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'I had absolutely nothing to do with fake websites': Van Meerbergen

Any suggestion that he had anything to do with a website that accused his election opponent of child abuse is "nonsense," Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen told CBC News.

Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen says he didn't know PR firm would run smear campaign against his opponent

Paul Van Meerbergen, Ward 10 councillor (City of London)

Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen hired Blackridge Strategy to work on his municipal election campaign but says he had nothing to do with a fake website that accused his opponent of child abuse, calling the accusation "nonsense."  

Van Meerbergen was one of a dozen candidates during the fall municipal election who hired Blackridge Strategy to run his website and Facebook page. They also placed robo-calls for him, he said. 

But he didn't hire them to create virginiaridley.ca, a fake website that accused his opponent, Virginia Ridley, who was running for re-election, of child abuse and bad money management, Van Meerbergen said Friday. 

Yesterday, court documents released by Ridley's lawyer showed that Blackridge Strategy's owner Amir Farahi purchased, created and ran that website, as well as maureencassidy.ca, another fake site. 

"Clearly, the allegation is that they've gone off on their own and set up some dummy websites. There's no place for that in our campaign system. I find it reprehensible," Van Meerbergen said. 

Helmer, PVM face off

However, Van Meerbergen lashed out at those who suggested he had any part in paying Blackridge for the smear campaign. 

Councillor Jesse Helmer (Submitted)

"I've always run issues-based campaigns, and that includes the last one," he said. "This election was not based on fake websites, it was based on issues. I had absolutely nothing to do with fake websites."

Ward 4 Coun. Jesse Helmer called on Van Meerbergen to release his contract with Blackridge to prove he didn't authorize the nasty site.

Van Meerbergen said he wouldn't do that. 

"Jesse Helmer is not the arbiter of our actions as fellow councillors," he said. 

No comment from Cassidy's opponent

"Who in their right mind would sign a contract and have it in print and writing, 'oh yeah, we'll have fake websites, that will be $600?' What would you find in that contract? There's no point," Van Meerbergen said. 

"There's nothing that would suggest that just because I live in Ward 10, somehow I have some kind of nefarious involvement in this. It's nonsense. Why is Ward 10 being singled out? It wasn't even close, I won by 1,400 votes, on the first ballot." 

He accused Helmer of politicking, saying the Ward 4 councillor knocked on doors as part of Ridley's campaign. 

Calls to Randy Warden, the unsuccessful candidate who ran against Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy and also used Blackrdige Strategy, were not returned Friday. 
Released court documents show London PR firm Blackridge Strategy was responsible for municipal election smear campaigns against Maureen Cassidy and Virginia Ridley. Their lawyer, Susan Toth, tells London Morning you can't hide behind the anonymity of the internet forever. 8:40

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