A private security service was called to patrol around mayor-elect Nicole Read’s house after she received a threat days before the Nov. 15 civic election.
It came on the Wednesday before the Saturday election, via a Facebook personal message.
The message didn’t come to her directly.
“I think it was generally directed at the campaign …” said Read.
“We decided to just treat it seriously for the next few days before the election so we had private security on our house,” she added.
“We decided to err on the side of caution for the days before the election because we were not sure what it meant and everything was fine and the RCMP were great.”
Someone also tried to hack into the Facebook account of one of her supporters.
“There was just so much stuff going on during the election. It was just such a difficult campaign.”
The Read team used social media, such as Facebook, extensively throughout the election. Some people were blocked from the page because of uncomplimentary posts. The threat came from one of those blocked accounts, which has since been deleted. She has no idea where the account originated.
The Facebook account and name were likely fake, added Read’s husband, Steve.
“The threat that we received was direct, it was intentional. To me, it was credible,” he said.
“We felt like we needed to keep it private,” and just continue on with the campaign and let the RCMP advise them what to do.
“It was a very intense campaign, just the way our modern society communicates so rapidly,” he added. “People can say things very rapidly, but it all worked out.”
Nicole Read used Facebook more intensely than the other four mayoralty candidates – Ernie Daykin, Mike Morden, Graham Mowatt or Gary Cleave – and said social media has its pros and cons. People were setting up fake Facebook accounts and the only way RCMP can investigate is by getting permission from the social media company to look at them.
“I think it’s actually a really interesting time, because it’s real a double-edged sword. In some ways it’s an amazing tool,” to engage the public and get out messages.
“It seems to me to be quite an evolving area.”
Steven Read added that the RCMP also received multiple complaints from other candidates, which overlapped.
“There were some other campaigns that received similar credible threats.”
Morden didn’t receive any threats, but did hear about the threat to the Read campaign. One of his campaign workers had a smartphone hacked, though, and reported that to police.
“We received correspondence in our campaign that threats had taken place,” Morden said.
“I guess the boundaries appear to have changed on what’s considered to be appropriate.”
On social media, people say things they usually wouldn’t say in person. Making threats during an election “absolutely unacceptable,” Morden added.
“It’s come to a place where it concerns me greatly.”
Daykin said even during the 2011 election, campaigns were starting to change and become more personal.
It became more so in this November’s election.
“That’s the way the world is changing.” American-style politics is starting to drift this way, he said.
“Personally, I didn’t expect it to get as personal as it did.”
At an all candidates meeting at the Salvation Army on homelessness and crime, Morden blamed Daykin for rising crime in the downtown.
Morden used telephone voice-drop calls, leaving brief messages on residents’ phones.
Daykin said he thought about doing the same, but decided against it. The November campaign cost him about $17,000.
“It’ll be interesting to see what other folks spent.”
Daykin said there also was gossip on Facebook and Twitter, an increasingly prevalent part of modern politics.
“If our source of news is Twitter or Facebook or Huffington Post, I worry about that.”
Daykin said Read told him about the threats.
“It’s distressing that would happen.”
He added it wasn’t anyone from his campaign, saying he’d call police if he ever heard about it.
Ridge Meadows RCMP wouldn’t confirm or deny that they’re conducting an investigation.