NDP email causes stir at Maple Ridge chamber

NDP candidate Bob D’Eith uses a handy email function on the Chamber of Commerce websit to send an invite to a concert he's hosting June 12

Bob D'Eith is seeking an NDP nominations in the provincial riding of Maple Ridge-Mission.

Bob D'Eith is seeking an NDP nominations in the provincial riding of Maple Ridge-Mission.

NDP candidate Bob D’Eith saw the mass e-mail service on the chamber of commerce’s website, thought it was a great idea, and thought, why not use it to promote his concert at the Arts Centre Theatre?

So using the handy e-mail function under the business directory on the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce website, he sent Wednesday about 500 e-mails to chamber members, telling them of his June 12 event organized to promote his bid for the nomination.

“I thought great, what a great service.”

But it wasn’t long before complaints came from members who didn’t appreciate the chamber website being used to promote a political event.

“Some people who may have received it took exception, thinking it was a chamber of commerce-endorsed event. It was certainly never my intention.”

He just thought it was service to chamber members and even thanked the chamber.

“I didn’t even think about it.”

D’Eith, who’s not a chamber member, sent the e-mails thinking it was obvious that it was him that was sending the messages. But the messages arrived as if they were coming from the chamber, a detail which D’Eith now appreciates.

“People would probably see it as a tacit endorsement of my event. Anytime you send out anything from a political party, it’s a partisan e-mail.”

D’Eith tried to set things straight as soon as he could, sending a note to the chamber and contacting some of the businesses that were upset.

“The e-mail that was sent out today in regard to a local BC NDP fundraiser was not sent by the chamber and was not endorsed by the chamber,” he wrote.

“I am hosting the event and sent what I thought was a direct e-mail to each member from the chamber directory. I apologize if the notice upset some members, it was certainly not my intention to do so.”

D’Eith adds that he just saw the function as a free service, that identified him as the sender, pointing out it was on the home page.

He never expected it to be seen as an endorsement by the chamber.

“I understand that they must stay neutral in this regard.”

He also says he was surprised no one else has used the service.

The messages prompted a prompt response from the chamber office saying it never authorized the use of the “membership database for Mr. D’Eith’s purposes.”

Chamber executive-director Jesse Sidhu later said D’Eith didn’t do anything wrong. “It’s a brand new website we have.”

“We just didn’t know what it was at first.” Chamber staff first thought someone had hacked into the site and didn’t know that e-mail service was open to the public.

He pointed out there was never any access to personal information, just the names of members which allowed the e-mails to be sent.

The member-to-member service has temporarily been disabled but could be re-activated later.

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