Satirical Montreal website digging up candidates' online gaffes

The Montreal-based satirical website The True North Times is digging up controversial social media messages once posted by federal candidates.

The True North Times is releasing a gaffe a day for 9 federal election candidates

NDP candidate Alex Johnstone said she didn't know about Auschwitz when she compared a fence post to a phallus. (The True North Times)

A Montreal-based satirical website is digging up controversial social media messages once posted by federal candidates.

And the project is raising questions about how voters should view online gaffes by politicians.

The True North Times is publishing a gaffe a day for nine federal candidates

One was Manitoba NDP candidate Stefan Jonasson who, in a 2012 Facebook post, said that Orthodox Jews are "much like the Taliban and other extremists."

A screengrab by The True North Times of Stefan Jonasson's post. (The True North Times)

Jonasson withdrew his candidacy after this gaffe was made public.

Another target was Ontario NDP candidate Alex Johnstone, who made a crude reference related to the Auschwitz concentration camp in a 2008 Facebook post. Apparently unaware of the iconic nature of the once-electrified fence in the photograph, she referred to the fence posts as "phallic," with  a "natural and healthy" curve.

Johnstone later said she didn't know what Auschwitz was.

A project to engage voters

While some of these online gaffes were informal, off-the-cuff banter among Facebook friends, the site's president says the project is meant to engage voters.

"When they see someone who may or may not be representing them say these sort of things, whether they agree or not, it'll motivate them to vote, whether it's left or right," said Simren Sandhu.

But as people's personal lives become ever more public in social media, one professor wonders if old online comments will be taken seriously by voters, with the passage of time.

"We're also encountering candidates that have grown up online and don't have the luxury of having some of their activities as a youth be forgotten," Fenwick McKelvey, an assistant professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University told CBC News.