Concerns, Landry runs a network of more than 20 local Facebook and social media groups in the province with a potential reach of about 20-thousand members.

He says he removed Lavoie, Dale and several other moderators for pushing a pro-left wing narrative while blocking Tantramar mayoralty candidate Bonnie Swift along with many of her supporters and attempting to silence her election platform.

Landry also points to a $50 donation he received from Lavoie to help him out financially and claims the admin/moderator was trying to buy the group from him to promote his left-wing agenda.

In her letter, the Chief Electoral Officer advised the complainants to go to the police if they believed the law had been broken, or if they felt the law needed to be strengthened, they could reach out to their MLA, who is Megan Mitton.

MLA Megan Mitton addressing the NB legislature in 2020

In a statement to Warktimes, Mitton suggested that legislative changes governing the role of social media should be part of a larger package of reform:

It’s essential that we have transparency in our electoral system, and that there is confidence from the electorate that our elections are free and fair. In our municipal elections, candidates don’t need to declare who donated to their campaigns and there are no clear third-party advertising regulations. This is a serious problem. Municipal elections need to require the public reporting of expenses, like we do for provincial and federal elections.

I call on the government to introduce legislation to strengthen the Municipal Elections Act to ensure greater transparency in our elections, as Minister Allain has committed to. This needs to include measures to address the issues around financing and the role social media plays in our elections. The government also needs to implement the recommendations that the Chief Electoral Office has already presented to the legislature.

Other changes that are needed include legislation to prevent intimidation and non-physical coercion of voters, ending the practice of publicizing candidates’ home addresses, and ensuring Elections NB has adequate resources so that polling stations are located in areas that are convenient and accessible for voters.

For previous coverage of the temporary takeover of Landry’s Facebook group by an entrepreneur from Saint John in 2020, click here.

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14 Responses to Chief Electoral Officer responds to Tantramar Facebook fight

  1. Tantramarshire says:

    Complaining to your MLA who is part of the Climate Change Mafia is not productive… there are better ways to get your message out and Facebook is not one of them. To those people being censored know this much: you are not alone.

    • Elaine says:

      “Climate Change Mafia”



      Actually, Megan Mitton has been amazing as an MLA, in that at least she has spoken to and continues to interact with her constituents, unlike a lot of previous MLA’s before her.

      If all you have to say about her in a negative way is that she gives a thought or two to the environment and climate of our one and only planet, then I’d say she’s doing better than even I thought.

  2. Mike says:

    Have to say I really recommend that TantramarTimes blog – take it as over the top satire and it’ll give you a few good laughs.

  3. Obeying the Federak law Citicen Wayne Feindel ' Noun' says:

    People,people,people! What are you thinking? You are creatures of The provincial Mandarins in Fredericton. In very tiny print on a Departments web site now removed they use ‘policy governance’ to run things. The province’s surplus only marches on paper, it is not real when under all these circumstances we are beginning to see one off atrocities in health, education and cohesiveness.of your community.. Surely someone read the book (not the Movie) The Monsters Come to Maple Street. I’ll go with the indigenous Chiefl who stated that these left wing and right wing groups belong to the same bird. Things are getting a little insane right now. HIGGS and his plutocrats are very smart, but this doesn’t mean they are not stupid. Please read or watch the five laws of stupidity that this and successive governments seem to have committed. YOU CAN NOT FIX StUPId! unless you do something right now. Together now demand your watchdogs be properly funded not befuddled. Auditor General, Youth advocate, Right to Information act and leave them little wiggle room to screw you over. To date a new blood transfusion of faux local govenment will not revive a braindead government. It hurts me because generally as a no-name politician , I wanted reform and I have traditionally, but not always been a fiscal Conservative. Premier Higgs It’s my party too so I can cry if I want to because what is happening to my community just sucks . The worst is yet to come. Label it with doublespeak ‘excessive anger’ or ‘citizens ‘your on my priority list’. When Tim Hortons is being shuttered and small family businesses closed because of rot and decay, your newly elected officials bribed with excessive salaries , when you really don’t and will not be valuing their opinions. Of course we can never pay enough to figure out how to walk through that crap that runs down hill from the capital. The new council must March on Fredericton before January while you’re still citizens and not treated like subjects .

  4. Susan says:

    Lavoie was blocking all Bonnie’ s election post and followers. I know because I was one of those followers. Then he cries like a baby because the moderator Landry had to kick him off the site for his bad behavior. He just got was he deserved. He was the one causing the election interference.

    • Tantramarshire says:

      See my comment above about Facebook… perhaps Bonnie Swift should have a website to get her messaging across to others? She has already deleted her Facebook page but her attempts on “Tantramar Community Concerns” seem genuinely to care about helping out the people around here and although I have not met her we did speak on the phone after the election. I think her ideas are about a more unifying approach than anything I have seen Mesheau or Higham or Megan Mitton do around here… Bonnie is not part of the clique.. that’s why they wanted her muzzled so badly and to be fair to Bruce Wark there is a LOT of pressure by the Climate Change Mafia to conform or shut up/get out around here.

      • Elaine MacDonald says:

        For someone who wants to ‘unify’ she’s great at making “enemies”, or at least, people NOT want to unify with her, but against her.

        So maybe she is a unifier, just not how she hoped.

        I never heard of this woman until this election, but nothing I’ve seen about her shows she wants to “unify” people. Rather demonize those she doesn’t agree with or doesn’t like, or sic her husband after them. All I can say is thank whatever Gods there are that she is NOT the Mayor.

        Also, this Climate Change Mafia you keep talking about… must be some great club you’ve got going since it’s not something I’ve heard of past you. Do you have a secret handshake? Wear dated or “cool” clothes or something? Speak in bad accents?

  5. Jon says:

    Elaine got it right above: “Climate Change Mafia” LOL.

    Except it really isn’t funny.

    Human-produced climate change is a fact, demonstrated by huge amounts of objective research — ie, studying the real world, not watching Fox News and conspiracy theories. If you don’t believe it, suit yourself, but don’t demonize the people who are actually making an effort to save your grandchildren from the horrible mess we will be in if we don’t act. It’s tragic that in Sackville, with infrastructure below current high tide sea level and with nothing but some generations-old dykes that are barely maintained keeping the sea at bay, people can still pretend that sea level rise isn’t going to happen. The same thing happened with people demonizing the doctors and nurses who were saving people from Covid in hospitals a couple of years ago, when some of the public believed disinformation.

    The American style of politics, of living in a fantasyland and demonizing everyone you don’t agree with, is here, even in local politics.

    Given the level of imitation of US politics, it wouldn’t be surprising to see someone now claim the election was “stolen” from Bonnie Swift, when really she simply lost. Supporting fracking in a region that elected a Green MLA is not a formula for success. Neither is demonstrating narcissistic indifference towards the public by stating that you “don’t care about abortion rights because it doesn’t affect me.” And why would the electorate select a candidate who says she “doesn’t care” whether people vote for her or not? She didn’t lose because of a conspiracy, she lost because of her policies and her indifference to the people whose support she was asking for.

    • Elaine MacDonald says:

      “She didn’t lose because of a conspiracy, she lost because of her policies and her indifference to the people whose support she was asking for.”

      Exactly. Well that, and she didn’t do the work to get her name out to be someone worth voting for. Again, never heard of her until this election; not even before it happened. Rather only after it was over and the drama started. NOT exactly something you want in a political candidate for anything.

  6. Mike Gallant says:

    This is all pretty funny – well, actually not. The progressive/left won the election (partly) but they’re still not happy. Go back in time – 2018. Councillor Mitton decided to run for MLA – successful. And re-elected. It opened up an opportunity for Mesheau to come back to Council. And for the worst possible outcome, he ran and was elected Mayor. What to to do? The progressive/left was much better organized this time – so much so that their media/social media had a persuasive bent? – connect the dots among the people involved, and it’s not to difficult to see the relationships. Would a mayoral candidate have prepared answers to “questions” at a town hall gathering? Don’t know – it was reported here. Kinda like reporting on a candidate’s Twiiter posts from 4 years ago or last year (fair game)? What about another 2022 candidate’s dressing down of a citizen of this town and ridiculing and mocking his literacy? In the previous election (18 months ago) “hey Stevie, you couldn’t have possibly written this – had a little help did we?” But that’s ok – she’s a “progressive”….tells me all I need to know – but that never got reported. . I guess her voters are/were fine with that.

  7. Sharon Hicks says:

    One thing which stands out is the fact that so many of the comments and concerns lately are based on partisan issues – left-vs-right-vs-centrist / liberal-vs-conservative-vs-green … etc etc etc.

    Municipal government is designed to be NON-PARTISAN.

    The purpose of local government is to ensure the community is managed in a fair and equitable manner, in order to best serve the needs of all residents and the community as a whole.

    How has so-called ‘party politics’ become so enmeshed in municipal matters? This sounds more and more like our neighbours to the south, unfortunately.

    It’s high time we set aside all the ‘party-related’ issues and criticisms, and focus first & foremost on what is best for our own community – instead of which party leanings we should be following. There is more than enough of that to worry about at the Provincial and Federal levels.

    With the new Town of Tantramar we have been given the perfect opportunity to get back to basics, to forget about left or right or centrist leanings or influences, and focus instead on looking after the best interests of our own expanded municipality.

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