What was meant to be a mock election at a local high school has turned into a lesson in social media rumours.
A teacher at Chilliwack secondary tried to organize the event for the first week of May, inviting several candidates from the Chilliwack riding to take part. But with a busy schedule of all-candidates meetings and other pre-planned campaign events, not all the candidates could make the timing work.
That included John Martin, the incumbent MLA who is again running for the B.C. Liberal party.
An email exchange between the organizing teacher and Martin’s campaign manager, Collin Rogers, notes that Martin was already committed to a mock election at Strathcona elementary that week, but that they would try to fit it in.
“Unfortunately, this request came in well after the campaign was underway, so we have been trying to fit it in our schedule,” Rogers wrote.
But someone, somewhere, has claimed that Martin really responded to the teacher’s request by saying: “Politics has no place in education.” Somebody created an image of the statement (seen above in this story) and it’s been reposted on several Facebook pages.
“We never said anything remotely like that,” Martin told The Progress. He saw the post himself circulating heavily on Facebook and has been working with his campaign manager to squelch what he calls “a complete lie.”
“It’s a bold-faced lie,” he said, explaining that he hasn’t even communicated directly with teachers at CSS. Instead, that job falls to Rogers.
Rogers sent The Progress a copy of the email exchange, including questions to the teacher about the rumoured response.
Rogers also denies saying anything of that nature.
“I didn’t say that when I talked to [the teacher], I don’t think I said anything that could be interpreted that way,” he said.
He says he has no idea how the exchange has turned into something more than a scheduling conflict.
“I hate to speculate how rumours get started, whether it’s malicious or a misunderstanding. But John’s an educator. Prior to being elected, he was a professor at UFV of criminology.”
He said he hopes voters “don’t make up their minds based on rumours on Facebook. I’ve seen and heard this indirectly, and it seems like teachers are retweeting it without checking facts. It’s not hard to make something up and share it as facts.”
Rogers doesn’t believe it was the organizing teacher who started these rumours, and he wonders if someone pretending to represent John Martin made the incendiary comment.
The request to take part in the mock election came in a week into the campaign, Rogers added. So did a request to take part in a Chilliwack Teachers Association all candidates meeting. That meeting was initially planned for the same night as the provincial leaders’ televised debate, and was eventually cancelled.