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Who is behind the Squamish Now attack ad campaign?

Elections BC is forcing the Squamish Now page to identify itself as Dikran Bedirian.

Following Elections BC’s intervention, a Facebook page operated by a political organization that displayed few details on its identity has been forced to identify itself as Dikran Bedirian.

As of Sept. 20, Facebook advertisements that were promoted by Squamish Now have been stopped, said Andrew Watson of Elections BC.

The page name has been changed to identify the registered sponsor, Bedirian. Advertisements made by that page will now identify Bedirian as the entity posting the messages.

Previously, Bedirian’s Facebook page was operating as a mostly anonymous political organization called Squamish Now.

On Sept. 8, Squamish Now posted its first attack advertisement against https://www.squamishchief.com/local-news/armand-hurford-seeks-the-mayors-office-5766587, who is currently seeking the mayor’s office. At the time, no information about the organization was divulged on its Facebook page or website.

However, Facebook ad library data showed that the advertisements were paid for by an individual named Dikran Bedirian, who is linked to a number with a 236 area code, which is used in B.C.

The Squamish Chief phoned the number several times, but there was no answer, and no voicemail was set up. An email was also sent to an address linked to the page.

There were no immediate replies to the requests for comment.

The page was created on Sept. 7. 

On Sept. 14, all three advertisements listed by Facebook at the time were paid for by Bedirian. Anywhere between $400 and $700 was spent on these advertisements.

When asked whether the advertising was legal, Elections BC told The Squamish Chief on Sept. 14 that Bedirian is registered as an election advertising sponsor.

Bedirian is listed as a third-party sponsor with a contact email linked to Squamish Now.

“We are following up with Dikran Bedirian, who sponsored these ads and has registered as an individual election advertising sponsor, to determine if the registration information filed with Elections BC needs to be updated,” said Elections BC spokesperson Andrew Watson in an email on Sept. 14. “While Dikran Bedirian sponsored the ads, they appear to be from Squamish Now, which may necessitate a registration update.

As per Elections BC’s rules, third-party advertising must register; include their name and contact on all advertising; only accept sponsorship contributions from Canadian citizens or permanent residents residing in B.C. and obtain written confirmation and consent prior to using the contribution for election advertising.

Third-party advertising sponsors may not accept contributions from a single contributor in excess of this year’s limit of $1,309.09.

They must also file disclosure statements with Elections BC.

The third-party expense limit for directed advertising in Squamish is $1,023.96. Directed 

advertising refers to advertising about a candidate or elector organization specific to an election area, as per Elections BC’s definition.

The cumulative advertising expense limit is $161,967.47 and applies to “directed” and “issue” advertising in all election areas.

These expense limits apply during the campaign period for the 2022 General Local Elections, Sept. 17 to Oct. 15.

There was no definition of issue advertising on Elections BC’s site, but Elections Canada defines issue advertising as the “transmission of a message to the public during an election period that takes a position on an issue with which a candidate or registered party is associated without identifying the candidate or party in any way.”