Flyer targeting Druh Farrell heats up Ward 7 race

At a recent all-candidates meeting in the northwest Calgary community of Montgomery, someone decided to dish the dirt directly to voters' vehicles outside in the parking lot.

Group aimed to discredit incumbent councillor at community all-candidates meeting

Greg Brown and Amy Lofting said they were surprised someone would go to the trouble of printing a flyer to discredit a council candidate at a recent election forum. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

The fight for votes in Calgary's Ward 7 is taking a more personal tone.

Sign vandalism is one thing, but at an all-candidates meeting in the northwest community of Montgomery on Sept. 24, someone decided to dish the dirt directly to voters' vehicles outside in the parking lot.

Tucked under the windshield wipers of vehicles was a flyer attacking Druh Farrell, who's running for re-election in the civic vote on Oct. 16.

The single page raised some of the unproven allegations contained in a lawsuit filed by a local businessman against Farrell.

Organizers of the meeting were told about the literature drop and directed someone to go pick up all the flyers.

However, a copy of the flyer was given to the CBC by Amy Lofting.

She was at the forum but had to duck out to run an errand. When she did, she just plucked the flyer off her windshield and put it in her vehicle.

'Super sketchy and shady'

Later, she looked at it and described it as "incendiary."

"It doesn't say who it comes from so it's super sketchy and shady. It just wants to remove that city councillor," said Lofting.

The flyer refers voters to a website called Citizens of Ward 7 that claims Farrell should be removed from office and includes some of the documents from the lawsuit.

The website was registered in India in mid-August.

Lofting said she's not committed to any candidate in the hotly contested ward but she can't see how the flyer itself is likely to sway votes one way or another.

"Obviously the fact that there are lawsuits against Druh Farrell is not a secret, right? If people have been reading the news, they're probably going to choose whether or not to vote for her anyway," she said.

Greg Brown, who was also at the meeting, said it's surprising someone would go to the trouble of making and distributing the flyers. He said there were only 30 or 40 people at the meeting that night.

"This was just a small little community thing. It's a little off-side," said Brown.

Difference made or time for change?

Farrell has been the target of plenty of challengers over the years.

One of her tactics in this campaign has been to promote the things that she says she's been able to deliver for residents in the inner-city ward.

From the Calgary Drug Treatment Court to the Peace Bridge, Poppy Plaza to pop-up patios, Farrell is telling voters she has made a difference at City Hall

Her opponents tell a different story, saying it's time for a change.

Other candidates not immune to dirty tricks

For example, Brent Alexander, who finished third to Farrell in the 2013 election, is again running against her. But he said the dirty tricks in Ward 7 aren't just targeting Farrell.

Alexander said he too is the subject of criticism and rumours. He feels that's happening because he's emerging as an alternative to Farrell.

As for how the 2017 campaign compares to 2013, he said he has noticed a difference.

"The velocity and the volume of rumours and whisper campaigns is far greater than last time," said Alexander.

Online vitriol is higher, says candidate

But the flyer is something new he says. The vitriol online is also higher in this campaign.

"Online, there seems to be more groups willing to attack me."

Dean Brawn is running in Ward 7. He has tweeted about his lawn signs disappearing or being destroyed.

In one case, he complained a supporter's house was vandalized because Brawn's sign was on the lawn.  

Other houses on the same block with Farrell signs were left untouched.

​Reputation as a political battleground

University of Calgary political scientist Jack Lucas said the campaign temperature in Ward 7 seems to be running higher because it is such a competitive race.

"Even though it's an incumbent race, you see people running there who seem to think that they have a good chance of unseating the incumbent, in part because of the past history in that ward of being a competitive race," he said.

Farrell held onto the seat in the 2013 election even though she took just 37 per cent of the vote.

If the in-fighting and campaign tricks like the flyers on  windshields are any indication, Ward 7 is living up to its recent reputation as a political battleground.