Oshawa councillor says TV makeover didn't break the rules

An Oshawa, Ont., city councillor is disputing a claim from a losing candidate that a reality TV makeover she got last year broke election rules and gave her an unfair advantage during the ensuing campaign.
Oshawa city councillor Amy England says she has far bigger things to worry about than accusations from an opponent who accused her of getting an unfair advantage by getting a makeover on a reality TV show. (Kris Ward/Candid Images)

An Oshawa, Ont., city councillor is disputing a claim from a losing candidate that a reality TV makeover she got last year broke election rules and gave her an unfair advantage during the ensuing campaign.

Amy England, 30, appeared on an episode of Rags to Red Carpet entitled "The Candidate" that aired twice on the cable channel CosmoTV in July. In the episode, England received a new hairstyle, a few wardrobe pieces, cosmetic work, corrective laser eye surgery and had her teeth shortened and veneered.

The issue arose when a self-proclaimed community watchdog, Bill Steele — who ran against England and lost — decided to launch a challenge. Steele put the estimated value of the goods and services she received at $200,000 and has filed paperwork demanding a compliance audit of her election expenses.

Steele said the goods and advantages the show provided greatly exceed what is permitted under the Municipal Act. According to the Act, a contributor can give a candidate money or in-kind goods or services to a maximum of $750.

"There are limitations as to what you can take for your campaign," he said. "They are there so no one has an unfair advantage."

England said she respects his right to request the audit but says she has done nothing wrong. She added that she sought legal and accounting advice about her financial statements.

Unfair advantage?

England disputes Steele's claim that the TV show paid for her campaign photos, saying she paid a local photographer for all of her photos. She said the show was a personal journey that she greatly appreciated and that while it helped her confidence, she said it was never about politics and had nothing to do with her campaign.

"The show was about a transformation, the experience of getting to know yourself and making the outside you match the inside you," she said.

But Steele maintains the show gave her an unfair advantage with prospective voters.

"The public are funny," he said. "They might just say 'there's a pretty girl, I'm going to vote for her.'"

England rejected the idea that her TV appearance played a role in her electoral success.

"I do not believe for one second I was voted for because I was on a makeover show," England said. "I give far more respect to the Oshawa residents then to believe it had anything to do with my looks."

England got more than 10,000 votes in the race for councillor. Steele finished far back with just over 4,200 votes.