Much ado about nothing. How a comms plan to handle fake twitters got twisted into a non-scandal #onpoli

So, THIS came out on the twitter machine from the Ontario NDP site this morning. Titled “Fact Check: Liberals paid consultants to create fake twitter accounts”.


The fuss? Metrolinx had a $999,999 contract with Fleishman-Hillard (a PR & strategic communications agency).

What for? Proposed initiatives to raise money for transit in Ontario.

Fleishman-Hillard did an analysis of a failed sales tax initiative Untie Atlanta.

Because it’s in a crappy PDF which means it’s unreadable on smartphones, here’s some of the text from Judy Pfeifer, Vice President, Strategic Communications of Metrolinx:


On July 31, 2012, residents across the 10-county Atlants region and the City of Atlanta voted on a referendum that would have funded $8.5 billion in transportation improvements (157 projects both major road expansions/repairs and large public transit projects) through a regional one percent sales tax (in addition to any other taxes in a given county). The sales tax proposal failed.


Just getting the issue to a ballot was a four-year process: The Transportation Investment Act of 2010 was billed as an issue of local control by the GOP-controlled Legistlature, which passed the decision to raise taxes on to voters, rather than deal with the issue themselves. While the referendum passed with bipartisan support, lawmakers scattered when it was time to urge voters to support it.

Unofficial result from the July 31 primary showed 63 percent of voteres rejected the plan, with only 37 percent supporting it. It failed by a much larger margin than anticipated in all 10 counties making up the metro Atlanta region. While the vote was closer in Democratic-leaning and majority-black counties, it was no contest in largely white and Republican-leaning counties.

Those supporting the campaign, business (Coca Cola, the Atlanta Braves etc), civic and other community organization spent an estimated eight million dollars on television, radio and print advertising, as well as mailing and robocalls, urging voters to “Untie Atlanta”.

An unlikely coalition including tea party activists, local NAACP leaders and the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club helped defeat it. The groups spent far less money, but mobilized through grassroots organizing, email and social media.

Amongst the most campaigned for reasons to vote ‘yes’ were:

  • Ensuring Georgia’s economic guture, ‘investing in our future’
  • Easing traffic congestion
  • Creation of jobs
  • Improving the quality of life
  • Making Atlanta more competitive

Twitter dominated the online conversation for the majority of the two weeks prior to the vote date. Sentiment became predominantly positive and in favour ot T-SPLOST towards the end of the campaign, largely due to support groups heavily enocuraging the vote and pushing out proof points in their tweets.

We did a quick review of the campaign learning’s…




These are the email responses to Judy’s email:




As someone who works as a social media consultant – locking down twitter (and other platforms) handles that are similar to your own helps minimize misinformation being spread by fake accounts that do a great job of impersonating you. Yes, twitter has means to remove those accounts but it can be time-consuming and a not always speedy process to have them removed. And by the time you do, the damage is already done. Best to prevent it in the first place.


If there’s something nefarious going on with this proposal – these documents released do nothing to prove it.




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